Top 10 Day Hikes Near Boulder Colorado

  • Last Updated On: August 28, 2019
  • / Colorado Hiking Trails
  • / By Andrew
  • / 4 COMMENTS

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It's hard to only choose 10 day hikes near Boulder, Colorado considering it is one of our favorite places close to Denver to get away from the city.

This is where high plains meet jagged mountain peaks, serving as the melting point for two exquisite landscapes.

Hiking opportunities in Boulder offer front-row views of the snow-capped mountains of the Front Range and the area serves as a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts.

Hiking, rock-climbing, mountain biking, and skiing are just a few of the outdoor activities that can be done within the Boulder City limits.

Best Hikes Around Boulder Colorado - HelloTrail

Whether you want to see wildlife, waterfalls, or mountain vistas, there isn’t a hiking trail in Boulder we wouldn’t recommend.

But we still compiled a list of our favorites.

How to Get There

Boulder is located just 30 miles northwest of Denver, making for easy access to the area.

The Denver International Airport is the largest airport in the United States by total land area and serves for daily flights from major cities around the world.

The easiest way to get to Boulder from the Denver area is by car — but there are bus and taxi options as well. Boulder’s central location makes for easy access from other places around the state.

Getting around Boulder is convenient with a car — but it’s also possible to get around by bike or on foot.

Are you headed to the Chautauqua area to hike among the Flatirons? You can ride a park-to-park free shuttle to avoid parking fees.

Simply park for free at CU Regent or downtown parking garages. More information is available here.

Things to Know

Boulder offers over 150 miles of hiking and biking trails and 45,000 acres of open space — guaranteeing there is something for everyone, regardless of ability level.

Points of interest for hikers include Chautauqua Park, which offers a variety of moderate to strenuous trails that provide access into the Flatirons. Chautauqua Park is a protected destination located within the Boulder City Limits.

The Flatirons are five unique rock formations with tons of opportunity for exploration.

Nearby Estes Park is a hiker’s heaven, comprised of protected mountains, forests, and alpine meadows.

Some of the wildlife you’ll encounter around Boulder include Abert's squirrels, foxes, coyotes, mule deer, black bears, and mountain lions.

Boulder residents are serious about preserving their beautiful natural resources — so it’s important to follow suit.

FUN FACT - Boulder elevation is 5,430 feet so factor that into the elevation gain will get from many of these hikes!

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Here are some tips to help ensure you leave the wilderness just as nice as you found it:

Stay on trails and paths — When you stray from a trail on a hike, you risk damaging the surrounding environment, including vegetation, soil, and wildlife.

Clean up after your pet — It’s enjoyable to take your dog out on a hike, but it’s important you clean up after them. This is a classic ‘leave no trace’ policy — scoop it, bag it, and pack it out.

Go above and beyond — If you find litter out on the trail, pick it up and take it out with you. You’re serving to beautify the area for others and preserve the health of the ecosystem.

Camp in designated areas — If you plan on backpacking or pitching your tent up on the trail and sleeping overnight, be sure to pitch it in a designated area. Designated camping areas prevent pristine habitat from becoming damaged and help preserve vegetation. Let what’s wild, stay wild.

Don’t touch wildlife — While it’s exciting to encounter wildlife out on the trail, be respectful and just observe. Take a photograph for the memory bank but under no circumstances should you reach out and try to touch an animal —for your own safety and theirs.

Top 10 Boulder Hiking Trails

1. Bear Peak Trail

Boulder Peak Trail Boulder CO

This hike is moderate and magnificent. Originating in South Boulder, the trail takes you to the top of Bear Peak and back — including an elevation gain of more than 2,700 feet.

If you like venturing through different ecosystems, this hike is for you.

It starts in chaparral vegetation, transitions to dense forest, and eventually leads to a rocky and exposed mountain top.

From the top you can enjoy panoramic views of Boulder and even Denver and surrounding cities in the distance.

You could encounter a variety of wildlife including falcons, hawks, songbirds and mule deer.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 6 miles
Time: 4-5 hours
Trail Type: Hike in, Hike out
Where to Start: Bear Canyon Trailhead

2. Green Mountain Loop Trail

Green Mountain Boulder CO

This strenuous hike provides you with some of the most epic views in Boulder.

This moderately trafficked loop offers fabulous views of wildflowers and brings you to the summit of Green Mountain, from which you can enjoy sights of the Indian Peaks, the Rocky Mountain National Park to the west, and Boulder to the east.

