All photos by A Cruising Couple unless otherwise indicated.
Colorado is famed for being one of the healthiest and most outdoor-oriented states in America. Of course, Boulder is no exception. With access to the Flat Irons, Green Mountain, Bear Peak and numerous other trails inside and around the Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks, no trip to the area is complete without at least one day exploring its great outdoors. While you could easily spend your entire vacation trekking from one hill to another, here are a few hikes you definitely won’t want to miss:
The South Boulder Peak
During our first trip to Colorado, we summited the South Boulder Peak, the highest summit in the Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks. This is a super strenuous hike with a 3,100-foot elevation rise over about 3.5 miles. We recommend parking at the South Mesa trailhead, paying the $5 fee, and following the signs for South Boulder and Bear Peak. Once you reach the top of the ridge, you'll turn left for South Boulder Peak.
In addition, Bear Peak is a swift .3 miles to the right, so it's worth checking out if you have the extra time. The Royal Arch Trail Most recently, we attempted to reach the top of one of the Flatiron Peaks; however, we ended up following the Royal Arch trail instead — which is pretty awesome in its own right.
Our half-day hike started at the bottom of Bear Canyon Trail of Lehigh Road. We then took the relatively flat and scenic walk along the Mesa Trail that runs parallel to the mountains and overlooks Boulder below. After about two miles, we reached the split for the Royal Arch Trail. The route then becomes noticeably more rocky and steep. You'll know you've reached the top when you get to the enormous rock arch for which the trail is named. Pass under the arch to be rewarded with an amazing view looking back over Boulder.
Hitting any one of the peaks within the Flatirons is a spectacular feat. However, we most recommend following the first and second Flatiron trails. Starting from Chautauqua Park, simply follow the Chautauqua trail to the First and Second Flatiron Trail. Keep your eye out for poison ivy that likes to creep in from the edge of the trail and touch your calves. Avoid that and you’re guaranteed to fall in love with the sweeping vistas of these renowned mountains.
Another popular summit — and third-tallest in the area — Green Mountain has spectacular views over Boulder and looking west toward the Indian Peaks. It is one of the most popular as it is the most accessible of the three major summits. Don’t let that fool you, though, as this hike is still a fairly strenuous one and popular with dedicated trail runners. Follow the signs for Saddle Rock and Greenman to reach the top. Have you ever done any of these hikes in Boulder? Which is your favorite?