North Sky trail is coming in 2023 and we couldn’t be more excited!
What is it?
The North Sky trail will be a new 3 1/2-mile long multi-use trail on (mostly) City of Boulder Open Space & Mountain Parks (OSMP) land in North Boulder that will connect the Foothills North trail to Joder Ranch. And bikes will be allowed!
Isn’t there a trail there already?
There is currently an undesignated trail (also known as a social trail) that is not part of the designated OSMP trails system, but it is frequently used by foot traffic. The 2-mile long “Beech” or “Foothills Bench” trail, as it is informally known, follows an old rail grade from the late 1800s and deadends at the Raytheon private property. This undesignated trail is closed to dogs and to people riding bikes.
What’s the history?
In the 1880s, plans were made to build a railroad from Boulder to the gold camps in Left Hand Canyon. The area was surveyed and construction began, but only the southern grade was built and no rail track was ever laid before money ran out.
OSMP acquired the majority of the lands encompassing the North Sky trail through several property acquisitions dating between 1972-2013. In 2015 and 2016, OSMP conducted a public process called the North Trail Study Area. The BMA community advocated to create a designated multi-use trail on the west side of Highway 36 to connect Boulder to Joder Ranch and Heil Valley Ranch. This plan was approved by Boulder city council on June 7, 2016.
The new North Sky trail will be open to leashed dogs except from May 1 – July 21 to protect nesting birds AND will extend a mile and a half further to connect with Joder Ranch trail.
What’s taking so long to build the trail?
OSMP manages over 155 miles of designated trail in 45,000 acres of land that sees 6,000,000 visits a year. OSMP has a backlog of projects they are working through, such as the Royal Arch and Sanitas trail improvements, and the new Anemone Loop. They also are applying for multiple permits from Boulder County, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and City of Boulder Planning and Development Services. OSMP also has an engineer and construction team on contract for several months of engineering work for the three bridges – they will then require several months in 2023 to construct the bridges. In August 2021 OSMP acquired an easement from Raytheon to allow the trail to go through private property and stay on the rail grade longer instead of creating a steep climb up and around the private property.
The City of Boulder approved a construction budget of $996,172 for 2023 so now it’s go time!
Will there be new bridges?
The trail will cross as many as 11 drainages. OSMP will be building 3 new bridges, including one at the beginning of the trail at the Foothills trail intersection. North Sky will go over the existing Foothills trail. There will also be a bridge over Schneider Draw and Deep Draw.
What’s the area like?
The North Sky trail will traverse a habitat conservation area that is home to several sensitive species such as Bell’s twinpod, bobolink, Northern Harrier, ottoe skipper, arogos skipper and the prairie rattlesnake. There are also several rattlesnake hibernaculum (an underground chamber that the snakes use throughout the winter to protect themselves from the cold). Once the trail is built, only on-trail travel will be permitted.
How will BMA be involved?
BMA’s Trail Program Director Mike Rutter will help build the trail alongside OSMP staff and other contractors. We’ll have lots of volunteer days to get the whole community involved. In addition to building a brand new trail, the existing social trail will be updated to current trail standards for maximum flow and fun, as well as ensuring that it drains well and will be sustainable.