NCAR's Mesa Road
Bicycles & Pedestrians
The entry drive to NCAR's Mesa Lab is sweeping, scenic, and steep. Here are some important safety tips and rules of the road for enjoying our mesa road, which begins where the west end of Table Mesa Drive ends.
The NCAR road is not a city street; it's federal property owned by the National Science Foundation. (See below for more about jurisdiction.) We make the road available to the public daily, from 6:30 a.m. till dark, with rare exceptions. Closures occur when necessary for weather or other safety conditions or business purposes.
NCAR's Mesa Lab Visitor Center, featuring free exhibits about weather and climate, is open to the public seven days a week, except for rare maintenance closures. Learn more about our exhibits and week-day tours.
Designated lanes were added to NCAR's mesa road in 2010 to support bicycle and pedestrian commuting to and from our facility. The bicycle climbing lane is reserved for cyclists traveling uphill. Please pass slower cyclists with courtesy and caution. When riding downhill, cyclists should use the entire downhill traffic lane by merging with motorized traffic; do not exceed the posted speed of 35 mph and 20 mph at and near the top of the hill. The mesa road climbs from an elevation of 5423 feet at the intersection of Table Mesa Drive and Boulder, to 5670 feet at the start of the NCAR entry drive, up to a final elevation of 6109 feet at NCARís Mesa Lab.
The pedestrian lane provides a designated space for walkers, runners, and hikers to enjoy two-way travel up and down the NCAR mesa. Please, no cyclists in the pedestrian lane and no pedestrians in the bicycle lane.
Our maintenance crews do their best to keep the entire road, including the bicycle and pedestrian paths, as clear as possible of snow and ice in winter. However, anyone traveling the mesa road by motorized vehicle, by bicycle, or on foot should exercise caution appropriate on a mountain road, and be aware that sand and debris may accumulate at times and wintery conditions may exist. We welcome the many cyclists who enjoy riding the NCAR entry drive for recreation. Please be aware that the road is not maintained as a training facility for cyclists, and conditions may not be appropriate for professional training. As on city streets, cyclists should exercise caution and obey all posted traffic signs.
The National Science Foundation requires that all dogs be on leash on NSF property, which includes the NCAR mesa road, areas surrounding NCAR, and the NCAR Walter Orr Roberts Weather Trail immediately behind the Mesa Lab. Visitors should refer to City of Boulder Open Space & Mountain Parks trailhead information for information about dog regulations on trails that connect to designated NCAR trails.
NCAR, UCAR, and NSF welcome thousands of visitors each year to enjoy the beauty of nature on the NCAR mesa. Bicycling and pedestrian activities (including hiking and running) are the only permitted recreational uses on NCAR's mesa road. All other forms of recreation are prohibited. Horses are not permitted on the NCAR site, including all designated NCAR trails. Please stay on the road at all times. No off-road activities are permitted, including snow sports.
Ample, free visitor parking is available in the parking lot at the top of the NCAR road. Vehicles are not permitted to park anywhere or to stop even briefly along the entry drive. Please proceed to the parking lot and then walk down the pedstrian lane to take photos, watch the deer that frequently graze in our meadows, or simply enjoy the beauty of this special place.
Federal Property and City Jurisdiction
The National Science Foundation, NCAR's sponsor, owns the Mesa Lab and the land surrounding it, including the entry drive known as the mesa road or the NCAR road. The entire site, including the road, is federal property. The site is maintained by the nonprofit University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, which manages NCAR on behalf of NSF. All City of Boulder agencies have jurisdiction to enforce local laws and ordinances on the property. These agencies include fire, police, emergency response, and Open Space and Mountain Parks.