The 15 Best Hiking Places in Boulder, CO 2020

Boulder, Colorado experiences no shortage on outdoor adventure or stunning wildlife. The city is surrounded by rolling foothills, striking rock formations, and the iconic Flatiron Mountains.

In addition to the rock climbing and mountain biking that the city is famous for, Boulder is also home to world-class hiking trails – some of which are located just 10 minutes from downtown! If you’re new to the area or hiking in general, this guide will not only give you a list of the 15 best hikes to hit up in and around Boulder, but also give you valuable tips, insights and advice for successfully navigating these trails.

Each hike consists of a detailed breakdown that includes:

  • Trail description
  • Distance
  • Elevation
  • Difficulty
  • Critical contact information
  • Instructions for getting there

So, without further ado, let’s get to it!

15 Best Hikes in Boulder, Colorado 2020

1. Mount Sanitas

Hiking Mount Sanitas in Boulder, Colorado
Photo courtesy of Cosmo Mowgli: AllTrails

The Mount Sanitas and Sanitas Valley Loop Trail is one of the most popular out-and-back trails in the Boulder area. Best used between April and October, Mount Sanitas features beautiful meadows full of wildflowers, rock outcrops and fields strewn with boulders. If you’re new to the area, but have experience hiking, this is a great trail to start with. And if you’re just new to hiking in general, this is also a great trail to check out as it’s well maintained and has plenty of signage. Plus you get a killer view from the 6,863 foot summit!


Distance: 3.2 miles

Elevation: 1,256 feet

Difficulty: Moderate to difficult


Contact:

  • Colorado Tourism Office, 1625 Broadway, Suite 1700, Denver, CO 80202
  • 800-COLORADO

Getting there: There are a number of trailheads that access Mount Sanitas, but I recommend using the one on Sunshine Canyon Drive (roughly a 20-minute walk from the Pearl Street Mall) as it’s the most convenient.

2. Royal Arch

Hiking the Royal Arch in Boulder, Colorado
Photo courtesy of Markus Kubetzko: AllTrails

Another local favorite, the Royal Arch out-and-back trail is heavily used from March to October (and even beyond if you’ve got the right equipment!). To find this trail, start on the Chautauqua Trail by the ranger station. You’ll enter a pine forest after you pass through a grassy meadow. Once you reach the forest, look for signs that direct you specifically to Royal Arch as there are several other trails that start branching off. You’ll know you’re on the right trail once you reach the flagstone staircase. Not only does the Royal Arch trail offer great views of the Flat Irons and Boulder valley, but there are also tons of rock formations, plants and wildlife to observe on the hike!


Distance: 4 miles

Elevation: 1,492 feet

Difficulty: Difficult


Contact:

  • Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks Division, 1777 Broadway, Boulder, CO 80302
  • 303-441-3388

Getting there: You can access the Royal Arch hike via Chautauqua Park, which is about a 30-minute walk from the Pearl Street Mall (parking is limited).

3. Flagstaff Mountain

Hiking Flagstaff Mountain in Boulder, Colorado
Photo courtesy of Patrick Neitzel: AllTrails

Towering at 7,283 feet lies Flagstaff Mountain, the fourth highest mountain in Boulder. You can break this hike up depending on your experience and fitness level, but most people opt to take the full out-and-back trail by starting from the Viewpoint Trail to Panorama Point. From there you can keep going up the Panorama Trail to the Flagstaff Trail. While the path isn’t technical, it does get steeper and more forested as you rise in elevation. In addition to being rewarded with a great view at the top, the summit also features a wide area full of picnic benches, making it a great spot to relax.


Distance: 5.4 miles

Elevation: 1,430 feet

Difficulty: Moderate


Contact:

  • Flagstaff Nature Center, Flagstaff Rd. in junction with Flagstaff Summit Rd., Boulder, CO 80302
  • 303-441-3440

Getting there: To access the Flagstaff Mountain Trail (via Gregory Canyon), take the Viewpoint Trail to the Panorama Point/Trail and connect with the Flagstaff Trail.

