• Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer

    The Sunshine Fire in Marsh left parts of Mount Sanitas looking a bit crispy.

  • Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer

    Parking at Chautauqua is a nightmare at peak hours, so get there early.

  • Colorado Daily file photo

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

  • Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer

    Chautauqua's trails have reached "anthill" status for a reason: The park is right on the edge of town, full of options and downright gorgeous.



Hike with the herd

The Hiking Club was founded in May of 1919, and is one of the longest running student-run organization on campus. Go to colorado.edu/StudentGroups/uchc for details, including the trip schedule. Membership is $60 for five years, $20 for one year and $15 for a semester.

Those looking for a nice place to get a workout or simply get away from the grind and clear out the gray matter will find Boulder and its environs are perfectly suited for both.

There are trails here of every level of difficulty, and it’s as easy to find one that tests endurance as it is to just go for a glorified stroll that would barely alter the heart rate.

Unlike some forms of Colorado outdoor recreation that can eat up a paycheck in paying for the ancillary accoutrements — hello, downhill skiing and mountain biking — hiking Boulder-area trails requires nothing more than a good pair of walking shoes.

Because you are at altitude, hydration is important, so you could throw in a water bottle and a pack to carry it in. You might also feel like springing for items such as sunscreen, trail snacks, extra layers of clothes for a change in the weather, a map and perhaps ski poles for balance.

But sturdy shoes and a game plan for where you’re going are enough to get you out the door. And a little exploration and taste for adventure will reveal that Boulder is at the doorstep of a seemingly limitless array of hiking opportunities that might require sticking around for graduate school to thoroughly do justice.

Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks claims more than 140 miles of trails, and Boulder County’s Parks & Open Space boasts another 100-plus. Indecision could freeze you in your tracks. That’s why we’re offering this primer with a few trails to satisfy hikers of every level.

Flatirons Vista Trail

1.9 or 3.5 miles (two loop options)

Here’s a trail for the absolute beginner or someone who moved to Colorado from one of those sea-level states. Just south of the city, Flatirons Vista is a mellow, hilly trail popular with deer and the less-intense set of trail runners, some of them accompanied by canine training partners. The longer loop will take about twice the time, but neither is especially long or strenuous, so they’re both good for a quickie.

Flatirons Vista is a good choice in any season, but if you go during winter, you might see golden and bald eagles.

Trailhead: Take Broadway south; it’ll turn into Colo. 93 as you leave Boulder. Keep going until you pass the intersection with Colo. 128. The parking lot will be the next right.

Mount Sanitas

3.4 miles (loop)

Mount Sanitas is coming to rival Chautauqua’s trails for “anthill” status, given its tremendous popularity. But it is somewhat steep and close to town, so you can get your sweat on without having to make a day trip out of it. Go clockwise to go with the flow of traffic, or buck the trend and say hi to everyone you pass. You’ll catch peeks of higher peaks to the west, chill on the rocky summit, then enjoy the easy cruise down the valley trail at the end. Bouldering spots are speckled along the way for those inclined to climb.

Trailhead: Two parking areas straddle Sunshine Canyon Drive just west of Fourth Street.

Royal Arch

3.5 miles (out-and-back/loop)

This hike to a hidden arch in the Flatirons is a local favorite, so it pays to go early, or on a weekday, to avoid the crowds. An early start is wise on hot days, too, since the first stretch is sunny. Plus, parking at Chautauqua is a nightmare at peak hours.

This is a serious workout. Take as many rest breaks as you need, but persevere because it’s worth it for the close-ups of the Flatirons, and the impressive arch serves as a 20-foot frame for far-reaching views toward Denver and the Eastern Plains

Trailhead: Chautauqua Park, west Baseline Road

Bear Peak

6.3 miles (lollipop)

Once you’ve acclimated to the altitude here and tested yourself on lesser trails it’s time to tackle the Bear.

Easily recognizable from postcards, Bear Peak rises about 3,000 over Boulder; it’s Green Mountain’s grumpy sibling. 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 and therefore lightly traveled. When you get high enough, you might still see blackened patches that mark the path of 2012’s Flagstaff Fire.

You can watch for bears, but you’re more likely to see dogs. And bear in mind that the biggest danger you might encounter on this or other local trails is poison ivy.

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

Betasso Preserve

Up to 8 miles (loops)

Betasso’s Canyon Loop Trail is beloved by hikers, trail runners and mountain bikers, so if you’re seeking solitude, go elsewhere.

The 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 others with care. An 0.8-mile connector trail links Benjamin to Fourmile Canyon Drive, and an easy 0.3-mile jog will lead you to the Blanchard Cabin.

Bikes are not allowed at Betasso on Wednesdays or Saturdays, so hike 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.

Charlie Brennan: twitter.com/chasbrennan

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