It can be hard to find loop trails without a lot of elevation gain, but by linking several trails in the Superior area, you can create a loop of 14 miles.
The best place to start is at the Coalton Trailhead on McCaslin Boulevard (directions below). You can hike the loop in either direction, but I recommend starting on the Meadowlark Trail and going counterclockwise.
From the parking lot, walk through the first gate, then quickly through a second gate on the right to the Meadowlark Trail. It’s a 2.7 mile (one-way) trail that follows McCaslin Blvd. for a short distance, then turns towards the foothills. Climb a short hill and enjoy the wide-open views from Eldorado Canyon to the Boulder flatirons to Longs Peak in the distance. The views here are impressive and in the winter, the snow-capped peaks really stick out.
The trail winds through the grasslands, pass a fenced reservoir. After about 2 miles, you’ll come to another gate. Pass through the gate and start down a hill. This part of the trail winds down about 200 feet in elevation, past a building, over a bridge, past a water canal and down to a sign for the Coal Creek Trail. This is where the Meadowlark Trail ends and the Mayoffer-Singletree Trail begins. There’s a port-a-potty here and some signs, but no picnic tables or anything.
Before hiking on, cross the street to the corner of 3rd Avenue and Depot Street. A sign here explains that this is where the old Superior train depot once sat. The depot is gone, but imagine this — the depot was large enough to have a waiting room, freight office and passenger platform. After reading the sign, it’s back on the trail. Just inside the fence is a sign marking the Singletree Trail.
As you walk here, look around. This flat trail is the old railroad bed for the Colorado and Southern. It was an important transportation link between Denver, Boulder and Eldorado Springs. Notice the remnants of any buildings to the left of the trail, behind the fence? That’s what’s left of the old Industrial Mine. It employed 200 men and produced about four million tons of coal between 1895 and 1945. In the first 0.3 miles of the trail, there are two signs explaining the mining and railroad history.
The trail now turns into farm land and open space. About 3.5 miles from the trailhead, the trail crosses a road and winds through a prairie dog colony. As you hike here, you may notice the lack of trees. I thought the idea of calling this the Singletree Trail was appropriate. There are a few clumps of trees, but for the most part, there are not many. This is not a trail to hike on a warm, summer afternoon.
About 3.8 miles from the trailhead, you’ll cross a bridge and see the remnants of some more foundations. Here the trail turns north, then west. As you enjoy the views across the plains to the foothills, try to spot Longs Peak in the distance. At 5.25 miles, the Mayoffer-Singletree Trail ends at 66th Avenue. Cross the road and you’ll be on the Cowdrey Draw Trail.
Cowdrey Draw may be one of the shortest trails in Boulder County. The trail is just 0.8 miles in what’s called the Cowdrey Draw Natural Area. As the trail winds its way west, once again you’ll enjoy the impressive view of the flatirons, the Indian Peaks and the rest of the foothills.
Along the trail, you’ll pass what appears to be an old storage tank. It looks like it was initially made of bricks, then covered in cement. Walking around to a higher side so you can see inside.
The Cowdrey Draw Trail ends at the intersection of the Marshall Mesa and Community Ditch trails. If you want some extra mileage, take the Marshall Mesa loop, but I suggest hiking straight ahead on the Community Ditch Trail.
As you hike the Community Ditch Trail, watch for a short spur on your left over to Marshall Lake. While the lake is private, this can be a nice spot to sit and enjoy a snack or lunch. The lake was bought as fishing property for the Louisville Rod & Gun Club in the 1940s.
When you return to the main trail, you’ll see why this trail is called the Community Ditch Trail – it now follows the Community Ditch water canal. After about a mile on the Community Ditch Trail, you should see a trail split on your left with a sign pointing to the Greenbelt Plateau. Turn here and climb a short distance up to the Greenbelt Plateau Trail. Turn left.
The Greenbelt Plateau Trail is a wide, dirt road. After hiking in a few trees, you’re now back in an open area with few trees. You’re now hiking south. Hike up a short hill and drop back down the other side. The Greenbelt Plateau Trail is a 1.2 mile trail that ends at a sign board and parking lot. Turn left here for the High Plains Trail. You’ve now hiked about 8.6 miles and it’s time to turn east.
The High Plains Trail is exactly what it sounds like — a hike across the plains. At times, the trail is dirt. At times, it’s rocky. The trail is very easy. It never goes up or down more than a few feet, but it is very curvy. In places, you’ll wonder why the trail builders didn’t just cut straight across the plain.
About 0.6 miles from the High Plains Trailhead (9.2 miles from the start), the trail suddenly drops down, goes through a cow fence to an area with signs saying “area closed for natural resource protection.” Go over the bridge here, through another cow fence and head for the hills.
In this next section, you’ll be hiking closer to the highway. The traffic noise may be louder than you’d like, but concentrate on the hills and not the traffic and you’ll forget the road is there.
One thing you can’t miss in this section — the wind turbines. You’ll easily see two of them on the other side of the road. The National Wind Technology Center was built in 1993 and tests full-scale wind turbine models ranging in size from 400 watts to 5.0 megawatts.
Suddenly you’ll cross under some very large power lines to a sign that says, “This is not a designated trail. Access requires permit.” The trail is nothing. It just cuts across the plains instead of winding around it. While it cuts the hike by 0.1 miles, stay on the main trail and enjoy your time out here.
About 11 miles from the start, the High Plains Trail ends at a fence and you’ll turn left for the Coalton Trail. This is the last section of trail for this loop. It’s also a bit of a dud. The trail goes north along an old road for 1.5 miles, then turns east and continues another 1.5 miles to the trailhead. Enjoy the wide open views of the prairie around you and the flatirons to the west as you head back to the trailhead.
Before you go, print this map of the loop. Looking for more hikes? Check out more than 200 hikes in Colorado here.
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Details: The entire loop is about 14 miles with about 1,000 feet of elevation gain.
Directions: From U.S. 36, exit McCaslin Boulevard. The exit signs also say Superior/Louisville and Marshall/Eldorado Springs. Turn south on McCaslin Blvd. and drive about two miles to the trailhead on the west side of the street at a traffic circle.