19 Incredible Hikes Near Boulder

Last Updated on January 26, 2024 by foxintheforest

Just a quick 40-minute drive from downtown Denver (okay, without traffic) you’ll find yourself in a world of beautiful foothills and stunning rock formations. Boulder, Colorado has plenty of awesome natural areas to explore. In this list of the best hikes near Boulder, we’ll dive into some incredibly scenic trails that you’ve got to check out.

As a professional writer for the outdoor industry and Colorado local of over 13 years, I know a thing or two about the best hikes near Boulder, Colorado. As an expert hiker, I’ve tackled each of these trails over the years to give you the inside scoop on Boulder’s best hiking trails.

About this Guide to the Best Hikes Near Boulder

Although there are amazing hikes throughout Colorado, Boulder offers up some excellent hiking trails right near town. Each of these hikes is within an hour’s drive from downtown Boulder. Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • When to hike near Boulder, Colorado
  • An in-depth look at the best hikes near Boulder
  • Trail details including distance, difficulty, elevation, and any red tape
  • Tips for hiking near Boulder
  • Additional Colorado hiking resources

When to Hike Near Boulder

You can enjoy hikes near Boulder year round. In fact, you might even get lucky during the winter months, and be hiking on a beautiful, sunny day with 60-degree temps!

Hiking near Boulder isn’t so much about the time of year (you can learn more about what to expect during different seasons with my guide to hiking in Colorado). Instead, it’s about the time of day.

Hiking trails near Boulder get insanely crowded. And I mean full parking lots, hordes of people, and big groups of hikers. It may feel more like being in a city than out on a trail.

My biggest piece of advice? If you’re looking to go on a hike near Boulder, get there early! Trailheads such as the Hessie Trailhead, Chautauqua Open Space, and even Eldorado State Park area almost always full, especially on weekends.

If solitude is what you seek, then get to the trailhead before 7 am during the summer months, 8 am in the winter. If you want to hike on a weekend, be starting by 7 am to avoid big crowds.

Best day hikes near denver

A Map of the Top Boulder Hikes

Get oriented with this map of where to find amazing Boulder hiking trails.

boulder hikes
Get the interactive version here.

The 14 Best Hikes Near Boulder

There’s a reason that Boulder trailheads get so crowded, it’s because you can find world-class hiking just minutes from the city. The best hikes near Boulder offer breathtaking beauty.

With unique rock formations such as the Flatirons, pristine wilderness areas, and top-notch state parks nearby, there’s plenty of trail miles to log. This list of the best hiking trail near Boulder, CO is organized by difficulty, so scroll down for the real doozies!

1. Chautauqua Trail

One of the best easy trails near Boulder, the Chautauqua Trail features stunning views of the Boulder Flatirons. Although this easy jaunt is only 1.2 miles, you can take a look at other nearby trails such as the Baseline Trail, Ski Jump Trail, and Bluebell Mesa Trails.

Pro Tip: This trail system is crowded almost every day, due to being located right in Boulder. Get here EARLY to avoid the crowds. You also have to pay $5.00 to park here.

Distance: 1.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 419 feet
Difficulty: Easy
Dog-Friendly: Yes, leashed.
Fee? Yes, $5

best hikes near Boulder, Colorado

2. Wonderland Lake Loop Trail

This super easy route takes you around lovely Wonderland Lake and only took me around 30ish minutes to complete.

After all, this is one of the best hikes near Boulder that is a mixture of paved trails, gravel, and dirt. However, the scenery is great and you might even see some birds and deer while you’re here.

Pro Tip: This is a popular Boulder hike. So, try and park Park at the corner of Quince Circle and Wonderland Hill Avenue when you visit. It’s a much better option.

Distance: 1.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 88 feet
Difficulty: Easy
Dog-Friendly: Yes, leashed.
Fee? Yes, $5

3. Fowler Trail

For an easier, more accessible hiking trail near Boulder, check out the Fowler Trail in Eldorado Canyon State Park.

The first half mile is wheelchair accessible, making it one of the best spacious trails near Boulder. For a bigger challenge, follow some of the branching climbers’ trails along this route.

Pro Tip: Please note that Eldorado Canyon State Park charges $10 per vehicle or $4 per person to enter.

Timed Vehicle Reservation is also required for vehicle access from May 15 to Sept 15 on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays.

A free shuttle is also available from US 36 & McCaslin and Boulder to the park on holidays and summer weekends.

Distance: 4.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 433 feet
Difficulty: Easy
Dog-Friendly: Yes, leashed.
Fee? Yes, $10 to enter the park, or free if you have a Colorado State Parks Pass with your vehicle registration.

