If you're looking for an easy hike, Mud Lake Open Space offers a double loop trail in the forest with a lake in just 2.2 miles with 260 feet of elevation gain.
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 the shelter to your left. I decided to hike the loops 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 trail, I decided to go right and hike the loops first.
The Tungsten Loop is a very pleasant hike in the woods. The trail is wide enough for two people to easily walk side-by-side and the "steep" sections of the trail are never more than 10 feet or so.
As you walk, you may notice holes surrounded by rock -- kind of like giant ant hills in reverse. A sign at the trailhead explained 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 -- thus the name of this trail -- the Tungsten Loop. At one point during WWI, Boulder County was producing most of the world's tungsten.
As you hike the Tungsten Loop, pass the trail split to Caribou Ranch, but watch for the trail split for the Kinnickinnick Loop. Turn off here, walk a short distance and there's another split. I decided since I was going counter-clockwise around the first loop, I would do the same here, so I turned right. The trail starts with a big steeper elevation gain than you hiked on the Tungsten Loop.
About 0.85 miles from the trailhead, you'll suddenly come to the top of the hill and a bench with a view. This is a great spot to stop and enjoy the scenery. As you hike this next section of the trail, you may notice more aspen groves. This would be a nice place to hike in the fall when the leaves are turning colors.
There are two turnoffs on this loop that you don't want. Both spurs go to nearby CR 128. Make sure you read the signs carefully and stay on the Kinnickinnick Loop. Honestly, I went the wrong way at the second split, thinking I was back to the Tungsten Loop, I was not. So make sure you do a better job reading the signs than I did.
The brochure and trail map says the Kinnickinnick Loop is 1.1 miles, but my GPS registered 1.37 miles. Back at the Tungsten Loop, turn right to finish that loop.
Just 0.15 miles from the split for the two loops, you'll need to make a decision on which side of Mud Lake you want to see. You can turn left on the West Shore Trail or continue on the Tungsten Loop to see the eastern shore. Because I was with a senior citizen who was tiring - we chose the West Shore Trail. You may want to decide based on which direction the sun is shining, so you can get the best photos.
It was just a short walk down the West Shore Trail 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 two loops and taking the West Shore Trail cutoff was about 2.2 miles with 260 feet of elevation gain.
Learn more about Mud Lake Open Space and get a map here. Get more than 200 hiking trail ideas across the state here. Don't miss any of my trip reports, sign up for an email alert by clicking on subscribe at the top of this page and follow me on Facebook.
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.