We’re pretty lucky here in Boulder. We don’t even have to leave the city limits to find miles of beautiful and challenging trails. But hiking at Chautauqua or Sanitas on a sunny Saturday can feel a bit like walking through Times Square on New Year’s Eve. What you need is something right in town that provides tranquility, satisfying scenery, and a solid workout – without the mob scene. You need a neighborhood hike!
The Panorama Point Loop is one such hike, just a few blocks from downtown. From its start at the quiet intersection of Marshall and University, there’s no major trailhead and no parking lot – just a tiny sign often obscured by leafy trees. Beyond the unassuming sign, big views of both mountain and city await you. Foot traffic is light and comes in the form of dog walkers and trail runners who live in the surrounding neighborhood. You’ll climb up a windswept hillside, meander through a dreamy forest, descend into an expansive meadow, and stroll down one of Boulder’s prettiest streets. It’s right in our collective backyard and it’s only 3 miles round trip. Read on for everything you need to know – this little loop just may earn a spot in your weekly rotation.
Consult the OSMP map ahead of time. Begin at Viewpoint Trail where University ends at the intersection of Marshall.
Hiking the Loop
Viewpoint starts out flat, under a canopy of plum and apple trees. Then it opens up and begins a gentle climb up the northern flanks of Flagstaff Mountain. The trail forks twice in the first quarter mile – each time you’ll want to stay left. After a half mile, it begins to climb more steeply.
This hike is fantastic for fall foliage, as the lower part of Flagstaff has a beautiful mix of both coniferous and deciduous trees. Sections of the trail are thickly lined with chokecherry and other low shrub. Wildlife is abundant, particularly deer, foxes, turkey vultures, and hawks. At the one-mile mark, you’ll reach Panorama Point. Enjoy the spectacular city views.
Pro-tip: Viewpoint Trail and Panorama Point are great spots for watching fireworks on July 4th or to see the Flagstaff Star up close during the holidays.
From Panorama Point, cross Flagstaff Road at the crosswalk. Take Flagstaff Trail past the stone outhouse and continue to ascend. You’ll pass through one fork (stay to the left) and then climb to a “T” in the trail at 1.3 miles. It’s downhill from here. Take a left and head down the rocky slope that soon gives way to dirt and grass. Enjoy sweeping views of the Flatirons and Chautauqua meadow.
At 1.8 miles, you’ll exit Flagstaff Trail where Baseline Road meets Flagstaff Road, adjacent to the Gregory Canyon trailhead. Move to the sidewalk and take Baseline Trail east along the edge of Chautauqua meadow. At 6th and Baseline, take a left to exit the trail. Then it’s a relaxing walk along picturesque 6th Street amidst bountiful fruit trees and stunning architecture. Turn west on University and then you’re back where you started. The entire loop is about 3 miles and takes a little over an hour.
After passing through Panorama Point and reaching the “T” in the trail, take a right and head up to Flagstaff’s summit. From the summit, go back down the way you came or take Ute to Realization Point and head down Gregory Canyon Trail. Either way, you’ll exit the trail system at the same spot (Baseline and Flagstaff).