Bolder in Boulder: 10 best outdoor adventures

October 16, 2015                 4m read time
Barbie Carpenter


Averaging 300 days of sunshine a year, Boulder, Colorado, is a perfect mix of snow and sun. With more than 1,500 miles of walking, hiking, and biking trails, the city begs to be explored year round. So strap on those snowshoes, lace up those hiking boots, or slip into a pair of skis—outdoor adventures await you near the craggy peaks of the Flatirons.

1. Strap on Snowshoes at Arapaho Glacier Trail

Snowshoer not letting a little weather get in the way GROGL

Snowshoer not letting a little weather get in the way

GROGL

 

Bundle up and head to Arapaho Glacier Trail, located just west of Boulder. Choose from two routes: the Rainbow Lakes Trailhead is 6 miles each way, while the 4th of July Trailhead runs 4 miles each way. Regardless of the trail you choose, you'll gain 2,000 feet in elevation and catch stellar views of Arapaho Glacier and North and South Arapaho Peak. Your snowshoeing efforts will be rewarded with a clear view of the Boulder Watershed, which you'll see as you hit the open tundra. Keep an eye out for Indian Paintbrush and Harebell wildflowers, as well as a yellow-bellied marmot or ptarmigans.

2. A peek from above at Eldorado Canyon State Park

A lucky climber soaks in the violet hues of sunset while rapelling Josh Schutz

A lucky climber soaks in the violet hues of sunset while rapelling

Josh Schutz

 

Rock climb until your upper body can't take it anymore at Eldorado Canyon State Park just south of Boulder. This expansive canyon features 500 rock-climbing routes, which means you'll never run out of adventures, even if you decided to set up a tent and move in. First-timers should try Bastille Crack and the Redgarden Wall, two of the best climbing spots in the canyon. Enjoy the stunning scenery of red and golden sandstone walls, as well as the sounds of South Boulder Creek below. Insider tip: If you're rock climbing in the summer, the north-facing climbs offer cooler temperatures.

3. Let the rapids do the heavy lifting

Rafters on the rapids near Boulder Phillip Rubino

Rafters on the rapids near Boulder

Phillip Rubino

 

Get that adrenaline pumping by whitewater rafting on several waterways just outside of Boulder city limits. Thrill-seekers must visit the Cache La Poudre River, the state's only National and Wild Scenic River (a designation awarded to rivers with significant natural, cultural, and recreational values). As you weave your way through the narrow canyon, you'll face continuous rapids, resulting in plenty of excitement and little time to catch your breath. Experienced rafters with Class IV-V fast water can head to Idaho Springs, which starts high in the Rockies and heads down, giving you some serious speed. Try this waterway in the spring or summer when water levels and whitewater peak.

4. Spike the adrenaline in a kayak at Boulder Creek

Kayakers dodging rocks at Boulder Creek  Carol Jacobs-Carre

Kayakers dodging rocks at Boulder Creek 

Carol Jacobs-Carre

 

Whether you're a casual kayaker or one with Olympic-level aspirations, Boulder offers watersports for you. Launch your kayak into Boulder Creek, less than a mile from downtown. For some beginner and intermediate-level obstacles, paddle your way to the stretch of creek near Eden G. Fine Park. Give the 20-slalom gate course a try to test your skills or have some fun. If you're kayaking during spring and summer months, keep a close eye on the water—those "obstacles" just might be swimmers enjoying the warm creek water.

5. Wait less, ski more at Eldora Mountain Resort

Cross-country skiers in the snow near Boulder, Colorado Elisa Locci

Cross-country skiers in the snow near Boulder, Colorado

Elisa Locci

 

Guarantee yourself a successful day on the slopes by heading to Eldora Mountain Resort, a 30-minute drive from Boulder. With an elevation ranging from 9,200 feet to more than 10,000 feet, this resort enjoys stellar snow conditions and accumulates up to 300 inches of the white powder a year. Snow bunnies can try any of the resort's 53 trails, including one that's 3 miles long. Snowboarders, snowshoers, and cross-country skiers have 680 acres of terrain to navigate on this mountain, including a Nordic Center with 25 miles of cross-country ski routes. If you're a courageous soul with some serious skiing experience, head to the uber-challenging Corona Bowl, a double black diamond trail.

