the flatirons of Boulder Colorado

The 9 Best Hikes in Boulder Colorado

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Hiking in Boulder, Colorado is one experience you can’t miss when visiting the city that sits at the base of the famous Flatirons. Boulder is blessed with over 150 miles of hiking trails around the city. We’ve curated a list of the best hikes in Boulder, so you don’t miss the experience of catching plenty of views of – or from – the famous Flatirons.

About Hiking In Boulder

Going hiking is a quintessential Boulder activity. On any day, the trails are filled with locals and people exploring the town for a few days.

Navigating Boulder Trails

Whether you take trail recommendations from this post or somewhere else, prep for you day out on the Boulder hiking trails using the interactive Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) Trail Map.

The trails in Boulder tend to spider-web, so it can take a trail or two to get to the one you want. It can also be easy to pick up the wrong trail, so watch signs carefully. It’s also easy to make your hike longer than the distances noted below, by picking up an extra trail.

Be Prepared for the Trails

In the heat of the summer, many trails provide little shade. But even if you’re hiking on a wooded trail, make sure to bring (and wear!) sunscreen.  

Most trails are open year round, but use caution when hiking on heavily shaded trails in the fall and spring months. Icy spots tend to stick around for a while. It’s best to hike with microspikes (also called traction cleats or crampons) for traction and/or trekking poles for balance

Spring and fall can also bring drastic temperature changes. You’ll be hot where there is little or no shade, then freezing as you climb and hike through wooded areas. Be prepared with plenty of layers. 

Best Hikes in Boulder for a View

Four of the best hiking trails in Boulder hiking trails offer fantastic mountain (to the west) and city views (to the east) from the summit.

1. Green Mountain West Ridge Trail

🌲 Distance: 2.5 miles (roundtrip) 
🌲 Difficulty: moderate
🌲 Elevation change: 1,675 feet
🌲 Dogs allowed: yes

green mountain summit in boulder
Make the final climb to the bronze medallion on Green Mountain

Green Mountain is one of 5 mountain peaks in Boulder. The network of Boulder hiking trails gives multiple options for reaching the summit of Green Mountain but our favorite is the Green Mountain West Ridge Trail. Find the trailhead about 5 miles up Flagstaff Rd, where you’ll find roadside parking.

At the summit, take in views of Indian Peaks Wilderness to the west. To the east, you’ll see views of Boulder and (wayyy) beyond.

Our favorite trail features: Your hike to Green Mountain isn’t official until you climb all the way to the summit to tap the bronze medallion.

2. Red Rocks and Anemone Trails 

Red Rocks

🌲 Distance: 1.0 mile (RT) 
🌲 Difficulty: easy
🌲 Elevation change: 393 feet
🌲 Dogs allowed: yes

Anemone

🌲 Distance: 0.8 miles (RT) 
🌲 Difficulty: easy
🌲 Elevation change: 695 feet
🌲 Dogs allowed: yes

red rocks of boulder co
Hiking trails network through Boulder’s Red Rocks

Looking for quick access to fantastic views of Boulder? Then Red Rocks is your trail. Not to be confused with Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison Colorado, this Boulder hiking trail offers great city views.

view from red rocks trail in boulder
The best hiking trails in Boulder include a city view

Pick up the Anemone Trail, then head west to the mountain peak. This trail is less than a 1/2 mile to views of Indian Peaks Wilderness.  

Our favorite trail features: Climb up, through, and around the massive rock formation. It’s also a fantastic spot to catch the sun rising up over Colorado.  

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3. Mallory Cave Trail

🌲 Distance: 2.4 miles (roundtrip)
🌲 Difficulty: moderate
🌲 Elevation change: 803 feet
🌲 Dogs allowed: yes

sliding down Mallory Cave trail in the snow in Boulder
Boulder hiking trails can be icy in shaded areas – even in the spring

There are a few trails to take before catching the Mallory Cave Trail. From the NCAR parking lot, take the NCAR and NCAR West Tank until you reach the Mallory Cave Trail.

Our favorite trail features: At the end of the trail, there is a scramble up a rock to the entrance of a cave, which is one of many roosting sites for bats in the foothills. The cave is closed to hikers to help protect the bats, but you can still take a peek at the entrance of the cave.

4. Enchanted Mesa & Woods Quarry Trails

Enchanted Mesa

🌲 Distance: 1.9 miles 
🌲 Difficulty: easy
🌲 Elevation change: 393 feet
🌲 Dogs allowed: yes

Woods Quarry

🌲 Distance: 0.8 miles (RT) 
🌲 Difficulty: easy
🌲 Elevation change: 230 feet
🌲 Dogs allowed: yes

enchanted mesa trail in Boulder Colorado
Trees form a magical path along the Enchanted Mesa Trail

If you’ve read our post on Cotopaxi Questival, you’ll know that one of the things we love about the adventure race is we discovering new things right in our own backyard. That’s how we found the Enchanted Mesa Trail, tucked in the Chautauqua area of Boulder.

