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5 Best Hikes in Boulder, Colorado

Boulder, Colorado Chautauqua Park mountains covered in Snow

Boulder, Colorado is located at the Foothills of the Rocky Mountains about 45 minutes from the state's capital, Denver. Recognized as a hub for outdoor enthusiasts, Boulder truly has something for everyone. Whether you enjoy hiking, biking, climbing, bouldering, tubing, great food, incredible views, or bringing your furbabies pretty much anywhere with you, Boulder is the spot for you. With over 300 days of sunshine, you're able to enjoy the incredible outdoor amenities all year long. In fact, in 2020, US News & World Report ranked Boulder number one as the best place to live.

Boulder is also the proud home to the University of Colorado, Boulder, CU Buffs, and embraces a lively, college atmosphere full of creativity and ingenuity. It's honestly one of the most incredible places we have ever visited and thus why we decided to call if home, so we may be a little biased. But, based on the 2020 US News & World Report, we know we aren't alone in our opinions.

Here are 5 of the best hikes in Boulder:

Chautauqua Park - Chautauqua Trail

Boulder, Colorado Chautauqua Park mountains with yellow grasses in front.
  • Trail Length: 1.2 miles round-trip (out and back)

  • Elevation Gain: 459 feet (easy/moderate)

  • Popularity: May be the most trafficked in Boulder (and for good reason, look at that view!)

  • Dog-Friendly: Yes, dogs must be on a leash

  • Fees: Yes, paid parking for $2.50/hour during the weekend and holidays during the summer. In the fall, winter, and spring, there is no paid parking. There is also a shuttle system for when the parking gets crowded. Check the Boulder OSMP website for details before your visit

When you think of Boulder, you most likely think of Chautauqua Park. It was the first place we ever visited in Colorado after we landed in Denver. It continues to this day to be one of the most beautiful views we've seen and leaves a lasting impression. With the iconic views of the Flatirons, the starting point for several different trailheads, and very accessible, it is very heavily trafficked. That being said, here are a few tips to try and avoid the crowds: 1. Go for sunrise. 2. Go on a weekday. 3. Go during the off-season. If you only have time for one hike, long or short, make sure this is at the top of your list - promise you won't regret it!

Royal Arch

Boulder, Colorado Royal Arch image with Flatirons mountains and blue sky in background
  • Trail Length: 3.1 miles round-trip (out and back)

  • Elevation Gain: 1,153 feet (moderate/difficult)

  • Popularity: Several other hikers on trail, especially on the weekend

  • Dog-Friendly: Yes, dogs must be on a leash

  • Fees: Depends on parking location. Be sure to check the Boulder OSMP website for details before your visit

Did you know that Boulder has its own arch?! We couldn't believe it either! Royal Arch is one of the most unique hikes in Boulder. Most of the trail is shaded as you meander through the forest climbing in elevation as you go. The trail really gives you an appreciation for why Boulder received the name "Boulder," as you hike around, over, and under several large boulders during the journey. The view at the end of the trail is great. To the west, you see the Flatirons and to the east you see the plains and the city of Boulder itself. If you only have time for one moderate to difficult hike in Boulder, this would probably be our top recommendation.

Boulder Falls

Boulder, Colorado Boulder Falls waterfall
  • Trail Length: 0.3 miles round-trip (out and back)

  • Elevation Gain: Around 60 feet (easy)

  • Popularity: Can be crowded because of how accessible the trail is

  • Dog-Friendly: Yes, dogs must be on a leash

  • Fees: Not at this point in time. But, check the Boulder OSMP website for details before your visit

If you are looking for a quick and relatively easy, family-friendly hike in Boulder, be sure to visit Boulder Falls! This short trail leads to a beautiful waterfall and that flows into Boulder Creek and sometimes can freeze in the winter. The trail is well defined with built-in stairs and chained railings. The trailhead is located off Boulder Canyon Drive/Highway 119 to the west of town on Boulder OSMP (Open Space and Mountain Parks) land. There is a parking lot across the street from the trailhead as well as parking on the side of the road. Be careful as Boulder Canyon Drive is a busy road and use caution as you park and walk to the trailhead. Overall, this trail is a must-see during your visit to Boulder!

Betasso Preserve - Canyon Loop

Boulder, Colorado Betasso Preserve Open Space mountains
  • Trail Length: 3.3 miles round-tip (clockwise)

  • Elevation Gain: 429 feet (moderate)

  • Popularity: Bikes allowed on trail except for Wednesday's & Saturday's

  • Dog-Friendly: Yes, dogs must be on a leash

  • Fees: Not at this point in time. But, check the Boulder County Open Space website for details before your visit

Betasso Preserve is part of Boulder County Open Space and offers stunning 360° views of the Rocky Mountains. During our visits to Betasso, we have found the trails to be a little less crowded with hikers. But, there are definitely more bikers on the trail. Therefore, it is very important to make sure you are alert throughout the hike and sharing the trail. There are several picnic areas that offer shade and great views. This is one location you will want to visit in Boulder!

Sunrise Amphitheater Overlook

Boulder, Colorado Sunrise Amphitheater Overlook with views of the Rocky Mountains
  • Trail Length: Overlook down to amphitheater - about 0.2 miles round-trip

  • Elevation Gain: Less than 50 feet (easy)

  • Popularity: Events, such as weddings, can reserve the space

  • Dog-Friendly: Yes, dogs must be on a leash

  • Fees: Not at this point in time. But, check the Boulder OSMP website for details before your visit

Sunrise Amphitheater is one of the facilities within the OSMP land that can be reserved for an event, such as a wedding. When an event is not occurring, it is a wonderful place to get a mixture of city and mountain views. Visiting during sunrise is a special experience, hence the name. The way the morning light highlights the city of Boulder and the alpenglow displays those hues of pinks and reds on the Flatirons is amazing. There is a seasonal road closure (from October 31st to April 30th) to drive to the amphitheater. So, be sure to keep this in mind. This makes for a great, quick stop while in town as not much hiking is required.

While these of course are not the only hiking trails in Boulder, we believe that they provide a great introduction to this incredible city!

Thanks for reading! Be sure to check out our future blog posts for more detailed information about exploring Boulder.

Until next time, keep adventuring!

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