Watching the sunset is one of life’s simple pleasures. It forces us to slow down, be in the moment, and connect with something greater than ourselves. Here in Boulder, we’re fortunate to have some of the most beautiful sunsets on the planet. When you combine mountain vistas and fast-moving weather, you get a breathtakingly colorful laser light show almost every evening.
No matter where you view it, a Boulder sunset is always worth watching. In a pinch, even the Whole Foods parking lot will suffice. But when seen from a spectacular summit or a tranquil trail with friends and family, it becomes a memory you’ll carry with you long after dark.
Boulder’s 45,000 acres of open space are brimming with prime sunset viewing locations. The ideal spots will give you some height, allow for unobstructed views to the west, and feature a comfortable place to sit for a while (maybe even spread out a picnic blanket). Whether this spot involves a short stroll or a challenging climb is up to you.
So let’s grab some takeout, a couple of friends, and hit the trails for a beautiful sunset. This guide has something for everyone in pursuit of the perfect sunset hike in Boulder.
As always, please refer to Boulder’s Open Space and Mountain Parks and Boulder County Parks and Trails for trail conditions, temporary closures, and dog regulations before heading out. Be sure to adhere to “Leave No Trace” and remember that campfires are prohibited.
Bummer’s Rock (The Short But Spectacular)
This sunset spot is perfect for families with small children or visitors coming from sea level. Bummer’s Rock is a 0.3-mile trail in Betasso Preserve. The trail begins from the Bummer’s Rock Trailhead parking lot and climbs briefly to a windswept rocky outcrop. (Be sure to go past the first outcrop and continue all the way to the end.) The views to the west are unparalleled.
If you’re looking for more trail time, consider hiking the 3.3-mile Canyon Loop beforehand. This trail is all about wide-open spaces and expansive views of the foothills. Elevation gain is minimal. After completing the loop, simply cross the road to Bummer’s Rock and head up the trail to watch the sunset.
Chapman – Tenderfoot (The Mellow Loop)
This sunset hike is appropriate for most levels. The 2.7-mile loop starts and ends at Realization Point Trailhead. Begin hiking on Chapman Road as it gently winds toward Boulder Canyon. This is a multi-use trail, so keep your eyes and ears open for bikers.
At 1.4 miles, you’ll reach the junction with Tenderfoot Trail. Turn right onto Tenderfoot, as the trail rises through a beautiful meadow. At the top of the hill, turn left (per the trail sign) toward the Continental Divide Overlook. This is your sunset spot. The wide, flat landing just begs for a picnic blanket and the views to the west and north do not disappoint.
After the sunset, click on your headlamp and return to Tenderfoot Trail. Continue straight past the trail sign and in 0.7 miles you’ll be back at Realization Point.
Hogback Ridge (The Mini Summit)
This hike is ideal for anyone who wants to sweat a little (but not too much) before their sunset viewing. The full Hogback loop from Four Mile Creek Trailhead is 3 miles with approximately 900 feet of elevation gain.
Hogback Ridge is basically the kid brother of Mount Sanitas. It’s not considered a true summit but, unlike Mount Sanitas, its high point provides totally unobstructed 360-degree views. This makes it the perfect place for a sunset.
Begin hiking north on Foothills Trail. At 0.6 miles, you’ll reach the junction with Hogback Ridge. The loop can be taken in either direction, but counter-clockwise is a bit gentler. Follow the well-marked trail to the top of the ridge. Find some good sitting rocks, settle in, and enjoy.
After the sunset, simply take the other side of the loop back down to Foothills Trail. Take Foothills Trail back to the trailhead.
Green Mountain (The Big Summit)
This strenuous hike is well worth the reward at the top. Green’s iconic summit features a distinctive marker, a giant boulder perfect for perching on, and views out west as far as the eye can see.
If you want to work hard for your sunset, begin at the bottom of the peak. From Gregory Canyon Trailhead, take Saddle Rock Trail for 1.2 miles and then turn left onto EM Greenman Trail. After another 1.1 miles on EM Greenman, you’ll arrive at Green’s summit. After the sunset, you can return to the trailhead by descending via Ranger Trail and Gregory Canyon. The entire loop is approximately 5 miles with 2,200 feet of elevation gain. Be careful descending Gregory Canyon in the dark (don’t forget that headlamp!) because there’s a rocky stretch with a steep drop-off to the right.
If you want all the goodness of Green’s summit for a lot less work, then take Green Mountain West Ridge Trail. This trail begins about 5 miles up Flagstaff Road, so there’s less elevation and distance to cover. The hike is a mere 2.6 miles round trip with less than 800 feet of elevation gain. The trail is clearly marked and easy to follow. After the sunset, simply return the way you came.
Happy sunset watching and happy trails, Boulderites!