Best known for craft beer and a spiritual mountain lifestyle, Boulder also offers an array of enticing parks.

With more than 60 parks servicing a city of just over 100,000 residents, you could live in this beautiful city for years and still find new green spaces to discover. From awe-inspiring mountain vistas to lesser-known family-friendly gems, here are the 10 best parks in Colorado’s most unique mountain city.

Hike the flatirons in Chautauqua Park

Best mountain park

The first thing any visitor to Boulder will want to do is get to know the Flatirons, the city’s iconic mountain range that towers over the “People’s Republic,” unfurling one of the most-flat-out breathtaking cityscapes in America. Chautauqua is Boulder’s best all-around park, offering some of the best hiking trails in the state, as well as a convivial hangout for everything from concerts in the Auditorium to alfresco feasting at the Dining Hall to staying the night at a historic cottage. You could spend your entire vacation here and still want to come back.

Get off the beaten path at The People’s Crossing

Best park for hiking

This tiny speck of green space (formerly known as Settlers Park) is less of a full-service park than a transitioning area for some of Boulder’s most epic mountain hikes. If you’re not trekking Chautauqua, you’re most likely hiking around this stunning natural-rock area, which offers direct access to popular trails like Red Rocks Trail and Mt Sanitas. Take a date and get to know each other on the trail. It’s the Boulder way.

Play with the mammoths at Niwot Children’s Park

Best park for families

Any invitation to visit the cute hamlet of Niwot, adjacent to Boulder, should be immediately accepted. Especially when there are woolly mammoths involved. In addition to this park’s trademark play mammoth, there’s a fun assortment of slides and swings along with pretty much anything else your kid could feel like climbing on. Just be prepared for plenty of mammoth questions later.

Spend time in the Colorado sun at North Boulder Park

Best neighborhood park

While this laid-back neighborhood hangout offers activities from basketball to table tennis, sometimes the best thing to do is just soak up the glorious Colorado sunshine – i.e., nothing much. Spread out a blanket, open up a book, put your phone on silent and kick back in the grassy field at North Boulder Park. The world can wait a while.

Take your dog to frolic at Foothills Community Park

Best dog park

This large, 65-acre park not only offers a massive fully fenced-in dog section popular with locals and their four-legged friends, it also features a hearty lineup of amenities to keep humans happy as well. Visitors can enjoy everything from scenic mountain trails to picnic shelters and a recreational sports complex; it's also a popular sledding spot in winter. And don’t be surprised to see hang gliders touch down on the grass here in the summer. Only in Boulder.

View of autumn foliage by Boulder Creek, Colorado
Boulder Creek offers recreation opportunities all year long ©shutter18/Getty Images

Hang out after going tubing at Eben G. Fine Park

Best creekside park

You can’t really experience Boulder without experiencing the intoxicating beauty of Boulder Creek, which rushes right through downtown and can be explored by walking trail or (even more fun) by inner tube. Indeed, tubing Boulder Creek is a rite of passage around these parts, and when you’re done there’s no better place to kick back and relax than this placid stretch of greenery, located just off the creek and steps from downtown Boulder’s action.

Be like a local and play disc golf at Harlow Platts Community Park

Best disc golf park

While many locals are content to lackadaisically toss around a disc at spots like Boulder Creek and the grassy area outside the Chautauqua Dining Hall, slightly more motivated types can head to this underrated South Boulder gem. Those who do will admire scenic Viele Lake and a gorgeous nine-hole disc golf course offering panoramic views of the Flatirons. Pack a few brews, bring a few buds – and have a ball.

Play in the caves at Arapahoe Ridge Park

Best playground

Did someone say “cave park”? Famous for its cave-like natural rock-climbing structure, this low-key neighborhood park near Eisenhower Elementary School is one your kids will instantly fall in love with. Combine the natural features with a thorough assemblage of slides and other play structures, and you have yourself a (truly) fun day with the kids on your hands.

Head out on two wheels at Valmont Bike Park

Best park for cycling

Among countless opportunities for biking in and around Boulder, the best actual city park for two-wheeling is this 42-acre terrain park. Rugged natural-surface trails and adrenaline-pumping jumps offer yet another cool way to enjoy being outdoors in Boulder. As an added bonus, post-biking beers await within easy pedaling distance at Upslope Brewing Company.

Hikers traverse a rocky stream in Rocky Mountain National Park
The spectacular natural landscapes of Rocky Mountain National Park are adjacent to city living in Boulder © Shutterstock / Margaret.Wiktor

Hear the elks bugle at Rocky Mountain National Park

Best nature park 

From the world-famous Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre to the lesser-known Eldorado Canyon State Park, the Boulder area is blessed with an almost incomprehensible array of shockingly beautiful nature parks. Rocky Mountain National Park, located about 45 minutes north of Boulder via a scenic (if often congested) mountain road, simply must be seen to be believed. Be warned, though, that the secret is out, and one of America’s most popular national parks now requires advance registration in the summer and early fall months.

You might also like:
Best time to visit Boulder in any season
The best day trips from Boulder promise Rocky Mountain adventure
A beginner’s guide to hiking in Boulder, CO

Explore related stories

man and girl walk on a sandy beach seen from a high angle looking down. A lake is to their left and a dune to their right.


Plan your summer vacation to Northern Michigan

May 9, 2024 • 9 min read