There is no better way to spend your time in Boulder, regardless of the season, than to take a day trip to one of the most beautiful spots in Colorado: Chautauqua Park. Situated at the base of the Rocky Mountain Flatirons, five giant monoliths of stone and metal, the park boasts grassy meadows, wildflowers in the spring, and moderate to strenuous trails that lead to some of the most breathtaking views in the West.
Moon peaking over the Flatirons — Photo courtesy of Michelle Theall, Colorado Chautauqua
To start off your day, we suggest an early morning hike up the Royal Arch Trail. This moderate-strenuous 3.2-mile hike will require about 2 hours of your time and, if you start out about an hour before sunrise, you'll be able to reach the top as the Colorado sun bathes Boulder Valley in golden rays that stretch out to Denver and far as the eye can see. If you attempt the hike before sunrise, please bring a headlamp and sturdy shoes.
Perhaps you're wondering where the Royal Arch Hike gets its name? Without giving too much away, your destination provides you with an awesome photo op of one of the most impressive rock formations in the Flatirons. We've given you a sneak peak below.
Chautauqua Dining Hall — Photo courtesy of Colorado Chautauqua
After you've returned from your trek, you'll be quite famished, so we highly recommend stopping into Chautauqua Dining Hall for their famous smorgasbord of a breakfast.
After you finish indulging in scrumptious pancakes and washing them down with freshly squeezed orange juice, we challenge and encourage you to tighten up those hiking boots again for the granddaddy of Chautauqua hikes: Bear Peak via The Mesa Trail and Bear Canyon.
This 12. 7-mile hike is not for the faint of heart, but does offer a challenge for those who are physically fit and up for an invigorating day hike that rewards with an exceptional view of the eastern plains, Boulder foothills, Indian Peaks Wildness and the majestic Rocky Mountains of Rocky Mountain National Park.
As your total foot-to-earth time will most likely range between 6-7 hours round-trip, we suggest packing a hearty lunch and plenty of drinking water to be enjoyed either in Bear Canyon or in one of the numerous and scenic meadows along the way. As with any longer hike, we highly recommend the following:
- Take at least 3 liters of water
- Wear clothing suitable to the weather and environment. Dress in layers and pack a rain shell.
- Carry light-weight, high calorie food such as Cliff Bars, hard-boiled eggs, or good 'ol peanut butter and jelly.
- Wear sturdy, well-worn shoes or hiking boots and wool socks.
- Always tell someone when you are setting out, your route and destination, and when you plan on returning. Better yet, tell someone and write it down. Think Aron Ralston and 127 Days; cutting your own arm off with a blunt tool will not be the highlight of your day trip.
- Bring a map of your route and compass. Knowing how to use the compass is always a plus.
When you return at the end of your rigorous day, we suggest heading back to the dining hall for dinner or swing just down the road to Southern Sun Brewery for a savory burger, fries, and locally brewed beer. We guarantee that you'll need a tasty beverage after this journey, but we also guarantee that you'll feel a happy exhaustion and deep appreciation - dare we say, even love? - for Boulder's great outdoors. Hike on!