Join the club

The CU Hiking Club , founded in 1919, is the longest-running student organization on campus. Go to colorado.edu/StudentGroups/uchc for details, including their trip schedule. Membership is $20 for a year.

T here are so many amazing trails here, it's hard to know where to start hiking. City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks alone claims more than 140 miles of trails, and a trail connecting some of them in a circle around Boulder is in the works.

Your first time out, all you have to do is chose one and put one foot in front of the other. Try one of these five hikes if you're not sure where to start.

And keep going -- in Boulder, you can keep hiking new trails year-round until you find your favorites.

1 Royal Arch

3.5 miles (out-and-back/loop)

This hike to a hidden arch in the Flatirons is a local favorite.

The trail is steep and the payoff is big -- you'll get up close and personal with the Flatirons along the way, and the impressive arch, which is right off the trail, serves as a 20-foot frame for far-reaching views.

Royal Arch is a great early-morning hike on hot days. It'll be sunny through the meadows around Chautauqua, but you'll find shade in the upper (steep!) stretches of trail.

Trailhead: Chautauqua Park, west Baseline Road

2 Mount Sanitas

3.4 miles (loop)

This steep loop is a Boulder classic, and a great way to squeeze in an uphill workout before or after class. Go clockwise if you want to tackle the steepest hiking or running first, counter-clockwise if you need a warm-up. Clockwise, you'll catch peeks of higher peaks to the west along the ridge, perhaps chill on the rocky summit, then enjoy the easy cruise down the valley trail at the end.

Like to climb? Look for bouldering spots on the way up.

Trailhead: Two parking areas on either side of Sunshine Canyon Drive, just west of Fourth Street

3 Bear Peak

6.3 miles (lollipop)

Make your own mini-epic.

Bear Peak rises about 3,000 over town, guarded by Flatirons. Power up the steep Fern Canyon Trail through forest to the summit (bonus points for tacking on the summit of South Boulder Peak, just to the south), then descend a longer route via the Bear Peak West Ridge and Bear Canyon trails.

It's a tough day out, right from town...and you'll see people running it. Sweet.

Look for bears on Bear Peak if you like, but you're more likely to see dogs. And keep in mind that in the fall, the biggest danger you might encounter on this or other Flatirons trails is the dreaded itch, poison ivy.

Trailhead: National Center for Atmospheric Research, west end of Table Mesa Drive.

4 Betasso Preserve

Up to 8 miles (loops)

Betasso's Canyon Loop Trail is uber-popular (because it's so good!) with hikers, trail runners and mountain bikers, so don't expect solitude -- just make new friends.

The new 3.12-mile Benjamin Trail provides an extra loop to tack on to the Canyon Loop. It's narrow and steep in places, so pass other users with care.

Bikes are not allowed at Betasso on Wednesdays or Saturdays, so hike or run then if you want to avoid the two-wheeled crowd.

Trailhead: Head west up Boulder Canyon (Canyon Boulevard) about 4 miles from the edge of town to Sugarloaf Road. Go north on Sugarloaf Road 0.9 miles to Betasso; right to two trailheads.

5 Eldorado Canyon Trail

3.5 miles one way; add on Walker Ranch for a 14-mile loop

This trail from the end of the canyon climbs away from the rushing creek to reveal big views of the canyon and its towering walls. Skirt boulders and yucca, spy climbers high on the canyon's russet and gold upper walls and fight off the vertigo as you climb to viewpoints of Denver and the Indian Peaks.

Trailhead: Visitor Center parking lot at Eldorado Canyon State Park, just west of Eldorado Springs.