North Table Mountain Park is a mesa that overlooks downtown Golden, Colorado. There are free parking areas on the east and west sides of the mountain that include restrooms with running water, water fountains, and bicycle repair tools. There is an information board and free trail maps you can take with you. I parked in the west lot and started to make my way up the mountain.
The approach trail is a gravel roadway that steeply ascends 500 feet over .6 miles. Once at the top, you can explore over 2000 acres of mixed-grass prairie. There are several trails that crisscross the top of the mesa and the entire mountain is ringed by the North Table Loop Trail. The loop is 7.7 miles long and I thought it would make a nice follow-up to my short hike through Chautauqua Park in Boulder earlier in the day.
My dog, Crosby, was breathing heavily on the way up the mountain and stopped for a couple of breaks. I had been making sure he had enough water all day, but he just wasn’t handling the heat well. Once at the top, we started the loop counter-clockwise and he seemed to be in okay shape.
The loop follows the craggy rim of the mesa and offers beautiful views of the valley below. The ridge is teeming with wildlife and we soon spotted the first of several well-fed mule deer.
There is very limited shade along the trail and I knew there was a problem a couple of miles in when Crosby collapsed into the small shade of a boulder. He wouldn’t budge. I poured him some more water, and he drank a little, but he spent most of the next ten minutes panting heavily, trying to expel heat. He was not looking good.
I pulled out my map and realized we could short-circuit the loop by taking the Cottonwood Canyon Trail to the Mesa Top Trail to the Tilting Mesa Trail and finally back to the gravel road to the parking lot. So we changed course and started heading back to the car.
It was nice to switch from ridge walking to prairie walking over the top of the mesa. I had to stop several more times to let Crosby catch his breath while I stood over him to provide what little shade I could. He drank all of the remaining water and I think we spent more time resting than walking back to the trailhead.
I really enjoyed this trail despite the dog drama and will be back early one morning alone to complete the whole loop for speed.