NASA Hubble Heritage
This Hubble Space Telescope image shows the details of the famed planetary nebula, NGC 2818. You probably won’t see this much striking detail when night hiking in Boulder, unless you made yourself a drug cocktail. Nonetheless, Boulder has some great spots to gaze at the night sky.

Night-hiking tips

•Tell someone where you’re going and when you plan to return. Make sure it’s someone who is at least casually interested in your well-being.

•Start out by going in a group, or at least with another person. Remember: when running from a mountain lion, you don’t have to be fast. You just have to be faster than the other guy. By the way, don’t run from mountain lions.

•Iit’s cold at night, so dress in layers, wear a silly hat, etc.

•Bring enough water. You don’t want to be rooting around in the dark for appropriate snow to eat.

•Be careful where you park. In the city of Boulder, most trailhead parking lots are closed from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. So you might have to start your hike by hiking to your hike.

•Even if there’s a full moon out, wear a headlamp just in case you have to flee into the wilderness. Alternatively, you might get bored and want to pretend you’re the Eye of Sauron.

•Pay attention to wildlife warnings. Bears and mountain lions tend to be most active at dusk or dawn. Try not to be their food. (See related wildlife tips on Page 14.)

•Don’t bolt out of a well-lit space into the snowy night like a dumbass: let your eyes adjust to the semi-dark.

•Despite the strong temptation, try really hard not to be stupid

Does trekking up a frozen mountain while avoiding becoming a mid-afternoon snack for the local wildlife just not hold the same allure for you anymore?

Better to try it at night, when all those square day-hikers are snoozing peacefully in their heated homes, right?

Aryl Rebecca Hatt, who works at REI and runs the blog, said a hike under the cover of darkness can be exhilarating, especially if there’s a full moon out.

“I tell people all the time, just look around where you live and see if there are some good night hiking spots because it is generally safe in the mountains.”

Hatt recommends prospective night hikers take a crack at Gregory Canyon, Mount Sanitas Trailhead, Centennial Trailhead or the old stand-by: Chautauqua.

Janelle Pacheco, a CU senior studying astrophysics, said Chautauqua is a good starting point, but hopeful stargazers might find the light pollution from Boulder a little discouraging. Not too far away, Pacheco recommended driving or hiking up Flagstaff Mountain at night to look not only above at the starts, but also below at the city lights.

“I drove up there and stopped and it’s one of the most beautiful things,” Pacheco said.

While some may be tempted to hike over to the Boulder Star on Flagstaff, Phillip Yates with the city’s Open Space and Mountain Parks department, said it isn’t expressly prohibited, but they don’t recommend it.

“There’s no official or designated trail that takes you there and there is steep terrain that’s snowy and icy,” Yates said. “It’s difficult for people to go there and there are certainly opportunities to see the star from other properties.”

In fact, Yates said, beginner night-hikers would probably be best off checking, where the city’s Open Space and Mountain Parks department posts its group hikes led by naturalists. In February, there’s some full-moon hikes and some telescope programs coming up.

Karen Antonacci: 303-684-5226, or

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