4. The Flatirons

Hiking the Flatirons in Boulder, Colorado
Photo courtesy of Evan Dicks: AllTrails

Whether you’re a local or a visitor, it takes no time at all to recognize the Flatirons as the undisputed icon of Boulder, Colorado. These graceful shards of slanted rock have become nearly synonymous with Boulder and have been integrated into the very fabric of the city and its inhabitants. Trails litter these sandstone slabs that sit just outside of Boulder, with the First and Second Flatirons Loop being the most popular one to trek. This trail is very popular for hikers, runners and rock climbers, so time your hike accordingly, and while this trail only takes you up two of the five flatirons, this hike offers you great views of the other flatirons and the surrounding Boulder valley.


Distance: 2.4 miles

Elevation: 1,400 feet

Difficulty: Difficult


Contact:

  • Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks Division, 1777 Broadway, Boulder, CO 80302
  • 303-441-3440

Getting there: You can access the First and Second Flatirons Loop via Chautauqua Park (about a 30-minute walk from Pearl Street Mall).

5. Fowler Trail

Hiking Fowler Trail in Boulder, Colorado
Photo courtesy of Laura Supple: AllTrails

In comparison to some of the other trails you can find in and around Boulder, the Fowler Trail is an incredibly approachable hike if you’re new to either hiking or the devilish elevation change (I’m originally from Arkansas, so that rise in elevation did a number on me for my first few hikes). With only a 433-foot change in elevation over the course of the 4-mile trek, you can enjoy this beautiful hike, located near Eldorado Springs, without sacrificing a lung.


Distance: 4 miles

Elevation: 433 feet

Difficulty: Easy


Contact:

  • Colorado Parks & Wildlife, 1313 Sherman Street, 6th Floor, Denver, CO 80203
  • 303-297-1192

Getting there: To reach Fowler Trail from Boulder, take SR 93 south and then turn right (West) onto SR 170 (Eldorado Springs Dr.). The park entrance is just west of Eldorado Springs.

6. Red Rocks Trail

Hiking the Red Rocks Trail in Boulder, Colorado
Photo courtesy of Breinne M. Willingham: AllTrails

The Red Rocks Trail is a short, popular, and easily accessible moderate hike located just outside of Boulder. Littered with beautiful wildflowers, rock outcrops, boulders, nooks and crannies – not to mention the iconic and eye-catching fins of tall, red rock – this entire area offers all sorts of climbing and exploring opportunities. This short loop is heavily trafficked, so plan your adventure accordingly!


Distance: 1.3 miles

Elevation: 393 feet

Difficulty: Easy


Contact:

  • City of Boulder, Parks and Recreation, 3198 Broadway, Boulder, CO 80304
  • 303-413-7220

Getting there: From Broadway, travel north until you past the University and then take a left onto Mapleton Avenue. The trailhead is approximately 8 blocks west of Broadway on the left side of the rock.

7. Eldorado Canyon Trail

Hiking the Eldorado Canyon Trail in Boulder, Colorado
Photo courtesy of Heidi Greer: AllTrails

Best used from March until October, the Eldora Canyon Trail is a very popular out-and-back trail located near Eldorado Springs that features gorgeous wildlife and even a waterfall! In addition to being a great place for hiking, running and horseback riding, Eldorado Canyon features some of the best rock climbing in Colorado with striking red cliffs that offer some ultra-scenic views into the foothills.


Distance: 6.2 miles

Elevation: 1,945 feet

Difficulty: Moderate


Contact:

  • Colorado Parks & Wildlife, 1313 Sherman Street, 6th Floor, Denver, CO 80203
  • 303-297-1192

Getting there: To get to the Eldorado Canyon Trail from Boulder, take Broadway/State Highway 93 south out of Bolder, then turn right (west) onto Colorado 170 and continue for about 3 miles to the town of Eldorado Springs. Highway 170 ends at the town and continues as a dirt road. The park is located at the end of this dirt road on the left.

