The Best Hikes in Boulder, Colorado [Chautauqua Park and The Flatirons]

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Boulder, Colorado is located at the base of the Rocky Mountains, just northwest of Denver. This quaint mountain town has been named the “happiest place in the United States” as well as “America’s foodiest town”.

With a focus on outdoor activities, Boulder is a place to visit if you’re looking for active travel destinations. In this post, we’ll take a peek at what this town has to offer and I’ll show you some of the best hikes in Boulder that you shouldn’t miss.

Hiking the Flatirons in Boulder Colorado
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Boulder, Colorado at a Glance

Boulder is located in northern Colorado about 30 minutes outside of Denver. Whether you’re looking for fantastic restaurants, unique microbreweries, great shopping, or amazing hiking, Boulder has it all!


The Flatirons Colorado

The Flatirons, located on the south edge of Boulder are a sight to behold. These massive slanted peaks of sandstone are on the east side of Green Mountain — 5 main numbered peaks make up “The Flatirons”.

Flatirons Hiking Trails

Try out one of these trails for your Boulder Flatirons Hike:

  • Chautauqua Trail – .6 miles
  • Mesa Trail – 6.9 miles
  • Baseline Trail – .4 miles
  • Royal Arch – .8 miles
  • Woods Quarry – .3 miles
  • First-Second Flatiron Trail – 1.1 miles
  • Second-Third Flatiron Trail – .3 miles
  • Third Flatiron Climbing Access Trail – .5 miles

The trails are interconnected so you’ll probably end up hiking many trails while exploring The Flatirons.

Hiking in Boulder at the Flatirons
Amazing views from the Flatirons in Boulder, Colorado

Chautauqua Park Hikes

Location: 9th Street and Baseline Road, Boulder, Colorado 80302

Chautauqua Park Amenities:

  • Restrooms
  • Park Ranger
  • Picnic area
  • Playground
  • Bike racks
  • Tennis courts
  • Parking (but not much!)
  • Bike route access

To access The Flatirons, you’ll want to head to Chautauqua Park. You may be thinking “Sha-what!” or you may be thinking you’ve heard that name before.

The Chautauqua movement started in the late 19th century as a cultural, religious, and educational movement that’s been called “the most American thing in America”. You can read more about it in this post about Lakeside Chautauqua in Ohio.

Chautauqua Trailhead at The Flatirons

You’ll want to start your hike at the Chautauqua Trailhead. This area can get crowded and parking is at a minimum so be prepared to walk a while before you get to your hike!

Don’t forget to stop by the Chautauqua Ranger Cottage. In addition to a large collection of taxidermied (yeah, I made that up) critters, there are park rangers who will be happy to help you with a hiking plan. Be sure to get a map — there are a lot of different trails of varying difficulty in The Flatirons. If you’re looking for something specific (or even if you’re not) the rangers can map out a path for you to follow.

There are numerous trails to choose from that all criss-cross and meander in different ways so unless you really know what you are doing, it’s smart to get some guidance before setting out.

Chautauqua Park Boulder Colorado
Take a map! There are lots of trails that start at the Chautauqua Trailhead.

The Best Hikes in Boulder

The Flatiron trails offer beautiful expansive views of Boulder and the surrounding areas. It was stunning how different the landscape was from hiking at Red Rocks, which was only about 40 minutes south. These trails will take you from meadow to pine forest to mountain in one single hike.

There is some definite uphill battle on this one! I’m not an experienced hiker so this was a bit of a challenge in places for me, but still very do-able. Because of the elevation gain and the shade provided by the trees, there can be a significant temperature drop the higher up you go.

So, while it was 70 degrees at the beginning of the hike there was still some snow and ice on the trail.  This made for some slippery spots and, you guessed it, I fell on my ass. While my friend was busy laughing at me, she too, wiped out.

Boulder Activities: Boulder Bike and Brews Guided Day Tour | Learn How To Rock Climb in Boulder

These trails can get fairly narrow and steep in places. They can also get crowded. Be courteous to your fellow hikers and choose your stopping points wisely. Don’t be the official trail a-hole and stop right in the middle of the steepest, rockiest damn part of the trail with your dog just to hang out with your buddies. Don’t do it.

Hiking in Boulder Colorado
We had an awesome time hiking the Flatirons in Boulder — even though we both wiped out and had to climb around the stupid girl in the middle of the narrow, steep trail.

Guided Hikes near Boulder

If you prefer exploring with an organized tour, you’re in luck! There are plenty of guided hikes in Boulder to help you get the most out of your experience.

Boulder Hike and Beer: This 4-hour excursion includes a hike on The Flatirons, a visit to a local brewery, and free time on the pedestrian Pearl Street Mall in Boulder.

Hiking Adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park: This full-day tour leaves from either Denver or Boulder and includes an easy to moderate 4-mile hike, time to explore the Rockies, lunch, and an experienced local guide.

Easy to Moderate Boulder Hiking: This small group tour will take you through some of the best hiking trails in Boulder. You’ll hike 2.5 miles of easy to moderate trails on the Boulder Flatirons. Snacks and amazing views are included.

Final Thoughts

Whether Boulder, Colorado is your final destination or you’re taking a day trip after spending a few days in Denver, hiking in Boulder is something you shouldn’t miss.

I enjoyed my afternoon of hiking in Boulder! Have you ever hiked the Flatirons in Boulder?  What did you think?

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(Occasional updates, miles/points tips, and travel inspo)

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Julianne

    Love the part about not being a trail a-hole! It’s so true. It’s just like being a tourist in NYC and stopping in the middle of the sidewalk, haha. Don’t be that guy!

    1. Katie @ ZenLifeandTravel

      OMG – I couldn’t stand tourists in NYC! I used to live there and had to walk through them on my way to and from work…drove me crazy!

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