Boulder Hike of the Month: The Chapman – Tenderfoot Loop

chapman tenderfoot trail hike boulder co
There’s something about the Chapman – Tenderfoot Loop that stays with you. Maybe it’s the incredible views of Boulder Canyon and Indian Peaks. Maybe it’s the breadth of plants and animals that make their home here. Maybe it’s the peace and tranquility on an otherwise bustling Flagstaff Mountain. Probably it’s all of these things and more. One thing is certain: Once you’ve discovered this loop, it’s sure to earn top billing in your roster of local hikes.

At 2.5 miles round trip and less than 500 feet of elevation gain, the Chapman – Tenderfoot Loop is an approachable all-level hike. Experienced hikers will welcome it on recovery days. Beginners and out-of-towners will relish its easy-going nature and backcountry feel. Wildlife enthusiasts and photographers will want to linger and make an entire morning of it. Indeed, there is something tender about the Chapman – Tenderfoot Loop that touches everyone who sets foot on it. Read on for your guide to this simply sweet Boulder gem.

As always, please consult OSMP.org for trail conditions and temporary closures.

Get there

Begin this hike at Realization Point Trailhead. Head west on Baseline Road to Flagstaff Road. The trailhead is 3.4 miles up Flagstaff Road on the right. There are two parking lots at this trailhead, and additional parking on Flagstaff Summit Road.

trailhead tenderfoot boulder

Hike it

The Chapman Road Trail is a fire road located to the left of the trailhead. This is a multi-use trail – please stay to the right and be mindful of bikes. Head northwest on Chapman and enjoy the wide, well-groomed trail. (Chapman did sustain some damage during the 2013 flood. Watch your footing around the gullies.)

The trail winds through ponderosa pine forest with glimpses of mountains to the west and north.  Dark-eyed juncos, nuthatches, and woodpeckers abound, as do deer and fox. You’ll gently roll up and down and then begin a more earnest descent. At 1.4 miles in (approximately 0.25 miles past the cattle guard), turn right onto Tenderfoot Trail.

Tenderfoot Trail ascends through a wildflower-blanketed valley. In the summer months, it’s truly breathtaking. Follow the trail up through the forest to a ridge. You’ll reach a junction with a trail sign indicating that an overlook is to the left and the trail continues to the right. It is absolutely worth the detour to check out the overlook. Head west for less than a quarter mile and you’ll arrive at an open expanse of land with a picture perfect view of the Continental Divide. This is a fantastic spot for a picnic.

trail boulder chapman tenderfoot

From the overlook, return to the trail sign and continue southeast on Tenderfoot. The trail begins to open up, offering sweeping vistas as you hike along. (Don’t forget to turn around – some of the best views will be behind you.) Soon you’ll re-enter the ponderosa pine forest. At 0.7 miles from the overlook sign, you’re back at the trailhead.

Extra credit

If 2.5 miles sounds a little light to you, try these additions to the Chapman – Tenderfoot Loop. For details, check out the OSMP trail map.

Make it a Lollipop: Instead of turning right when you come upon Tenderfoot Trail, continue on Chapman all the way to the bottom of Boulder Canyon. Then backtrack back up and take Tenderfoot to Realization Point. That turns the loop into a lollipop hike and adds a total of 2.6 miles.

Add a Second Loop: Once you’ve completed the Chapman – Tenderfoot Loop and are back at Realization Point, why not add another loop? Take Range View Trail to Ute Trail, adding more gorgeous views and another 1.2 miles to your trek.

Start at the Bottom (Seriously): To take the Chapman – Tenderfoot Loop to new heights, begin at Flagstaff Trail where Baseline meets Flagstaff Road. Take Flagstaff Trail up for 1.5 miles to the summit area. Then take Ute or Range View to Realization Point. From here, Chapman – Tenderfoot is the icing on the cake of a beautiful summit day.

Happy trails, Boulderites!

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Alli Fronzaglia

Alli Fronzaglia

Alli Fronzaglia is a hiking guide, naturalist, and community volunteer. Originally from New England, she and her family have settled down in Boulder for the long haul. When she's not hiking or running on Boulder's trails, Alli is hitting the water with her standup paddleboard. She writes to inspire others to get outside and play. Alli serves on the board of the PLAY Boulder Foundation and she's the co-founder of Boulder Hiker Chicks.
Alli Fronzaglia

Alli Fronzaglia

Alli Fronzaglia is a hiking guide, naturalist, and community volunteer. Originally from New England, she and her family have settled down in Boulder for the long haul. When she's not hiking or running on Boulder's trails, Alli is hitting the water with her standup paddleboard. She writes to inspire others to get outside and play. Alli serves on the board of the PLAY Boulder Foundation and she's the co-founder of Boulder Hiker Chicks.

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