Although the distance is less than six miles, the total elevation gain is more than 2,500 feet.

There is a unique bronze marker set into the granite at the summit that indicates the names of the mountain peaks in the distance.

Enjoy the delectable aromas of fruit and flowers as you’re hiking.

Difficulty: Difficult
Distance: 5.5 miles
Time: 3-4 hours
Trail Type: Loop with Spur to Summit
Where to Start: Gregory Canyon Trailhead

3. Mount Sanitas Trail

Mount Sanitas Trailhead Boulder CO

Photo by James Tiffin Jr. under CC BY-SA 2.0

This is one of the most popular hikes in Boulder — and a definite thigh burner. It starts out extremely steep and rocky, so be sure to wear stiff soled hiking shoes.

Although Mount Sanitas actually offers three different hike options, the loop to the top is the most scenic.

It’s a short hike so it’s perfect as a warm-up or if you only have a few hours to spare.

This loop features lush greenery, exquisite wildflower meadows, and great views of Colorado’s Front Range serve as icing on the cake.

If you’re looking for something easier, try the Mt. Sanitas two-mile out-and-back valley hike.

Difficulty: Moderate with an Easy option
Distance: 3.1 miles
Time: Approximately 2 hours
Trail Type: Loop
Where to Start: Mount Sanitas Trailhead

Mount Sanitas Trail Boulder CO
Top of Mount Sanitas Boulder CO

Photo by Keith under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

4. Flatiron Loop Trail

This is a fabulous trail that takes you through a lush meadow and up through a notch between the first and second flatirons.

This popular loop is speckled with wildflowers and extremely heavily trafficked — it’s best to start early in the day to avoid getting clumped together with the crowd.

Starting from the Bluebell-Baird Trail, head south on the Flatirons Loop Trail to two trail signs then follow the switchbacks up into the rock formations.

An elevation gain of less than 1,000 feet makes for an ideal hike for beginners or as a warm up for more strenuous trails.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 2.6 miles
Time: Approximately 2 hours
Trail Type: Hike in, Hike out
Where to Start: Chautauqua Trailhead

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5. Tenderfoot Trail

Tenderfoot Trail Boulder CO

Photo by Kelly Cookson under CC BY-SA 2.0

Located on the backside of Flagstaff Mountain, the Tenderfoot Trail is an excellent short journey from Realization Point. Enjoy easy but rewarding views of the Indian Peaks.

This mellow romp is perfect for beginners. You start on a winding trail through a ponderosa forest and eventually the trail spits you out into a wide-open area with magnificent mountain views.

It’s a great trail on which to spot for wildlife and is commonly used for trail running, as well.

The drive up to Realization Point is a scenic journey in of itself.

While you’re going to start hiking along on Chapman Drive, after about a mile and a half you’ll turn right onto Tenderfoot Trail.

As always, you won't want to forget your camera on this hike.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 2.5 miles
Time: Approximately 1.5 - 2 hours
Trail Type: Hike in, Hike out
Where to Start: Realization Point

6. Royal Arch Hike

Royal Arch Trail Boulder CO

Photo by Jose Hernandez under CC BY 2.0

Want to see a spectacular rock formation?

The Royal Arch Trail is located in Chautauqua Park and while it’s not for the faint of heart or those with tired legs, the views at the end are worth every mile of the journey.

Although the trail is relatively short, you’ll gain over 1400 feet in elevation.

The trail includes its fair share of rock steps and obstacles, so be prepared for a workout.

The arch formation at the end of the trail is one-of-a-kind, there are splendid views of Boulder, and on a clear day you can see Denver in the distance.

Difficulty: Difficult
Distance: 3.5 miles
Time: 2 - 3 hours
Trail Type: Hike in, Hike out
Where to Start: Chautauqua Park Trailhead

7. Rattlesnake Gulch Trail

This trail is located in Boulder’s iconic Eldorado Canyon — a gem of towering sandstone cliffs, epic views, and a popular rock climbing destination.

This moderate hike offers great views of the canyon and a vista of Colorado’s sweeping plains to the east.

Enjoy the historic element as you pass the remnants of the Crags Hotel, which burned down in 1913.

This trail leads to the Continental Divide Overlook — where you won’t want to be without your camera.

The Rattlesnake Gulch Trail is one of three trails that wind through Eldorado Canyon State Park and definitely the most scenic.

