Hikers who love beauty know that the best time to hit the trails is when fall color is at best. Don’t let anyone tell you differently – Boulder is a pretty sweet spot in the fall. Blazing red sumac outlines the trails in central and south Boulder, while golden cottonwood trees embellish the trails to the north and the east. Many people will hike amongst the fiery aspen trees of the high country, but vibrant fall colors can also be found anywhere.
Fall is indeed the best season for hiking in Boulder. The good thing is that no matter your age, experience, or fitness level, there’s a fall hike out there for you. What’s sweeter is that you get to reward yourself with breathtaking views and fresh sceneries. This annual spectacle cannot be fully appreciated just by riding your car. Get your gear on, tag your friends along, and enjoy a fall hike with the help of this guide to the best fall trails in Boulder that is impossible to miss.
Before heading out, please consult OSMP.org for trail conditions and temporary closures.
Wonderland Lake features a 1.5-mile loop trail that is ideal for kids, beginners, or anyone looking for a peaceful, easy-going stroll. Great for biking, hiking, or just walking around, this hiking trail provides a workout along with beautiful scenery. There is also a fishing dock with protective railing for children under 12 years, and a port-o-san in the parking lot if needed. It’s free and open to the public. During fall, the October temps makes it perfect for a Wonderland Surprise. Its flat open space reiterates the walkability of Boulder.
The pleasant, looping trails of Wonderland Lake, tucked right under the mountains, allow you to admire the distant Flatirons being reflected in the water. Meanwhile, cottonwoods and other deciduous trees provide colorful foliage and amber prairie grasses blow in the autumn breeze. Wonderland is, indeed, a wonderful place to be this time of year. The nice natural setting of Wonderland Lake in North Boulder provides great places to sit and just meditate.
Another nice, leisurely hike for you to try is the Flatirons Vista Trail. Located 0.3 mile south of Highway 128 on Highway 93, this trail stands at a distance to the icon formations, giving you unparalleled views of the whole mountain range. The gradual inclines make it a family-friendly destination with a great running trail. This trail is very accessible and popular so arrive early if hiking on the weekend. Pets on leashes are welcome, and the area is known for an array of diverse wildlife. The area is home to many birds, and coyotes, bears, bobcats and mule deer are seen frequently.
The Flatiron Vista Loop trail offers 2 loops. One is 3.3 miles and the other is just 1.9 miles so for those who want a longer trek, plenty of connecting trails make it possible. Flatirons Vista is connected to Marshall Mesa. Both can be connected by the road crossing that connects the Greenbelt Plateau Trailhead and Flatirons Vista. There are lots of loop options such as the 1.5-mile Flatirons Vista-North Trail to the wooded Dowdy Draw Trail. This trail switchbacks down a hillside with impressive views of Boulder to the north.
Since we’ve mentioned Flatirons Vista, then its sister-mesa deserves a spot on our list. This modest mesa has incredible views of the Flatiron Rock formations, especially from the highpoint on the Greenbelt Plateau Trail. It is connected to the western trails through a tunnel under Highway 93 on the Community Ditch Trail which offers a safe passage to the open grazing lands.
Marshall Mesa in south Boulder has a network of trails that interconnect from the suburbs to the east all the way to the 8,000-foot peaks to the west, so your hiking day can be as long or short as you like. Besides the natural beauty, hikers can check out the towering windmills south of the trails or take in the twinkling lights of Boulder at twilight. Marshall Mesa offers a great family trek, trail run, photography playground, and casual hike.
If you are looking for a strenuous yet rewarding hike, then this challenging, lung buster Bear Peak is right for you. At 8,459 feet, Bear Peak is the second-highest of the trio of the “Guardians of the Flatirons” but it has the most exposed summit, complete with plenty of gorgeous scenery and unobstructed 360-degree views. The three standard routes up Bear are Fern Canyon, Shadow Canyon, and the West Ridge.
Bear Peak comes complete with astonishing views and bragging rights, and as the name suggests, bear resides here so be alert for wildlife. In the fall, it also comes with great foliage. Near the top you’ll see one of the only natural aspen groves in the city. And on your way down, you’ll see a variety of leafy shrubs in orange and yellow. Bear Peak is indeed a brutally beautiful landscape.
Mount Sanitas is Boulder’s most popular mountain, located on Mapleton Ave, west of 4th. This beloved hike is a real-deal workout with more than 1,300 feet of elevation gain. Spacious views of Boulder, sprawling plains, and Denver to the east are complemented by the dramatic panorama of the Indian Peaks to the west. The 14,255-foot Longs Peak dominates the mountainous skyline from the summit of Mount Sanitas.
Mount Sanitas Trail takes you on a steep ascent path up the mountain. The trail leading is guarded by amazing natural views of Boulder County and the Continental Divide, compensates the effort. Opposite to this loop, there is an easier track for the beginners but we recommend tackling the challenging climb first and chilling your way down via the Sanitas Valley Trail.
Have you tried one of these fall trails in Boulder? Which one for you is the best? Leave it in the comment section, and let’s stay connected.
Happy autumn. Go explore this amazing Boulder hike and unmissable fall trails!