Best Outdoor Activities in Boulder

Experience Boulder's Most Exciting, Scenic and Challenging Outdoor Activities

One would think that listing the 10 best outdoor activities in Boulder, Colorado would be a piece of cake, what with the mountains, lakes, streams, and canyons. However, this task is no walk in the park since Boulder boasts so many outdoor opportunities, that narrowing them down to just ten is quite a feat. With several national parks in the area, monthly outdoor festivals, and open spaces well equipped for all of your recreational needs, being outdoors is a priority for anyone who visits this sporty, fun-loving, mountain town.

For hiking, rock-climbing, and picnicking, be sure to grab your day pack and head to Rocky Mountain National Park, Chautauqua Park, or Mt. Sanitas. If you're interested in some sophistication and entertainment, head to Film on the Rocks at Red Rocks Amitheater and experience your favorite films as the stars twinkle above in the Colorado sky. In the mood to splash around or take to some wicked hills on your mountain bike? Visit Boulder Reservoir or Valmont Bike Park. And, for those of you who would like a more laid back and non-strenuous experience, enjoy the Boulder Creek Path or scenic Boulder Falls situated in awe-inspiring Boulder Canyon. Whatever your skill level or interest, this list has some exhilarating, cultured, community oriented outdoor treats for you. 


Though Bear Peak can be accessed from several different points, the Mesa Trail is one of the best access points and provides you with a grueling 12.7 miles of switchbacks, scenic canyons and, at the top, views of the Rocky Mountains and Indiana Peaks wilderness. With a total elevation gain 3,075t and a max elevation of 8,461ft, this mountain is not for the unfit or faint of heart. Cardio-vascular health is a must, along with strong legs and a willingness to push forward. Be sure to bring plenty of water and proper footwear. Remember: The rewards of the hike are well-worth your efforts.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Bear Peak is an adventure for avid hikers and takes you to the top of Boulder's highest peak. An day-long hike with amazing views!

Hope's expert tip: Physical fitness is a must for this particular hike.

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Bands on the Bricks is a free, weekly concert put on by the City of Boulder on downtown Pearl Street at absolutely no cost. A beer garden featuring local brews from Avery, West Flanders, and Upslope Brewing Company can be enjoyed, as well has the delicious food from Pearl Street restaurants. At this event you'll find all ages and creeds of people dancing and enjoying the merry-making together. A pop jet fountain nearby, entertaining street acts, and a small rock playground are perfect for entertaining the little ones in between sets. If you're looking to spend a little dough, you can always shop before or after at the numerous local and big-named retail shops along the mall. This event runs June-September.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: A low-key but energetic event, BOTB is great for the entire family and perfect for music lovers who wanna listen to local bands and dance.

Hope's expert tip: Be sure to take advantage of the beer garden and nearby restaurants on Pearl Street.

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Boulder Falls

Boulder Falls is located in Boulder Canyon off of Highway 119 and allows for the perfect sightseeing adventure. Best still, accessing the falls only requires a short and very easy hike, so people of all ages and fitness levels can enjoy. The drive to the falls alone is enough to satisfy your outdoors itch; located in Boulder Canyon, mountainous walls of rock jut up along the highway as the canyon road twists and turns along Boulder Creek. Be sure to pack a camera, because photos are a must. Also, if you're a rock climbing enthusiast, there are plenty of walls and routes to tackle near the falls.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Boulder Falls is a quick and scenic stop in Boulder Canyon and is perfect for children or folks who prefer to take it easy.

Hope's expert tip: Take a picnic and sit right at the base of the falls.

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Mt. Sanitas

This 3.1 mile moderate to strenuous trail will lead you to one of the most breathtakingly beautiful summits overlooking all of Boulder Valley. Sanitas, which is Latin for health, wellbeing, and clarity of mind, is the perfect day hike whether you're wanting to work out, relax, or just be with nature. For a strenuous workout, take the trail at a fast pace and power to the top. For a more laid back approach, the Sanitas Valley Trail ambles gently along until it shoots up to the summit at the end of the hike. This mountain has several false summits, so be sure to pack a good lunch, plenty of water, and keep truckin' up the trail. Your effort will be worth the view.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Mt. Sanitas is the perfect hike for physically fit adventurers looking to get to the top of Boulder. The views will delight and inspire.

Hope's expert tip: Sanitas has several false summits, so be sure to pack a good lunch, plenty of water, and keep truckin' up the trail. Your effort will be worth the view.

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Airport - Wbu

Known as one of the best bike baths in the country, Boulder Creek Path offers miles of biking pleasure perfect for the active commuter, hardcore cyclist, or family out for a ride. Providing access to numerous parks, ponds, historical markers, gardens, rock-climbing opportunities, botanical sites, and a farmers' market, you'll scarcely need a car when you visit this bike-friendly city. As you ride, you'll also come across landmarks such as the local art museum, public library, the Senior Center, CU-Boulder Research Park, and the Stazio Ballfields. If you're hungry for a bite, the creek path takes you near several famous and popular local spots, including the Dushanbe Teahouse and Fate Brewing Company. You can also fish and picnick along the path which segues into other routes and may be accessed at several points.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Boulder Creek Path offers miles of biking, running, walking fun as it winds along its ambling creek with sweeping views of the Flatirons and city.