6. Get lost and found at Chautauqua Park

Views from Chautauqua Park's trails in Boulder, Colorado Jonathan Reyes

Views from Chautauqua Park's trails in Boulder, Colorado

Jonathan Reyes

 

Sitting on 9th Street and Baseline Road is Chautauqua Park, which offers a strong dose of wilderness for those seeking urban asylum. Here you can find culture by attending a live music performance, learning how to survive the zombie apocalypse, or taking in an outdoor silent film. This 100-year-old park is a National Historic Landmark and features a General Store that sells coffee, baked goods, and homemade ice cream. Avid hikers who have adjusted to Boulder's altitude can tackle the park’s 3-mile Royal-Arch trail or almost 10-mile Green Mountain trail. Satisfy your hunger after overcoming these challenging trails by lunching at one of the picnic tables that dot the Green and North Lawn. Or, if you're looking for an excuse not to cook, enjoy sit-down dinner service at the Chautauqua Dining Hall, an elegant but quaint restaurant with a cozy stone fireplace and wraparound porch with spectacular mountain views.

7. Raise a glass at Boulder Beer Brewery

Flight of beers Joshua Rainey

Flight of beers

Joshua Rainey

 

Sip on some Buffalo Gold, Singletrack Rye Pale Ale, and Shake Chocolate Porter at Boulder Beer Brewery. Started by two University of Colorado professors back in 1979, the state's first craft brewery offers a behind-the-scenes tour of the brewing process Monday through Saturday. Join in and stay for lunch or dinner in the pub. Check the event calendar before you go—you might luck out and be there for a chilli cook-off, beer and cheese tasting, or release party for a new brew.

8. Escape the summer heat at Boulder Reservoir

Flatirons reflecting on the reservoir in Boulder, Colorado Let Ideas Compete

Flatirons reflecting on the reservoir in Boulder, Colorado

Let Ideas Compete

 

Visit Boulder Reservoir, the state's first certified clean marina, where you can play on land or water. Rent a boat and float below a view of the Flatirons or set up a beach towel and umbrella on the grassy banks—you'll feel like you're at the beach, except without all that annoying sand. For a more active day, explore the 700 acres of trails and jogging paths on foot or by bike.

9. Treat the city like a bike park (It actually is one)

Biker riding on snowy rocks wassiliy-architect

Biker riding on snowy rocks

wassiliy-architect

 

Sitting between Boulder Canyon and Stazio Ball Fields, the Boulder Creek Path is one of the nation's best biking routes, allowing you to bike for exercise or for leisure through gardens and cottonwood fields and past rushing creeks. Weaving through both rural and urban areas, this 5.5-mile bike path has a little something for every bicyclist and offers a jaunt through Boulder that you simply couldn’t enjoy by car. Culture hop through town, visiting spots adjacent to the path, like the local farmer’s market on Wednesdays and Saturdays or an art museum. Refuel with an afternoon tea at Dushanbe Teahouse, which offers a cup of white, green, black, or oolong tea with freshly baked sweet and savory scones, pastries, and artichoke purses.

10. Hike, reflect, repeat at Boulder Canyon

Hiker in the alpine tundra in Colorado Patrick Poendl

Hiker in the alpine tundra in Colorado

Patrick Poendl

 

Off of Highway 119 sits Boulder Falls, which features a short, simple hiking trail that works for all ages and fitness levels. Don't daydream on the drive there, or you'll miss the mountainous rock jutting up along the highway and along Boulder Creek. Climb all the way to the base of the falls, where you can snap a stunning selfie or have a picnic. Just keep that electronic gear under cover because you'll probably get sprayed with some water, especially if you visit in May and June when the snow is melting.

Barbie Carpenter

Barbie Carpenter is a freelance writer and editor and self-proclaimed grammar enthusiast based in Lexington, Kentucky. When she’s not polishing prose, she’s spending time with her husband and two young children, exploring the Bluegrass region, and planning her next trip to the beach.

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