The trail connects with the Woods Quarry trail (via the McClintock Upper trail), which is a trail we found one of the first times hiking in Boulder. It’s also a trail that gets top votes from the kids.

Our favorite trail features: These are kid-favorite trails in Boulder. Trees wrap around the Enchanted Mesa trail making it feel, well, enchanted. Woods Quarry ends at an abandoned quarry that is filled with sandstone once used for sidewalks and roads in Boulder. The climb up the sandstone is a little unnerving, but the adventure is worth it. Look for tables and benches formed out of the sandstone.

woods quarry hiking trail in Boulder CO
Woods Quarry is one of the best hikes in Boulder, though the climb up the quarry is unnerving – in a fun way!

Easy Trails Perfect for Kids and New Hikers

These wide, flat trails make some of the best hikes in Boulder for kids or anyone who doesn’t want to make the climb that is part of some of the other trails.

5. Sawhill Ponds

🌲 Distance: 1.6 miles 
🌲 Difficulty: easy
🌲 Elevation change: 22 feet
🌲 Dogs allowed: yes

hiking sawhill ponds in east boulder
Walk the trails that loop around Sawhill Ponds

Wander through a cluster of ponds on trails that wind through Sawhill Ponds. Watch for wildlife, like ducks, fish, and reptiles. 

The ponds are also a great spot to spend an afternoon fishing with the kids. Check the OSMP website for more information.

Continue your hike through Walden Ponds, located right next to to Sawhill Ponds. 

6. South Boulder Creek Trail

🌲 Distance: 2.8 miles (roundtrip)
🌲 Difficulty: easy
🌲 Elevation change: 170 feet
🌲 Dogs allowed: yes

Wide, flat trails are perfect for kids, new hikers, and winter hikes in Boulder – plus catch great mountain views!

This easy, flat hike is a great one for younger kids, and is also a great place to catch fantastic views of the Flatirons. The trail runs along South Boulder Creek, so there are many spots to play in the creek. 

Park at the Bobolink Trailhead (find it on the corner of Baseline Rd and Cherryvale Rd) where you’ll pick up the South Boulder Creek Trail. Then head south from the trailhead.   

The distance noted above reflects the section of the trail from the Bobolink Trailhead to South Boulder Road. The trail continues south, but we think this is the best section of the trail. The full trail is 6.6 miles (roundtrip).

Our favorite trail features: There are great mountain views from this trail. The kids love to explore and play in the creek.

7. Flagstaff Summit Trails

Flagstaff Summit is filled with a network of short, easy trails, but still has great views of the mountains to the west and of Boulder.

In the upper parking lot, you’ll find the Flagstaff Nature Center, a large pavilion with lots of picnic tables, restrooms, and the Sunrise Amphitheater (which also has fabulous city views). Flagstaff Summit Rd is only open seasonally, so you’ll need to hike up in the winter months.

When the road is closed, park at Realization Point and take the Range View or Ute trails to the top.

Our favorite trail features: The wheelchair-accessible Sensory Trail encourages visitors to use all their senses to experience nature.

The Sensory Trail encourages visitors to experience the trails in new ways

The Best Hikes in Boulder: Special Mentions

8. Eldorado Canyon Trail

This is the only trail on the list not managed by the City of Boulder’s Open Space and Mountain Parks. Still in Boulder County, this trail is in Eldorado Canyon State Park.

🌲 Distance: 6.2 miles (roundtrip)
🌲 Difficulty: moderate (to hard)
🌲 Elevation change: 1,945 feet
🌲 Dogs allowed: yes

A picnic lunch in Eldorado State Park with perfect views towards Denver

Eldorado Canyon State Park is most popular with climbers (it’s one of the world’s top climbing spots) but also has some great hiking trails.

The Eldorado Canyon Trail has fantastic views in every direction, so this spot right at the top of the trail is a perfect place for a picnic.

9. The Flagstaff Star, a Boulder Tradition

hiking the Flagstaff Star is one of the best hikes in Boulder and an annual tradition for locals
Not only one of the best hikes in Boulder, but the Flagstaff Star is a holiday tradition in Boulder

We think this one tops the list of best hikes in Boulder, so if in Boulder for the holidays, it’s a must-hike trail.

The mountainside of Boulder is lit up with a bright star every year from mid-November to early January. So it’s a Boulder tradition to make the steep climb to the top of the star. This climb usually ends in sliding back down (so don’t wear your favorite pants on this one!), and is especially difficult in ice and snow.

Find the star (also called the Boulder Star) across the street from the Halfway House on Flagstaff Rd.

Have you been hiking in Boulder? We would love to hear about your picks for the best hiking trails in Boulder in the comments!


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