People come to boulder to see and hike the majestic flatirons all the time. I would know. I live in boulder, and I get stuck in tourist traffic jams all the time. But when you are sitting in traffic, trying to find the best places to go for a hike while in boulder, I encourage you to look no further than this article.
The Royal Arch
One of the closest hikes a person can reach between brewery tours in town, the Royal Arch is a true boulder classic. It sits nestled in between the flatirons, reaching towards boulder from the mountains. Through one side of the arch, a person can look out to see Denver, and through the other a person can see the red roofs CU Boulder, and the rest of the city sprawl. This hike is a great way to get a view of the flatirons and Boulder, without having to hike all the way to the top.
Finding the royal arch is simple. Look at the maps posted along the Mesa Trail, and follow the little signs that say Royal Arch.
The biggest peak in the Chataqua area, which of course means the biggest views of the area. There are no trees at the very top, so a person can get the full on 360-degree view of the Front Range, as well as the snow capped Indian Peaks that tower in the distance. Be sure and do it on a day that isnt too hot though, or dehydration becomes a real factor to be wrestled with.
Park at NCAR (the building perched above Boulder like a Wizard Factory), and hike to where the trail forks off into the Mesa Trail, and the trail to Bear Canyon. You can either take Bear Canyon all the way to the top, or Fern Canyon. (I’d suggest taking fern canyon up, and bear canyon down).
One of the best ways to actually see how much a flatiron looks like a space ship from Star Wars, is to hike right next to it. Watching free soloists (people climbing without ropes) is also very entertaining, if not a little nerve racking. Your best chance of seeing a free soloist would be any given Saturday or Sunday afternoon. The hike itself wont take too long (2 hoursish), but it is quite steep.
Begin at the Chataqual park trail head, and follow the large hiking trail that cuts a strait line at the flatirons. From there, follow the trail towards 1st flatiron. Do Not follow the trail with the picture of a little climber on it (unless you are trying to watch free soloists).
The Full Mesa Trail
For those who ambitiously want to hike the whole enchilada, there is the Boulder Mesa Trail. The trail winds its way along the flat(ish) lands in front of the flatirons, never getting too steep, but going for a really long time. This is a great way to spend the afternoon if you are just trying to do a long, mellow hike, while taking in the beautiful flatirons.
Start at the base of Chataqua, and don’t stop until you’ve reached the entrance to Eldorado Canyon! May help to park one car on either side of the trail, if you aren’t trying to do 16 miles.
The 5 Peak Traverse
Ever wanted to just say screw it and hike all of the mountains at the same time? You must either be crazy, really in shape, or running from the law. If you are feeling frisky enough to do this hike, be sure and bring a camera, plenty of water, and call a friend before leaving (you don’t want to end up like 127 hours).
The best way to do this hike is North to South. Start at mount Sanitas, traverse over to Flagstaff Mountain, then Green Mountain, Bear Peak, and finish at South Boulder Peak. Definitely bring 2 cars. Park one at the shadow canyon trailhead, and one at Sanitas.
Next time you come to Boulder for a light hike, or a full day excursion, remember this article and think, “damn, those were a bunch of really great ideas.”