The elevation gain is about 1,300 feet so you’ll have to work hard to earn your views.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 2.5 to 4 miles
Time: 1.5 hours to 2.5 hours
Trail Type: Lollipop with spur option
Where to Start: Eldorado Canyon State Park

8. Bitterbrush Trail

If you enjoy hiking through open areas as opposed to dense forests, the Bitterbrush trail is for you.

Be sure to wear plenty of sunscreen and bring a hat to protect your head.

Enjoy strolling through open fields speckled with wildflowers and look for signs of wildlife including deer, birds, and prairie dogs.

The trail’s steepness increases as your journey progresses and some rocky outcroppings may be hard to navigate.

From the meadows you’ll move uphill into ponderosa pines.

The scenery is ever-changing, ensuring you won’t experience a dull moment.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 4 miles
Time: 2.5 - 3 hours
Trail Type: Hike in, Hike out
Where to Start: Hall Ranch on Highway 7 just outside of Lyons

9. Ceran St. Vrain Trail

If it’s the middle of summer and you will be hiking in hot weather, consider hiking the Ceran St. Vrain Trail, one of the few hiking trails in Boulder that follows a creek the entire way.

Lots of trees ensure plenty of shade and there are tons of creek crossings where you’re free to splash around.

The area is speckled with plenty of beautiful flowers to delight the eyes including silvery lupine, black-eyed susans, and fireweed.

The Ceran St. Vrain Trail is especially lush in June when the vegetation is flourishing.

The Ceran St. Vrain trailhead is located off of Overland Road, which turns to dirt about 4.5 miles beyond Jamestown.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 3.8 miles
Time: Approximately 2 hours
Trail Type: Hike in, Hike out
Where to Start: Ceran St. Vrain Trailhead

10. South Boulder Peak Trail

View from South Boulder Peak

Photo by Adam Reeder under CC BY-NC 2.0

At 8,549 feet, South Boulder Peak serves as the highest summit in the Boulder Mountain Parks network.

The trail rises from the foothills through three distinct ecosystems including a prominent burn zone.

The going is steep but not technical and it’s often regarded as a hidden gem, as it sees less traffic than its neighboring mountains.

Slightly longer than some of the other day hikes in Colorado, South Boulder Peak sees a 3,100 foot elevation gain.

You begin at the South Mesa Trailhead in Eldorado and eventually spill onto Shadow Canyon Trail which takes you up through the burn zone.

If you’re looking for a longer day in the mountains, you can link this trail with Bear Peak.

Difficulty: Difficult
Distance: 8.5 miles
Time: Approximately 4 - 5 hours
Trail Type: Hike in, Hike out
Where to Start: South Mesa Trailhead


Conclusion

Although Boulder is a big city in terms of population, its plentiful trails provide for an easy escape from bustling urban life and out into the wilderness.

Surrounded by the Flatirons, Eldorado Canyon, and Rocky Mountain National Park, you couldn’t possibly ask for more variety in scenery.

Whether you enjoy meandering through vast fields of wildflowers, steep mountain ascents, or gorgeous vistas above the tree line, you’ll find everything you need leading directly from the city of Boulder or just outside the city limits.

When hiking in this area you’re going to want to remember to bring your best day hiking gear like a camera and some sunscreen.

Over to you...

Which of these trails have you hiked or are looking forward to hiking? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

If you haven't stayed in a vacation rental yet you don't know what you are missing! Here are some of our favorites around Boulder on VRBO...

About the Author Andrew

Andrew's love for the outdoors began at an early age growing up in the midwest farmland and taking family vacations out west. Being a dreamer with his head in the clouds most moments make the mountains the perfect location for him. He hasn't met a false summit he doesn't like yet! Click here to learn more about Andrew's outdoorsy background...

  • Cindynell1 says:

    Thanks Andrew. This is just the information I was looking for! Heading out to boulder this summer.

    • Andrew says:

      Hi Cindy, you’re welcome and glad you enjoyed the info! You won’t be disappointed no matter which hikes you end up doing. Have a great trip and make sure to give us an update on where you went and which trails you enjoyed the most!!

  • Lori says:

    Great information! Exactly the types of trails I am looking for!

    • Andrew says:

      Hi Lori, thanks for stopping by! I’m glad our list helped narrow down some potential hikes for you while you’re in the Boulder area. I hope you have an amazing trip and make sure to let us know how it went. Happy Hiking! 🙂

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