hikes in Boulder
Boulder is Colorado’s outdoor playground – a trendy, friendly, fun city nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. If you’re a fan of the Great Outdoors, this vibrant city has so much to offer, with beautiful mountains, tranquil creeks, deep canyons and strange rock formations just a stone’s throw from the bustling urban center. This wild place has charm and beauty in abundance, with natural riches to rival any other US state. We love it, and we’re sure you will too.
Boulder boasts an impressive network of hiking trails, scattered across the national and state parks that surround the city. You’ll hike in the shadow of jagged Rocky Mountain peaks, with views over gorgeous alpine meadows and lush forests, or descend into stunning canyons, clothed in colorful foliage and carved by rushing waters. Perhaps the most iconic features of this spectacular region are the Boulder Flatirons, steep rock formations that rise out of the landscape and form an important part of the town’s identity. The sheer variety of hiking trails and landscapes on offer makes hiking in Boulder a truly rewarding experience.
Boulder sits at an elevation of 1655m above sea level, and many of the hiking trails around the city rise significantly higher. If you’re not used to hiking at high elevations, you may wish to take a little time to acclimatize before tackling the more difficult trails. However, if you’re in training for a Colorado 14er, Boulder is a great place to come to get in shape and prepared for the trail.
If Boulder is on your hiking bucket list, we’ve got plenty of suggestions and ideas to make your adventure a success. We’ve put together a list of all our favorite Boulder hikes, together with some top tips on how to enjoy your trip to the maximum. Happy hiking!
Top Hikes In Boulder
The stunning mountains around Boulder are the perfect introduction to Colorado’s incredible landscapes, and this region is an excellent training ground for hikers who are in training for an epic Rocky Mountain hike. You’ll find hiking trails to suit everyone, from short, family-friendly hikes suitable for strollers and very young children, to strenuous day hikes that take you up high into the mountains. The area around Boulder Creek is particularly popular with families, who can take advantage of the well-maintained trails and even take a dip in the water to cool off on a hot day! However, if you’re looking for a bit of a challenge, Boulder is surrounding by impressive high peaks, which provide a fantastic opportunity to stretch your legs and test your fitness. Head to Bear Peak or South Boulder Peak for incredible views over the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, and a grueling (yet immensely satisfying!) day out on the trail.
Easy Hikes In Boulder
Sugarloaf Mountain Hike: The short hike to the summit of Sugarloaf Mountain is family-friendly and one of the best easy hikes in Boulder. The trail ascends a series of easy switchbacks before circling up to the summit. The views at the top are simply remarkable, with an unobstructed panorama over the peaks of the Rocky Mountain National Park, the Indian Peaks Wilderness, and the Golden Gate Canyon State Park.
Family Hikes In Boulder
Boulder Creek Trail: This pleasant route alongside Boulder Creek is one of our favorite family hikes in Boulder! The trail is well maintained and level, making it ideal for families with young children, and it’s conveniently located in the Eben G. Fine Park. Keep an eye open for rock climbers on the tall canyon walls.
Day Hikes In Boulder
Bear Peak Hike: The hike to the summit of Bear Peak is not for the faint of heart. This is a challenging route that requires a steep and fairly strenuous climb, but we think it’s one of the best day hikes in Boulder! You’ll trek through the enigmatically named Shadow Canyon, passing through thick forest and boulder fields before emerging at the breathtaking summit. Here you’ll enjoy jaw-dropping views over the Front Range, Boulder, and the Indian Peaks Wilderness.
Challenging Hikes In Boulder
South Boulder Peak Hike: Looking for one of the best challenging hikes in Boulder? Look no further than South Boulder Peak, one of the tallest mountains in the region, and the perfect spot for a challenging ascent. This route follows a similar direction to the Bear Peak hike, passing through Shadow Canyon before branching off for South Boulder Peak. The views from the top are simply breathtaking.
Other Great Hikes In Boulder
Green Mountain Hike: If you’re hoping to cross one of Colorado’s iconic 14ers off your hiking bucket list, this hike up Green Mountain is an excellent way to get in training. It’s a challenging trail with a long, tough ascent through the dense pine forest, but the views from the top are worth all the effort. You’ll enjoy a stellar view over Mount Meeker, Longs Peak, North Arapahoe Peak and Mount Evans.
1st Flatiron Hike: 1st Flatiron is one of Boulder’s most distinctive natural monuments, a large blade of rock jutting out of the wooded hillside. There are actually three rocky outcrops, and this hike takes you through a series of switchbacks between the 1st and 2nd flatirons before emerging at a wonderful viewpoint. You’ll have fantastic views over the 3rd Flatiron, Longs Peak and the Indian Peaks Wilderness. This lovely route is very popular, and one of the best hikes in Boulder.
Betasso Preserve Hike: The Betasso Preserve hike is a wonderful option for a low-key hike or a fun family day out! The trail meanders in and out of dense pine forests, providing lovely views of Fourmile Canyon and Boulder Canyon. There are plenty of opportunities for wildlife watching, making this a fantastic way to spend a few hours in stunning scenery.