4. Red Rocks Trail

For an easy, quick loop hike just outside of Boulder, head to the Red Rock Trail. You can mix and match various nearby trails to make this loop shorter or longer.

However, the eye-catching surprise is the tall fins of red rock. You just might be able to trick yourself into thinking you’re in Bryce Canyon (ok, so maybe not, but still – it’s pretty)!

Distance: 1.3 miles
Elevation Gain: 393 feet
Difficulty: Easy
Dog-Friendly: Varies. The city of Boulder has very specific rules for dogs on trails here that vary by season and by trail on this route. So, for the most up-to-date info, click here.
Fee? None

5. Chapman Drive and Tenderfoot Trail

The Chapman Drive and Tenderfoot Trail is filled with bikers. So, brace yourself before you set out on this trail (or bring your bike).

Other than that, go on a relatively easy walk along a long service trail that offers some pretty decent views of the area. However, this Boulder hike is often filled with people.

So, don’t come here looking for tons of solitude.

Pro Tip: Please note that this is one of the best hikes near Boulder that can close due to wildlife activity. For more info on trail closures, click here.

Distance: 6.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,207 feet
Difficulty: Moderate
Dog-Friendly: Yes, leashed.
Fee? Yes, $5

6. Eldorado Canyon Trail

Home to some of the best rock climbing in Colorado, Eldorado Canyon is an iconic place to visit. Steep red cliffs dotted in neon-green lichen offer up scenic views of the foothills.

On a clear day, you can even spot the Continental Divide. Eldorado Canyon offers up some incredibly hiking trails near Boulder, Colorado. Start with the Eldorado Canyon Trail and branch out.

Timed Vehicle Reservation is also required for vehicle access from May 15 to Sept 15 on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays.

Distance: 6.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,978 feet
Difficulty: Moderate
Dog-Friendly: Yes, leashed.
Fee? Yes, $10 to enter the park, or free if you have a Colorado State Parks Pass with your vehicle registration.

hikes near Boulder

7. Rattlesnake Gulch

This is another one of the best hikes near Boulder that is within Eldorado Canyon State Park. The trail is well-maintained and a moderate climb with a steady incline that results in sweeping views of the area.

In fact, the climb really doesn’t get steep until the last half-mile or so.

Pro Tip: As noted above, you need to pay $10 per vehicle or $4 per person to enter the park. Timed Vehicle Reservation is also required for vehicle access May 15 through Sept 15 on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays.

Distance: 3.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 974 feet
Difficulty: Moderate
Dog-Friendly: Yes, leashed.
Fee? Yes, $10 to enter the park, or free if you have a Colorado State Parks Pass with your vehicle registration.

8. Gregory Canyon

Another excellent loop located right on the edge of Boulder. Take the Gregory Canyon Trail to the Range View Junction, head right then turn onto the Flagstaff trail to complete the loop. You can shave some distance off the journey by veering right at the Ute trail too. This one is steep but worth the effort.

Distance: 3.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,197feet
Difficulty: Moderate
Dog-Friendly: Varies. Boulder as a city has very specific rules for dogs on trails. So, regulations can vary seasonally and by trail. Click here for more info.
Fee? Yes, $5

9. Green Mountain West Trail

Flagstaff Road has quite a few hiking trails near Boulder and the best is the Green Mountain West Trail. If you’re looking to up your elevation gain, make your way along the relatively gentle trail. The final push is a steep, butt-busting crawl to the summit of Green Mountain. But the views of nearby Boulder make this well worth the effort.

Pro Tip: This area and Boulder trail can close due to wildlife. So, click here for up to date info.

Distance: 3.7 miles
Elevation Gain: 702 feet
Difficulty: Moderate
Dog-Friendly: Yes, leashed.
Fee? Yes, $5

10. Lost Lake via the Hessie Trailhead

One of the best hikes near Boulder is actually accessible by bus! During the summer months take the Boulder Green Ride in Nederland to the Hessie Trailhead. Here you can make the 4.4-mile journey to Lost Lake.

This trail is not only one of the best backpacking trips in Colorado for beginners, but it’s also a pleasant day hike.

You’ll be treated to an alpine lake with options to continue onwards via the Devil’s Thumb or King Lake Trail.

Pro Tip: You can take a shuttle to the trailhead during busier months. Also, while you don’t need a permit to camp at Lost Lake, you must stay at a designated site. Sites WILL fill up early on weekends during the summer.

Distance: 4.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 807 feet
Difficulty: Moderate
Dog-Friendly: Yes, leashed
Fee? None

11. 4th of July Trailhead: Arapaho Pass Trail

The 4th of July Trailhead isn’t just one of the best hikes near Boulder, but it’s also one of the most amazing hikes near Denver too. Yes, it’s just THAT good. There are several options for hikes at this trailhead.

