As a Boulder, CO company, the outdoors beckons us constantly. When we want to know where to go hiking, there’s no better person to ask than our resident expert, Kim. Here she shares with us her top 5 favorite go-to hiking spots.
South Boulder Peak
The Boulder Range forms a rugged 8,000-foot backdrop to the town of Boulder, making it the perfect playground for local hikers. Although you can find photo-worthy views on every trail that crisscrosses the area, one of my favorite vantage points is the 8,549-foot summit of South Boulder Peak — the range’s highpoint. Start at the South Mesa trailhead near Eldorado Springs and climb northwest up Shadow Canyon, passing an old homestead and views of the aptly-named Devil’s Thumb rock formation. It’s common for the wind to funnel down the canyon, rustling meadow grasses and trees as it races toward the eastern plains. After a stiff climb to a 8,200-foot saddle, there’s one final pitch to reach the rock-covered summit. Scramble over the jumble of giant boulders at the top and take in the contrasting views. Layers of peaked ridgelines extend to the west, while the plains stretch out to the east. From South Boulder Peak, I recommend descending north to take in even more summit views from neighboring 8,461-foot Bear Peak before dropping through the lush confines of Fern Canyon en route to the trailhead.
First-Second Flatiron Trail
The Flatirons — Boulder’s iconic sandstone formations — are famous for good reason. The striking monoliths dominate the landscape on the southwest edge of town, towering above grassy, pine-dotted meadows. Whenever I want to snag up-close views, I hit up the trails in Chautauqua Park. One of my favorite routes is connecting Bluebell-Baird Trail with First-Second Flatiron Trail. The reward? A picturesque perch between the First Flatiron and Sunset Rock. Starting from the ranger cottage, the route climbs past sweeping panoramas of Boulder and passes several side trails leading to popular bouldering sites. At the hike’s highpoint (a 7,000-foot saddle), find a spot to catch your breath and soak up the expansive views. A natural rock amphitheater rises to the west, the jagged Flatirons jut up to the north and south, and Denver’s skyline glimmers faintly to the east.
In addition to the Flatirons, Chautauqua Park is home to another striking rock formation: Royal Arch. Head up the Chautauqua Trail to Bluebell Mesa Trail. From there, pick up the Royal Arch Trail and follow it south. The route steepens after the first mile and ascends a series of rock steps that always give my quads — and lungs — a good workout. It’s a challenging .7-mile stretch, but definitely worth the effort. The trail tops out at a towering rock arch that frames views of Boulder and the Front Range. After taking in the scene, follow the same route back to the trailhead for five-star views of the Flatirons. Tip: Hike this popular trail in the early morning or on weekdays to beat some of the crowds.
The 5.4-mile trek to Green Mountain (the northernmost summit in the Boulder Range) hits all the marks of a classic Colorado hike. Pine-dotted canyons? Check. Seasonal creeks? Check. Views of Rocky Mountain National Park and 14,259-foot Longs Peak? Yes and yes. From the trailhead off Baseline Road, ascend Gregory Canyon alongside its namesake creek. The route climbs Green Mountain’s northwest ridge and crests the 8,144-foot summit at mile 2.7. Scramble up the largest boulder to sign the register (hint: look for the 4-foot-high cairn marking the spot). Before heading back, check out the 3D peak-finder on top of the cairn to identify surrounding peaks in Rocky Mountain National Park (to the northwest) and the Indian Peaks Wilderness (to the west).
It’s easy — and fun! — to squeeze this 3.4-mile loop into the workweek, which is why it’s one of my go-to hikes. The popular trail starts in town at the west end of Mapleton Avenue and ascends Sanitas’ south ridge. Although the trail is short, it’s never dull. Steep dirt and rock steps, intermittent scrambles, and a 1,300-foot climb always keep me on my toes. Plus, Sanitas’ 6,863-foot summit offers far-reaching views across Boulder to the distant skyscrapers in downtown Denver. On the return trip, I like to mix it up by descending the east side of the mountain and linking up with the Dakota Ridge Trail for a scenic trek along a rolling grassy ridge.
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