8. Gregory Canyon

Hiking Gregory Canyon in Boulder, Colorado
Photo courtesy of Delaney Higgins: AllTrails

The Gregory Canyon Trail is a super popular loop located near Boulder and is used mostly for hikers, runners, and rock climbers. This moderate trail offers well-shaded, steep terrain and killer views throughout. Take the Gregory Canyon Trail to the Range View Junction, and then turn right onto the Flagstaff Trail to close out the loop. Pro tip: bring an offline map as it can be easy to pick up the wrong trail!


Distance: 3.6 miles

Elevation: 1,197 feet

Difficulty: Moderate


Getting there: Turn south from Baseline Road onto the Gregory Canyon Trailhead access road. The turnoff is west of the Chautauqua Meadow and east of where Baseline Road turns into Flagstaff Mountain Road, and continues up Flagstaff Mountain.

9. Green Mountain West Trail

Hiking Green Mountain in Boulder, Colorado
Views from the summit of the Green Mountain West Trail

The Green Mountain West Trail is another popular out-and-back trail that is home to some truly spectacular scenery and views at the summit. Best used from April until October, this beautiful forest trail is used mostly for hiking and running. The first portion of the trail is a super gentle rise, with a sharp increase in elevation as you push for the summit. Views at the top make it all worth it, though!


Distance: 3.7 miles

Elevation: 702 feet

Difficulty: Moderate


Contact:

  • Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks Division, 1777 Broadway, Boulder, CO 80302
  • 303-441-3440

Getting there: From Canyon Boulevard, turn left onto 9th Street, and then right onto Baseline Road. Continue onto Flagstaff Road, and then left onto a restricted access road. You can pick up the trailhead on the lefthand side of the road.

10. Lost Lake (via the Hessie Trailhead)

Hiking Lost Lake via the Hessie Trailhead near Nederland, Colorado
Photo courtesy of Kelly Wilson: AllTrails

Another ever-popular hike just outside of Boulder is the Lost Lake via Hessie Trail, located near Nederland. This trail features a gorgeous alpine lake and is rated as a moderate hike. In addition to being one of the best backpacking treks in Colorado for beginners, it also makes a killer day hike. You can also extend your hike by picking up either the King Lake or Devil’s Thumb trail.


Distance: 4.4 miles

Elevation: 807 feet

Difficulty: Moderate


Contact:

  • Boulder Ranger District, 2140 Yarmouth Avenue, Boulder, CO 80301
  • 303-541-2500

Getting there: You can access Lost Lake from the Hessie Trailhead. From Boulder, head south on 19th Street, then turn right onto Arapahoe Avenue. Then, take a right onto Broadway, and then left onto CO-119/Boulder Canyon Dr./Canyon Blvd. At the traffic circle, take the 3rd exit onto CO-119/CO-72/N. Bridge St. Take a right onto Eldorado Avenue, then continue straight onto Hessie Rd.

11. Arapaho Pass Trail (via 4th of July Trailhead)

Hiking the Arapaho Pass Trail via the 4th of July Trailhead near Boulder, Colorado
Photo courtesy of Danielle Whitley: AllTrails

The Arapaho Pass Trail isn’t just one of the best hikes near Boulder, it’s also one of the easiest ways to catch unparalleled views of the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area! A pro tip is to pick up the 4th of July Trailhead via the Arapaho Pass Trail for even more incredible views. Plus, experienced hikers can access the summit of South Arapaho Peak, one of the best 13ers in Colorado!


Distance: 6.2 miles

Elevation: 1,758 feet

Difficulty: Moderate


Contact:

  • Colorado Tourism Office, 1625 Broadway, Suite 1700, Denver, CO 80202
  • 800-COLORADO

Getting there: (directions from Eldora) Travel west on CR-130 and northwest on CR-111 to the 4th of July/Buckingham Park Campground.