Hope's expert tip: Be sure to stop off at the library to enjoy one of their many free art exhibits or have a spot of tea at the Dushanbe Teahouse, both of which sit conveniently near the creek path.

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Boulder Reservior

Whether you're out for a morning jog and desire sweet trails with a great view or you wanna slip into a bikini and bake in the Colorado sun, Boulder Reservoir is the perfect destination for you. Take a dip at the swim beach in Colorado's first certified Clean Marina or bring your kayak or boat and set-sale. You can also rent a boat for fishing or simply relaxing. The reservoir boasts a fantastic view of the Flatirons mountains, so whether you're just out for a walk, running, swimming, or boating around you'll be sure to enjoy a stellar view of Boulder's most notable landforms.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Swimming, stand up paddle boarding, and a beautiful trail for running make Boulder Reservoir a relaxing and scenic outdoor spot.

Hope's expert tip: Be sure to bring your bikini and splash around at the swim beach.

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Valmont Bike Park

The Boulder Mountain Bike Alliance is proud to give you this one-of-a-kind bike park. Enjoy some well-maintained, yet exciting trails that will rip the screams from your throat. However, if you're in the mood for something more tame, family friendly trails will help you wind your way to fitness and relaxation. The bike park hosts various events such as "Take Your Kid Mountain Biking Day" and the annual Boulder Cyclocross Series. There are also picnic areas where family and friends can watch all of the tricks and thrills from the sidelines. This bike park hosts bike clinics, festivals, and much more!

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Valmont Bike Park offers mountain biking enthusiasts the chance to careen down maintained trails of all levels, practice their jumps, and fulfill their speed need.

Hope's expert tip: Be sure to take your mountain bike and experience all the curves, twists, turns, and jumps at Valmont Bike Park.

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Boulder County Farmers' Market

Independent farmers and growers offer their wares at this lively community farmers' market. You'll find fresh, locally-grown fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers, along with plants, trees, shrubs, coffee beans, baked goods, and crafts. The market emphasizes and supports local agriculture. Where the free part comes in has to do with the delicious samples offered by local vendors and the free music put on my local artists and bands. You can walk the Farmer's Market to get a taste for the true flavor of Boulder, including its people, its food, and its music. The Boulder Library and Creek Path are both nearby if you need to stop in for free wifi, to grab some books or games for the kiddos, or go fishing in the free children's pond.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: The Boulder County Farmer's Market offers a unique outdoor shopping experience. Local vendors offer fresh produce and, after you buy, you can picnic and people-watch.

Hope's expert tip: Be sure to bring cash and reusable bags. Also, take a walk along the Boulder Creek Path and pick a spot for a picnic.

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The jewel of Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park offers panoramic mountain views, hikes that wind through alpine tundra and dense aspen groves with opportunities to glimpse elk, black bear, and a variety of mountain wildlife. An adventurers dream, RMNP offers world-class rock-climbing, backcountry skiing, and fly fishing. If you're camping, stop off at Moraine campground that boasts a crystal clear view of the Rockies from almost any site, bathrooms, and easy access to hiking. The Cub Lake trail is moderate and perfect for travelers who have yet to acclimate to the high altitude. Bear, Echo, Nymph and Emerald Lakes are located in one of the most popular section of the park but, often, aren't overly crowded during the fall and winter months. Pack a camera and get ready to take some shots of mountain lakes and wildlife.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Hiking, camping, rock-climbing, and fishing make Rocky Mountain National Park an adventurer's playground.

Hope's expert tip: Take a joy-ride on Trail Ridge Road or hike the Emerald Lake and Bear Lake hikes to tackle one of the 10 Best Hikes in America.

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Chautauqua Park
Photo courtesy of © 2014 City of Boulder Parks & Recreation

The definitive "park" with ample open-space for relaxing, photography, and painting in peace. This meadow-like foothills park is ideal for a lazy afternoon with a book, a family picnic, bird watching, or a vigorous hike on numerous trails that will suit any skill level. The hiking trails take you into the Flatirons and the Bluebell Shelter or the top of Flagstaff Mountain. A century old community center occupies the middle of the park. Numerous lectures and musical performances are scheduled, including the Colorado Music Festival, which is held each summer. The Royal-Arch and Green Mountain hikes are not-to-be-missed but should only be attempted if you're in good shape, have plenty of water, and have had a few days to acclimate to Boulder's altitude.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Chautauqua Park is an iconic and historical setting at the base of Boulder's well-known Flatirons where hiking and picnicking abound.

Hope's expert tip: Be sure to tackle the strenuous Royal-Arch hike which provides a spectacular view well worth the climb.

Read more about Chautauqua Park →


Meet Hope Gately

Hope Gately should have a bumper sticker proclaiming "Not a Native...But I Got Here as Fast as I Could!" A transplant from the Midwest, Hope has fallen in love with Colorado's mountains playing...  More About Hope