We know you’ve got ’em — parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and friends who live all over the country. At some point, they’ll be visiting you in Boulder and they’ll want to go hiking. But you can’t take your Aunt Judy along on the 5-Peak Boulder Traverse. You’ve got to select the right hike for the right person. You need to consider fitness level and personal interests. This is your guide to hiking with six common types of out-of-state visitors. With these hikes, they’ll definitely be coming back for more (for better or for worse).
As always, check OSMP.org for detailed maps and possible trail closures.
The History Buff
The History Buff needs a hike with cultural and historical significance. They won’t be impressed by scenery alone. These hikes offer gorgeous views, plus a look into Boulder’s pioneering past.
Towhee and Homestead Loop (2 miles): This gentle loop begins and ends at South Mesa Trailhead, where the historic Doudy-Debacker-Dunn House stands (built in 1875). This stone house (shown in the post picture above) is all that remains of the original homestead, whose history involves three different families and includes a murder mystery. Begin on the Mesa Trail and turn left onto Homestead Trail. Follow Homestead for one mile; take a right onto Mesa, and then another right onto Towhee Trail. Towhee brings you back to Mesa and the trailhead.
Chautauqua Historic Loop (3.5 miles): This moderate hike begins at the historic Chautauqua Trailhead. The Colorado Chautauqua has a rich history dating back to the 1890’s, and it continues to serve as a hub of Boulder’s cultural activities today. To hike the historic loop, begin by walking south on Bluebell Road Trail. This trail is wide and flat, but climbs up steadily. Turn left onto Mesa Trail and continue on to Woods Quarry Trail. This area is the site of a sandstone quarry that operated from the late 1890’s until 1920. The trail loops around and takes you back to Mesa. Follow Mesa back the way you came, but then turn left onto Bluebell-Baird Trail. Take Bluebell-Baird as it winds up a slope and through a ponderosa pine forest. Turn right on Baseline Trail to return to the trailhead.
The Instagram Junkie
The Instagram Junkie needs sweeping vistas and airy summits. They’re hoping to get a new profile picture out of this trip, and it’s up to you to deliver. With its panoramas of Indian Peaks and a myriad of rocky outcrops for striking a pose, this loop won’t disappoint.
Range View and Ute Loop (1 mile): Begin at Realization Point Trailhead on Flagstaff Road. (Note: Flagstaff Road is currently closed Monday – Friday from 8:30 am – 3:30 pm for repairs.) Take the rocky and rugged, but relatively flat, Range View Trail for a half mile until it meets Ute Trail. Bear right onto Ute and continue back to the trailhead. To add more distance (and more photo opportunities) take Boy Scout Trail at the north end of Range View to May’s Point, a scenic overlook. This out-and-back will add two miles to the hike.
The Serious Athlete
The Serious Athlete is looking for a challenge, and Boulder’s open space is happy to oblige. This hike is not for the faint of heart, but it’s sure to please the uber-fit who come to Boulder to put themselves to the test.
Bear Peak Loop (approx. 8 miles): Park at NCAR Trailhead and take NCAR Trail to Mesa Trail. Head south on Mesa. Turn right onto Fern Canyon and begin to climb one of Boulder’s steepest and most unforgiving trails. Enjoy the expansive vistas from Bear Peak’s rocky, exposed summit. Take the West Ridge Trail down the other side, and follow Bear Canyon back to Mesa Trail.
The Regular Guy/Gal
The regular guy or gal is looking for a moderate hike. They want to experience Boulder’s open space, but don’t want to be out on the trails all day. These hikes fit the bill.
Dakota Ridge and Sanitas Valley Loop (2 miles): A popular loop for locals, this hike is a short but satisfying workout. Begin at Mount Sanitas Trailhead and follow signs for Sanitas Valley Trail. Take the Valley Trail for .2 miles, and then turn right to head up Dakota Ridge Trail. Follow Dakota Ridge for one mile, enjoy the scenic overlook, and head back to the trailhead via the Valley Trail. This hike may also suit the History Buff, who will be interested in the area’s ties to an historic Sanatorium and its previous use as a quarry.
Mallory Cave (2.6 miles): This out-and-back hike is beautifully serene and has some serious cool factor: it ends at a bat cave! (Please note the seasonal closures for bat roosting.) Begin at NCAR Trailhead. Take NCAR Trail to Mesa Trail, turn left on Mesa, and then turn right onto Mallory Cave Trail. The trail is steep in some sections. End at the cave and return the way you came.
The City Slicker
The City Slicker will explain that they’re “not much of a nature person,” and they may use air quotes when doing so. That’s totally fine, because even in “super nature-y” Boulder, we’ve got something for them, too.
Wonderland Lake Loop (1.5 miles): This well-traveled loop is right in town and features a park, picnic area, and a wide, flat trail. Simply follow the signs from Wonderland Lake Trailhead. Enjoy the beauty of the foothills and the lake without having to leave civilization.
Red Rocks Loop (1-2 miles): This hike is essentially right in downtown Boulder. For some, that’s a drawback. For the City Slicker, it’s perfection. Begin at Settlers Park Trailhead or Centennial Trailhead. There are a number of possible loops to take, with a couple of steep (but very short) stretches. This hike boasts excellent views of both the city and the mountains.