12. Bear Peak Trail

Hiking the Bear Peak Trail just outside of Boulder, Colorado
Photo courtesy of Derek Kleineweber: AllTrails

Bear Peak is another popular out-and-back trail just outside of Boulder. Best used between April and October, the trail is a haven for hikers, runners and bird watchers. While the trail starts off quite easy, it gets much steeper as you make your way towards the summit, with the last mile being quite difficult. If you’re looking for high elevation and mileage, the Bear Peak Trail is perfect for you!


Distance: 8.1 miles

Elevation: 2,847 feet

Difficulty: Difficult


Contact:

  • Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks Division, 1777 Broadway, Boulder, CO 80302
  • 303-441-3440

Getting there: You can access the Bear Peak Trail from the South Mesa Trailhead, just off of Eldorado Springs Drive south of Boulder.

13. Boulder Skyline Traverse

Hiking the Boulder Skyline Traverse in Boulder, Colorado
Photo courtesy of Michele Blumreich: AllTrails

I’m not sure how old I was when I first heard the phrase “Sufferfest”, but it’s a perfect description for the Boulder Skyline Traverse. This monster line stretches across the summits of five different peaks, including: Bear Peak, South Boulder Peak, Green Mountain, Flagstaff Mountain, and finally Mount Sanitas. Unless you can to turn this 14 mile hike into a 30 mile loop, I highly suggest you have a shuttle or a friend come pick you up at the base of Mount Sanitas.


Distance: 14.1 miles

Elevation: 1,427 feet

Difficulty: Very difficult


Contact:

  • Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks Division, 1777 Broadway, Boulder, CO 80302
  • 303-441-3440

Getting there: Take Broadway/CO093 south and then turn right onto Eldorado Springs Drive. Continue until you reach the South Mesa Trailhead.  

14. Canyon Loop at Betasso Preserve

Hiking the Canyon Loop at Betasso Preserve between Boulder and Nederland, Colorado
Enjoying an IPA with views of the Canyon Loop

Betasso Preserve is an incredibly popular outdoor area located just outside of Boulder. It’s perfect for hiking, running, and mountain biking. The most popular trail at Betasso is definitely the Canyon Loop, which offers wooded trails, a variety of dips and rises and viewpoints throughout the loop. If you’re going out to either hike or run, I recommend going on Wednesday or Saturday as the trails are closed to mountain bikers on those days and make for a safer trek.


Distance: 3.6 miles

Elevation: 521 feet

Difficulty: Moderate


Contact:

  • Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks Division, 1777 Broadway, Boulder, CO 80302
  • 303-441-3440

Getting there: To access the Canyon Loop Trail at Betasso Preserve, drive up Boulder Canyon and turn right onto Sugarloaf Road. Take the first right up at Betasso Road. Once you’re on Betasso Road, you’ll see a parking lot for the trailhead on your left.

15. Walker Ranch Loop

Hiking the Walker Ranch Loop
Photo courtesy of Brandon Wesley: AllTrails

Located less than 10 miles from downtown Boulder, the Walker Ranch Loop has the special effect of feeling quite removed from Boulder’s hustle and bustle, despite its proximity to the city. Great for hikers and bikers alike,  this 8-mile loop is strenuous but rewarding with its views of dense forests, rocky river and waterfalls, and open meadows. If you’re looking to extend this gorgeous hike, you can tack on either the Meyers Homestead Trail or the Eldorado Canyon Trail.


Distance: 8.2 miles

Elevation: 1,637 feet

Difficulty: Difficult


Contact:

  • Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks Division, 1777 Broadway, Boulder, CO 80302
  • 303-441-3440

Getting there: From Boulder, head south on Broadway, then turn right onto Boulder Canyon Drive/Canyon Boulevard. Turn left onto 9th Street, then right onto Baseline Road From there you’ll continue onto Flagstaff Road, then take a left into the parking lot at the Walker Ranch Loop Trailhead.

And there you have it, my fellow outdoor lovers – the best 15 hiking spots in and around Boulder, Colorado!

If you’re planning any hikes or outdoor excursions in the near future, here are some helpful resources that I like to use!

Happy hiking!

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