With a name like Mud Lake, why would you want to hike there? However, Mud Lake Open Space is a very pleasant place to take a family or visitors who want an easy hike in the woods.
The trailhead is about 2.4 miles from Nederland (directions below). Find a parking space and head for the sign board. Pick up a map and start walking on the trail next to the sign board. After a couple steps, signs point out the Tungsten Loop ahead and a shelter to your left. I decided to hike the loop first, then enjoy the shelter and the lake at the end of the hike.
Walk a short distance and you'll come to another trail split. While you can turn left for the lake and the loop, I decided to go right and hike the loop first.
The Tungsten Loop is a very pleasant hike in the woods. However, the starting elevation is 8400 and with some short sections of slight elevation gain, so you may find visitors and the elderly struggling. We took it easy as we walked, stopping at several holes in the ground to take a break. A sign at the trailhead explains that these were exploratory pits dug by prospectors in the area. While gold and silver were mined in Nederland, miners in the Mud Lake area found tungsten. At one point during WWI, Boulder County was producing most of the world's tungsten.
As you hike the Tungsten Loop, you'll pass several trail splits -- one goes toward Caribou Ranch, one leads to a second loop at the park. For this hike, skip both of those turnoffs. At 0.8 miles from the trailhead, you'll come to an important split -- the West Shore Trail. You can turn here or stay on the Tungsten Loop and walk the East Shore of the lake.
Since we had an elderly hiker in our group, we turned off on the West Shore Trail. It was just a short walk down this trail until we got our first glimpse of the lake through the trees. A few more steps and there was a bench next to the water. This is a great spot to take a break, enjoy the scenery and listen for birds.
When you're done enjoying a respite, I recommend walking the shoreline trail, the one closest to the shoreline, over to the picnic shelter. We found a picnic table by the water and enjoyed the lake just a little more.
When you're ready to leave, walk to the picnic shelter and look for two trails with gray rock. Both go to the parking lot. The left trail is shorter and has stairs. The right trail is longer and has an easier grade for wheelchairs and bikes.
Details: The hike around the Tungsten Loop and West Shore Trail is about a mile with 100 feet of elevation gain.
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Directions: From Boulder, take Canyon Blvd./Highway 119 west about 16 miles up Boulder Canyon to Nederland. At the first traffic circle in Nederland, take Highway 72 west. Drive 1.8 miles and turn left on the road for Caribou Ranch Open Space. Drive about 0.3 miles on this dirt road to the turnoff for Mud Lake Open Space.