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  • Writer's pictureLuke

Davidson Mesa Overlook

Departing from my usual blog content I will be sharing some of my favorite places in Boulder in the next few posts.

Davidson Mesa Overlook - As you come in to Boulder via Hwy-36 at the top of the last major hill is an overlook with a visitor information stand. The turn off is at mile marker 42 and has big blue road sings pointing it out. This is defiantly worth the stop and should only add ~5 minuets to your trip.​

The turn off to Davidson Mesa

Davidson Mesa proves a panoramic view of the Front Range mountains, the City of Boulder, and its famous Flatirons rock formation; a monument to the Denver-Boulder Turnpike is also located here.

The view from Davidson Mesa

From here you can see Eldorado Canyon which is home to Eldorado Springs (a small town most known for its bottled water) and Eldorado Canyon State Park (a popular destination for rock climbers). Of course “El Dorado” Canyon means "The Gold" Canyon, The canyon got this name due to the golden color of the lichen on the cliff walls.

Eldorado Canyon State Park entrance gate

At the base of the mountains just south of Boulder you can spot the US National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). NCAR is a research and development center that studies meteorology, climate science, atmospheric chemistry, and the environment. NCAR's building was designed by architect I. M. Pei (known for many works such as the glass pyramid at the Louvre in Paris) who modeled the design after the cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde.
View of NCAR

The FlatIrons are an Icon of Boulder as they tower over the town and can be seen from almost any where. They are the jagged red rocks at the base of the mountains. They extend south quite a ways however the first five (numbered 1-5 going south) are the main ones. They are made up of the Fountain Formation the same formation that makes Red Rocks Amphitheater, Garden of The Gods, Roxborough State Park, and many other amazing places across the front range. The Fountain Formation is from a geologic period called the "Pennsylvanian" (because this was when the coal found in Pennsylvania was discovered) which was ~290 million years ago. I can cover this more in my tour if you ask me but, just like the earth orbits around the sun the sun orbits around the black hole at the center of our galaxy. One orbit of the sun around the Galaxy is called a Galactic year and, occurs every ~250 million earth years. Therefore, you can imagine that one galactic year ago, when the sun & earth were in this same part of our galaxy, that we are in now, the rocky mountains were just starting to rise out of a giant inland sea and forming these flatiorns you see before you now.

View of the Flatirons from Chautauqua

At the base of the flatirons is a beautiful park called Chautauqua. Chautauqua hosts many performances, cultural events, lectures, and was the site of my parent's wedding! It is a beautiful park where you can access a large system of trails and climb all the way to the top of the flatirons. It was once a ski resort but no longer receives enough snow, a few of the runs are still open to sledding on snow days.

CU's campus sticks out as a dash of red in the middle of the town. They started building campus buildings in the traditional academic architecture with marble but quickly realized it didn't match the environment. So, they switched to red rocks like that found in the fountain formation which makes up the flatirons, and left them with more of their natural texture.

Aerial view of CU Boulder's campus with the flatirons, Chautauqua, and NCAR visible.

You can see Longs Peak towering over everything. Longs Peak is 14,259-foot (4346 m) making it a "fourteener" (Colorado is proud of all our mountains that are over 14,000ft and give them this special designation, Longs Peak is the north most "fourteener"). Longs Peak is located in the Rocky Mountain National Park Wilderness. It is the highest point in Boulder County and Rocky Mountain National Park. The mountain was named in honor of explorer Stephen Harriman Long and is on the Colorado state quarter.

Colorado's state quarter which depicts Longs Peak

If you are on your way to my tour looking at longs peak is a good measurement of visibility. Long's Peak is exactly 28 miles away from Davidson Mesa. If you can see Longs peak clearly you can be sure it will be a good night for astronomy. If Longs peak is covered in cloud you might want to give me a call to see if you can re-book to a more clear night. You might also check for my flyer in the info stand at Davidson Mesa ;)

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