Just Moved to Boulder, Colorado? Here Are the First 10 Hikes to DoPublished on 03/05/2021 · 6 min readCamping & Hiking expert Hannah K. overviews the first ten hikes she did recently upon moving to Boulder.
Photo by Joshua Forbes
I recently moved to Boulder, Colorado for a pretty obvious reason—the mountains. Each week, my goal was to escape the town and head to a different trailhead. Here are the first ten hikes I did in or near Boulder and why you should do them, too.
Keep in mind: the altitude is a lot to handle. I started off with low-elevation hikes and kept them shorter than usual. Altitude sickness is no joke—drink extra water and if your legs start feeling drunk, turn around. Listen to your body, folks!
Flatirons Vista Trail
The Flatirons Vista Trail is a 3.5-mile, heavily-trafficked loop trail with 285 feet of elevation. Start on the North Loop for the best views of the lake. Look out for gorgeous wildflowers, sunny skies, and any natural wildlife you may see. To avoid the crowds, go early in the morning or during the week. There is a $5 parking fee if you are not a Boulder resident.
This was the first trail I did when I got to Boulder and it did not disappoint. Despite it being rated as an easy trail, its beauty made up for any lack of elevation. Learn more here.
Meyers Homestead Trail
This trail has 840 feet of elevation spanned across 5.5 miles of the gorgeous Boulder wilderness. Avoid going in the winter due to some slick and icy roads. During the spring, fall, and summer, enjoy lush greenery, wildflowers, and—of course—the sun that is out 300 days of the year. Keep an eye out for the historical homestead features you pass by on the trail. Learn more about the trail here.
Enchanted Mesa and McClintock Nature Trail
This short, two-mile, popular out-and-back trail features a river and is a great way to get your blood pumping! Keep in mind that dogs are not allowed on McClintock, so it’s best to leave your pup at home. It’s great for families and hikers of all skill levels to enjoy the forest and the easy terrain. On the way back, check out those views of Boulder! If you go after a snowfall or in colder months, bring microspikes to keep your grip in icier conditions. Learn more here.
Little Thompson Overlook Trail and Eagle Wind Trail Loop
Rabbit Mountain Open Space is an underrated space near Lyons, Colorado—about a twenty-minute drive from Boulder. The park has weird hours, so double check the day and time you plan on heading out.
The Rabbit Mountain Open Space has a good-sized parking lot, a bathroom, and a few trails you can hike. The Little Thompson Overlook Trail and Eagle Wind Trail Loop is a great afternoon hike that will take you up and around and give you panoramic views. Stop at the lookout for a small snack. Enjoy the six-mile hike and the 725 feet of elevation that will take you to the lookout. Learn more about the trail options here.
Belcher Hill, Maverick Trail, Longhorn Trail Loop
White Ranch Park is perhaps one of my favorite spots to go to. It has a bunch of trails that are available to runners, bikers, dogs, and hikers, and it is so peaceful and quiet. I like to head here in the morning for a short run to wake up and get my body moving for the day.
The Belcher Hill, Maverick Trail, Longhorn Trail Loop is a moderately-rated, moderately-trafficked loop that spans across eight miles and will take you up over 1600 feet of elevation. When you finally get to the top, there is a nice bench to sit, eat your peanut butter and jelly, and enjoy the tired sensation your legs will feel (at least mine did). Learn more here.
I chose to go on this trail because of the name—duh. I did minimal research before I got to the trailhead but found out that Mallory Cave is a 3.5-mile, out-and-back trail with 800 feet of elevation gain and some of the most beautiful wildflowers. Keep an eye out for rock climbers on the walls! There is a bit of scrambling at the top that I don’t recommend letting your dogs do.
Also, the cave is permanently closed because human contamination causes white-nose syndrome in bats. I’m not entirely sure what that is, but if you do, let me know.
This hike starts at the National Center for Atmospheric Research Trailhead (NCAR) parking lot. There are a variety of trail options that start here. You can probably come back every day for a week and still not see every trail option. How wonderful is that?! Learn more about the cave and trail here.
Switzerland Trail, Gold Hill Site Trail
The 500 feet of elevation over five miles through the beautiful Switzerland Trail and Gold Hill Site Trail is a must-do. Whether you are trail running, hiking with your dog, or mountain biking, this trail offers a great experience for everyone. In January 2021, the park closed due to wildfires, but keep your eyes open for a potential re-opening date.
The best part about this trail is that it is hardly ever crowded. Enjoy easy parking and the quiet, serene peace of the trail. All of your elevation will be on the way back to the trailhead, but it is gradual and great for a wide variety of skill levels. Learn more about the trail here.
Continental Divide Overlook via Fowler to Rattlesnake Gulch Loop
The Continental Divide Overlook via Fowler to Rattlesnake Gulch Loop is rated as moderate. This moderately-trafficked loop is about seven miles round-trip and has a good amount of elevation gain—just over 1300 feet. With gorgeous views and some amazing spots to bird watch, this trail is definitely a good one to add to your list. If you go in the winter, bring some microspikes for icy spots closer to the top. You do need a valid state park pass, which you can find here.
Bluebell, Royal Arch, Flatiron, Bluebell-Baird and Meadow Trail Loop
The Bluebell, Royal Arch, Flatiron, Bluebell-Baird and Meadow Trail Loop is 2.5 miles and has 734 feet of elevation gain and gorgeous views—need I say more? Parking can be tricky, so get there early or go during the week to avoid the crowds. This short and sweet hike is a great way to get your body moving, blood pumping, and enjoy the beauty around you. I recommend downloading a map, as there are many intersecting trails—so many places to explore! Learn more about the trail here.
The Flatirons via Saddle Rock and Blue-Baird Trail Loop
This Flatirons Trail is rated as difficult and moderately-trafficked. The three miles and 1500 feet of elevation gain will definitely leave you breathless, and your legs may be shaking on the way down, but the views will put the goofiest grin on your face! I recommend working up to this trail and constantly checking in with your body. Learn more here.
Remember, the altitude is no joke. I have been here almost two months and I still get winded very easily. Listen to your body and respect your limitations. Train, drink water, and get ready for the beauty that Boulder, Colorado has to offer!
Did I miss your favorite trail? Hit me up through my profile and let’s chat about all things nature.