Gregory Canyon to Flagstaff Mountain Hike: This fantastic hike will take you to not just one, but two remarkable viewpoints, Realization Point and Artists Point. You’ll enjoy breathtaking views over the Indian Peaks Wilderness, before passing through Boulder Mountain Park, which boasts a unique collection of red rock formations. This hike is an excellent option if you want to take in some of the wonderful Boulder scenery without expending too much energy!
Mount Sanitas Hike: This popular hike begins with a steep climb that’s sure to get your legs working! You’ll hike up on to a rocky ridge all the way to the summit of Mount Sanitas. Take a little time to admire the expansive views over the Boulder Valley and catch your breath before descending along the Dakota Ridge Trail. This satisfying and beautiful trail is one of the best hikes in Boulder.
Royal Arch Hike: This dramatic arch is hidden away in the Boulder Flatirons, accessed by a pleasant route up the rocky steps to Sentinel Pass. You won’t catch a glimpse of the Royal Arch until the last moment, as you turn past the last switchback up the hillside. The views to the top are magnificent, including a vista that takes in the 3rd Flatiron. This lovely route is one of our favorite hikes in Boulder.
When Is The Best Time To Hike In Boulder?
Nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Boulder is an ideal hiking destination! Boulder is actually a popular location in Colorado for winter hiking, as the lower-elevation trails close to the city often remain accessible in winter, despite the snow. You may need snowshoes or microspikes in some places, but this is a wonderful way to see the Colorado mountains in the cold season. Although the weather begins to improve in March and April, spring is not the ideal time to hike in Boulder. In fact, local residents call this period the ‘muddy season’, as the melting snow and spring showers make the trails wet, muddy and difficult to access.
Instead, we think it’s best to wait for June and July, when the weather is warm and sunny, and the trails are looking their best. However, summer is also the busiest month of the year, and you may find yourself fighting for space on the most popular routes. As a result, we think that the best time to hike in Boulder is autumn, when the weather is still mild and sunny (if a little unpredictable), and the crowds have dissipated. What’s more, you’ll get the chance to see the forests at their finest, glowing with fall colors.
Other Outdoor Activities In Boulder
This region is the outdoor playground of Colorado, and in addition to hiking, trailing running and backpacking you’ll find plenty of other outdoor activities in Boulder! In particular, Boulder is a haven for cyclists, with amazing opportunities for road biking and mountain biking. The national and state parks around the city are incredible spaces for rock climbing (and ice climbing in winter), as well as tubing, kayaking, canoeing and paddle-boarding in Boulder Creek. In winter, it’s time for snowshoeing, downhill skiing, cross-country skiing and snowboarding at one of the nearby mountain resorts. Once you’ve taken advantage of all of the outdoor activities in Boulder, there’s plenty to appreciate in the town itself, with a range of cultural, historic and natural attractions to explore.
How To Plan A Trip To Boulder
If you’re thinking of making Boulder your next adventure destination, we’ve got everything you’ll need to make your trip a success! We’ve put together the ultimate guide to planning a trip to Boulder, complete with recommendations for where to stay and eat, when to visit, and of course, all of our favorite hiking trails and mountain biking trails. This wonderful Colorado town is the perfect destination for travellers with an adventurous spirit, so grab your hiking boots and start exploring everything the region has to offer!
Frequently-Asked-Questions About Boulder
How many Flatirons are there in Boulder?
The Boulder Flatirons are a distinctive natural phenomenon, common to the Western United States. They are named for their steeply sloping sides that are said to resemble a household flatiron. There are five flatirons on the east slope of Green Mountain near Boulder, Colorado, known as ‘The Flatirons’, but there are also numerous smaller, similar formations in the surrounding foothills. The Flatirons have become an iconic symbol of Boulder.
What is Boulder famous for?
Boulder is known as the city with one of the fittest and healthiest populations in the US, and people here love to take advantage of the Great Outdoors! With such beautiful scenery on the doorstep – what’s not to love?
Is hiking in Boulder dangerous?
The hiking trails around Boulder are generally considered very safe, with plenty of well-marked and well-maintained paths. However, as with any wild space, it’s important to take care out on the trail, and accidents can happen even for the most well prepared hikers. Stick to the path, come prepared for all eventualities, and keep an eye on the weather forecast – conditions can change very quickly in the mountains and it’s easy to be caught unawares.
Are there bears in Boulder?
The region around Boulder is home to a wide variety of wildlife, and in particular, is an important habitat for black bears. In recent years the bears have often been seen in the city itself, attracted by easy opportunities to find food. Bears seldom attack people, but it’s best to know what to do if you spot a bear in the city or out on the trail. Back away slowly, avoiding direct eye contact, and never run.
The best hikes in Boulder
Are we missing your favourite hike?
Tell us! If you've got photos, a GPS track and know the hike, we'd love to share your favourite hike with the rest of the 10Adventures community.