Go take a hike

Boulder has a lot of trails -- 145 miles of trails, in fact. You probably won't hike them all while you're here at CU, but you can try. Visit https://bouldercolorado.gov/osmp/basic-trail-information to find maps, distances, conditions and descriptions of pathways into Boulder's great outdoors. For specifics on Eldorado Canyon's trails, go to http://parks.state.co.us/Parks/EldoradoCanyon/Trails/.

Hiking is one of the more egalitarian and accessible outdoor activities there is -- no expensive bike, boat, rope or wetsuit needed. It's also a good way to de-stress after (or during the middle of) a long day.

We picked a few of our favorite local trailheads, each of which include a few trails for you to choose from. Try them all, any time -- even in winter, Boulder is home to some of the best sun-catching trails during the colder months.


Location: 900 Baseline Road

There are roughly a dozen hikes that start from Chautauqua Park, a Boulder landmark since the late 1890s.

If you're looking for a challenging hike, the 3.2-mile trek to the Royal Arch and back is a good quad-burner. This trail climbs 1,205 feet -- it's basically like doing the StairMaster for three hours. The views at the top are way better than any view in a gym.


For something a little easier, check out the Bluebell-Baird Trail, a gentle 1.6-mile hike complete with gorgeous wildflowers and plenty of shade.

For a long trek, try hiking out and back on the 6.9-mile Mesa Trail, which goes (almost) all the way to Eldorado Springs.

Be warned: Chautauqua is swamped most weekends, and most days in nice weather. Going during the early morning hours can help you beat the crowds, and ride your bike uphill to get there if you can -- parking can be a nightmare.

Wilson the dog hikes with human August Jensen, of Boulder, at Mount Sanitas -- a steep and popular Boulder hike.
Wilson the dog hikes with human August Jensen, of Boulder, at Mount Sanitas -- a steep and popular Boulder hike. ( JEREMY PAPASSO )

Mount Sanitas

Location: 0.5 mile west of 4th Street on Mapleton Avenue

This moderate to difficult hike takes about two hours to complete -- the 3.1-mile loop over the summit climbs roughly 1,300 feet.

The trail starts as a wide, gravelly road that heads north between Hogback Ridge and Mount Sanitas. From there, you can chose the Dakota Ridge Trail, the Mount Sanitas Trail, the Hawthorne Trail or the East Ridge Trail.

From the summit of Mount Sanitas, you'll get spectacular views of Boulder and the plains, plus peeks uphill to higher peaks to the west.

Eldorado Canyon

Location: Head south on Highway 93 from Boulder, then west on Eldorado Springs Drive

The easy 0.7-mile Fowler Trail gives you great views of the canyon and of the countless climbers who will be climbing Eldo's rust-hued, lichen-streaked walls. The first half of this trail is wheelchair accessible.

Or, take the 3.6-mile Rattlesnake Gulch Trail, which will take you past the ruins of Crags Hotel, which was built in 1908 and burned down in 1912. From this trail, you can see all the way up to the Continental Divide.

For a bigger hike, haul your way up the Eldorado Canyon Trail and connect to Walker Ranch for a challenging 14-mile lollipop.


Location: Just west of where Baseline and Cherryvale Roads intersect

This trailhead is perfect for a midday stroll. It's flat, peaceful and easy to get to. The 3.5-mile Boulder Creek Trail meanders near the creek and through wooded areas or you can walk along the paved bike path, which sits next to an open field. This hike is more like a scenic walk, but it's also a good place to run or see the many breeds of Boulder dogs.

In the fall, the cottonwoods lining the creek turn gold and the shrubs and prairie grasses turn blue, red and all kinds of gorgeous.

Betasso Preserve

Location: Head west on Boulder Canyon Drive, then take Sugarloaf Road to Betasso Road

The preserve is a massive expanse of seven trails open to mountain bikers, hikers and equestrians, though bikes are prohibited on some trails on Wednesdays and Saturdays -- good to know if you prefer more solitude on your hike.

Boulder County officials purchased land for the preserve in 1976 from Ernie Betasso, who wanted others to enjoy his land. So enjoy! The total preserve open space is now at 1,181 acres.

Also check out the 3.3-mile Canyon Loop or the 2.4-mile Benjamin Loop, which was built in recent years.

--Follow Sarah Kuta on Twitter: @SarahKuta.