Thanks to its stunning mountain views, 300-plus days of sunshine and thriving outdoor culture, Boulder feels like a special  place on a year-round basis.

The population here is happy and healthy and as a visitor, you can jump into the lifestyle from the moment you arrive. From trail tips to seasonal shifts to the local food and drink scene, here's what you need to know before traveling to Boulder. 

Planning your trip to Boulder

Bring plenty of layers

Boulder is known for its mild year-round climate, with low humidity, plenty of sunshine and little rain to speak of. That being said, winters can get quite chilly, and in fall and spring, the weather can be highly unpredictable – thunderstorms, flooding, high winds and sporadic snowfall are all a part of the mix. Be sure to bring plenty of warm and water-resistant clothing to Boulder for the time you’ll be spending outside.

Best time to visit Boulder in any season

Summer is the only season layers aren’t necessary, as it gets pretty toasty (up to 100°F) under the high-altitude sun during those months. But you may want to bring a light rain jacket – Boulder experiences short and sporadic thunderstorms in the summer afternoons.

People hiking through mountainous fall foliage on a sunny fall day
If you’re planning your trip on a budget, try to visit in spring or fall © Johner Images / Getty Images

Look out for accommodation deals in fall and spring

Winter and summer are some of the busiest times for tourism in Boulder. Ski buffs descend from New Year’s through March to hit the nearby slopes, and the outdoor-event scene thrives during the summer, when trail conditions are at their best. During these times of year, accommodation and flight prices are at their highest. If you’re planning your trip on a budget, try to visit in spring or fall – fewer people are willing to come then and brave the wacky weather, and you also get uniquely local experiences of an equally beautiful Boulder.

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Plan trail activities for early in the day – especially on weekends

For tourists and locals alike, some of the most popular things to do in Boulder are to hit the trails and go for a hike, a bike ride or a trail run. Trail time is certainly a must, but plan to be at the trailhead as early as possible, especially on the weekends. Many of the most popular trails – such as the ones starting at Chautauqua Park or in Eldorado Canyon State Park – have full parking lots by 10:00am on Saturdays and Sundays, so the earlier you arrive, the more likely you are to find parking and avoid crowds on the trails.

Make reservations when dining out on Pearl Street

Pearl Street is the city’s main thoroughfare, and one of the most popular attractions in Boulder. This charming pedestrian-only street is the heart of downtown Boulder and home to several unique shops, eclectic bars, and some of the best eateries in town. It’s the place to be in the evenings, especially when you’re ready for a bite to eat after a long day in the mountains or on the trails.

Many of the restaurants on Pearl are packed at dinner time, and the most popular ones can accrue wait times of an hour or longer, so making reservations in advance is a good idea. If you'd rather decide on the fly, you could also plan to put your name down at the restaurant, then stroll down the street and do some shopping while you wait for your table.

Etiquette in Boulder

Dress for the trail – just about everywhere

Active and outdoor culture is so prominent in Boulder that the locals are constantly dressed for the trails. Trending fashion consists of the latest outdoor gear for both men and women, and “Boulder casual” – jeans and a comfortable shirt or blouse – is the most common dress code for business meetings and dining out. No need to dress fancy or high fashion here; if anything, that may make you feel out of place.

Bicyclists pedal in afternoon sunshine near Boulder
Boulder is frequently hailed as one of the best cities for biking in the nation © John Coletti / Getty Images

Use the bike paths to get around

Traversing the city on two wheels is one of the most authentically Boulder experiences out there. With more than 300 miles of dedicated bikeways, frequent sunshine and a thriving cycling culture, the town is frequently hailed as one of the best cities for biking in the nation. Rent your own bike or utilize the public bike share kiosks, then hop on the Boulder Creek Path. You’ll fit right in with all the commuters whizzing past on their way to and from the city center.

Getting around Boulder is easy with these top tips

Don’t skip on the brews

With the fourth-highest concentration of breweries per capita in the nation and the highest in Colorado, Boulder is one of the best places around to enjoy a cold one after a day of skiing or hiking in the mountains. The craft beer scene here is lively, and you can bike between some of the most popular breweries on the Boulder Beer Trail.

A town shaped by the Buffs

A significant chunk of Boulder residents are college students attending the University of Colorado Boulder. Many congregate in student-heavy neighborhoods like University Hill, Martin Acres and parts of Central Boulder, including Pearl Street. Students bring a youthful energy to the city throughout the school year, but their numbers drop significantly during the summer months, making this a great time for visitors to experience more laid-back nightlife on Pearl Street – though it's also the height of tourist season.

Crowds of people shopping for local goods at Boulder County Farmers Market
Boulder is surrounded by hundreds of acres and acres of farmland, and the food scene reflects its location © Jen Lobo / Getty Images

Vegans and vegetarians are welcome

The Boulder food scene is inspired by the fact that the city is a national hub for natural and organic producers, and that it’s surrounded by hundreds of acres and acres of farmland. Restaurants here tend to focus on organic, locally grown ingredients, and there are plenty of choices around town for vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free diners – if you have dietary restrictions, you’re in great hands in Boulder. Be sure to try Leaf for a nice dinner or Thrive for a casual lunch – two standouts offering delicious fare, particularly for those with restrictions.

Health and Safety in Boulder

Wear a helmet and lock up your bike

Biking around Boulder is an easy, fun and active way to explore the town. To ensure that every ride is a safe one, wear a helmet, use bike lights if you ride after dusk and always yield to pedestrians. Ride with the flow of traffic in the bike lanes, and keep right, pass left and give a vocal alert before passing other cyclists on the bike paths. On mountain biking trails, yield the right of way to all other trail users and any cyclists traveling uphill. And don't forget to lock up your bike when you reach your destination – bike theft is very common in Boulder.

Be mindful on the trails

The easy access to mountains and trails is one of the primary reasons people choose to visit Boulder, and outdoor activities are certainly a must here. But they can also be dangerous without adequate education and preparation. Be sure to stay on the trails, hike with a buddy or a group and pack plenty of sunscreen, food, water, layers and a first-aid kit for each of your outings.

Check the weather before you go, and stay inside during thunderstorms, snowstorms and below-freezing temperatures. For emergency situations, call Rocky Mountain Rescue, the main search-and-rescue team in Boulder County.

A beginner’s guide to hiking in Boulder, Colorado

Watch out for critters and wildlife – the nearby foothills are home to mountain lions, bears, rattlesnakes and more. If you encounter any wildlife, keep your distance and follow the City of Boulder’s tips on what to do when you get too close for comfort.

Prepare for the altitude

Boulder sits at 5328 feet above sea level – not the highest elevation in Colorado, but high enough that some travelers coming from sea level experience the effects of altitude sickness. If you have headaches, nausea, fatigue or trouble sleeping during your trip, these symptoms might be a result of pressure and oxygen differences. Some ways to avoid altitude sickness are staying hydrated, drinking alcohol in moderation and avoiding salty foods – all of which can also help you adjust to Colorado’s dry climate.

If you hike in the nearby mountains at even higher altitudes, be sure to rest more frequently to catch your breath. You might even consider purchasing an oxygen canister before you head to the trail; they can be found in most local drugstores in town.

You might also like: 
A beginner's guide to hiking in Boulder, Colarado
Best ways to get outdoors in Boulder
Best time to visit Boulder in any season

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