Hippies and hipsters, hopheads and health nuts have all fallen in love with this irresistible Colorado city. With 300 days of sunshine drenching a fertile outdoor paradise framed by picture-perfect mountains, Boulder has long been a magnet for outdoor enthusiasts across the world.
So get off the couch and get in on the action with Boulder’s best outdoor experiences.
Hike the Flatirons
If you’re in Boulder and you’re not hiking, you’re doing it wrong. If you’re new to town, the most well-known destination for strapping on the hiking boots is Chautauqua Park, perched in the shadows of Boulder’s iconic Flatirons mountain range. Here you will find a wide array of trails with the added bonus of an on-site restaurant, concert hall and cabins for overnight stays.
Another popular destination among locals is the 1.3-mile Mount Sanitas Trail, a slightly more difficult endeavor with a significant elevation gain of 1323 feet. For a flat and easy trail perfect for beginners and trail runners, try the lesser-known Doudy Draw trail located south of Boulder near the laid-back community of Eldorado Springs.
Mountain bike in Valmont Bike Park
A quick first foray on Boulder’s roads will reveal the only thing more popular than hiking in Boulder: biking. One of America’s most bike-friendly cities is a well-known training ground for road cycling along winding mountain highways like Lefthand Canyon. Those seeking to get off the asphalt and onto the dirt will enjoy ripping it up on the rugged natural surface trails of the 42-acre Valmont Bike Park.
With more than 100,000 acres of open space and 110 miles of trails across 20 different locations, the Boulder County Open Space network is another excellent option for mountain biking; we especially recommend the Boulder Canyon Trail and Walker Ranch. The best part? Nearly all trails come complete with A-plus mountain vistas.
Go tubing down Boulder Creek
Floating down Boulder Creek in an inflatable tube is a rite of passage in Boulder, with the summer “tubing season” running from May to August (depending on the water level of the creek). Eben G. Fine Park downtown is a popular spot for starting your aquatic adventure – though you should be aware that the waters can flow quite rapidly at times. Pick up a tube at iconic local shop McGuckin Hardware and join in the fun. There’s even something called Tube to Work Day. Only in Boulder.
Ski with the locals at Eldora Mountain
Plenty of outdoor action takes place in winter as well, with skiers and boarders heading over to Eldora Mountain Resort, just 20 miles west of town. Offering more of an old-school local feel than the massive resorts down I-70 like Breckenridge and Keystone, Eldora offers 680 acres of skiable terrain topping out at 10,600 feet. While you won’t find all the high-end amenities of an Aspen or Vail, you won’t encounter bumper-to-bumper traffic on the way there, either.
Another excellent if lesser-known option near Boulder is snowshoeing at Brainard Lake Recreation Area, located within Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests near the town of Ward (25 miles west of town). Since this adventure is just off the scenic Peak to Peak Highway north of Eldora, you can combine it with a day of skiing for the ultimate Boulder winter experience.
Do some fly fishing in Rocky Mountain National Park
Within easy driving distance of downtown, you’ll find some excellent spots to drop in a fly-fishing line – including the world-famous Rocky Mountain National Park, about 45 minutes north of town. With a valid Colorado fishing license, anglers can fish dozens of gorgeous alpine bodies of water such as Sprague Lake and Mirror Lake, which contain local populations of brown, brook, rainbow and cutthroat trout. Be sure to adhere to all park regulations regarding open waters and possession limits.
Rock-climb Eldorado Canyon
A lesser-known alternative to busy Rocky Mountain National Park, the more relaxed Eldorado Canyon State Park is a local Boulder gem located about 10 miles south of town. One of the region’s premier destinations for rock climbing and bouldering, it’s also not for the faint of heart. With sandstone rock climbs on cliffs up to 700 feet, this classic free-climbing area has attracted mountaineers for generations. If you’re new to the sport, guided climbs in “Eldo” are available from local outfitters such as Golden Mountain Guides and Peak Mountain Guides.
Stroll downtown’s Pearl Street Mall
All outdoor experiences in Boulder doesn’t need to be a high-adrenaline adventure. A simple stroll down Pearl Street, Boulder’s bustling downtown pedestrian mall, offers all of Boulder’s character in one easy-to-digest package. Stop to check out colorful street performers and musicians, snap pics of the murals (see map here), or just wander in and out of the quirky local shops and restaurants. You’ll feel like a Boulder local in no time.
See a show at Red Rocks
No visit to Boulder is complete without a pilgrimage to the globally renowned Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre, one of the world’s finest outdoor music venues, located about 30 miles south of town. Offering live performances since 1906 in a spectacular setting carved into a natural stone monolith, the perennially acclaimed venue today hosts everything from A-list music acts to outdoor yoga classes and film screenings. It also happens to a public park owned by the City of Denver – which means there’s never a bad time to visit.