When the road is open (it’s not maintained in the winter) park at the 4th of July Campground day use area. The road to the trailhead also requires a high-clearance 4WD vehicle.

The easiest way to catch a stunning glimpse of the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area is to head to the 4th of July Mine via the Arapaho Pass Trail. Experienced hikers can reach for the summit of South Arapaho Peak, one of the best 13ers in Colorado, via the Arapaho Glacier Trail.

Pro Tip: Mountaineers absolutely must climb the Skywalker Couloir. This challenging shoot of snow has over 60-degrees of steep snow. Delicious!

Distance: 4.1 miles out-and-back to the 4th of July Mine
Elevation Gain: 1,4131 feet
Difficulty: Moderate
Dog-Friendly: Yes, leashed.
Fee? No

hikes near boulder co
Get deep in the mountains quickly at the 4th of July Trailhead.

12. Mt Sanitas

Mt Sanitas is a good standby if you’re looking to get your elevation gain on. Located near Sunshine Canyon at the Mt Sanitas Trailhead, this 3.2-mile loop brings you to the top of mighty Mt Sanitas. Crowds are prevalent, so be prepared to wake up before the sun or share the trail.

Distance: 3.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,256 feet
Difficulty: Moderate to difficult
Dog-Friendly: Check here before you bring your pup since Boulder has various regulations when it comes to dogs on trails.
Fee? none

13. The First and Second Flatiron

This is one of the most iconic hikes near Boulder. Hike up the steep trail that winds its way up between the First and Second Flatiron.

If you’re up for a challenge, you can free solo the Second Flatiron (only attempt if you know what you’re doing) and take this trail back down to solid ground. Keep in mind, you’ll need to use your hands in a couple of spots.

Pro Tip: It costs $5.00 to park here.

Distance: 3.9 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,446 feet
Difficulty: Difficult
Dog-Friendly: Yes, leashed.
Fee? Yes, $5

Boulder flatirons hike
The view from the Flatirons is utterly beautiful. Go for sunrise to have it all to yourself.

14. Bear Peak Trail

For a lot of elevation gain and some mileage, hit up Bear Peak. Make your way up this 8-plus mile out-and-back trail for killer views. The trail starts out pretty mellow, and gradually gets steeper as you make your way to the summit. Expect to earn the last mile. Although there’s a well-marked way, you may need to use your hands towards the top.

Pro Tip: There’s a $5 fee to park.

Distance: 8.1 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,847 feet
Difficulty: Difficult
Dog-Friendly: Yes but specific regulations for dogs off-leash. Click here for info.
Fee? Yes, $5

15. Royal Arch

Who knew that the Flatirons were also home to one spectacular arch? Take the Chautauqua Trail and follow signs to towards the Royal Arch. Out of all of the hikes around Boulder, Royal Arch delivers something a little different. It’s quite the effort to reach the arch. Make your way over steep, rocky terrain until you reach a rock formation that defies gravity. This is, hands down, the best hike near Boulder for sunrise.

Pro Tip: There’s a $5.00 fee to park.

Distance: 4.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,492 feet
Difficulty: Difficult
Dog-Friendly: Yes, leashed.
Fee? Yes, $5

16. Boulder Skyline Traverse

Those who enjoy a good sufferfest, but don’t want to go too far from home, should check out the Boulder Skyline Traverse. This mega-epic, classic line crosses the summits of five peaks: Bear Peak, South Boulder Peak, Green Mountain, Flagstaff Mountain, and finally Mount Sanitas. You’ll need to shuttle a car or have a friend come grab you unless you want to do the whole thing in reverse.

Distance: 14.4 miles, one way
Elevation Gain: 1,427 feet
Difficulty: Very difficult
Dog-Friendly: Yes
Fee? Yes, $5

17. Boulder Falls

This easy out and back trail is perfect for the entire family. It’s pretty popular though so definitely try and visit during the week. You also have a ton of activity options available to you once you get here and can check out some historical photos at the start of the hike.

It’s also best used between November and March and culminates in a stunning waterfall that makes it one of the must-do hikes near Boulder.

Pro Tip: This Boulder hike can sometimes close because of wildlife. So, click here for the latest trail info.

Distance: 0.3 miles
Elevation Gain: 52 feet
Difficulty: Easy
Dog-Friendly: Yes
Fee? No

Boulder Falls near Boulder Colorado.

18. Mesa Trail

Best used between April and October, this popular out and back trail is easily one of the best hikes near Boulder. Not only is it a flat and challenging, trek through a gorgeous landscape, but you’ll enjoy an array of stunning views just beneath the flatirons and foothill peaks.

And although this hike is a bit on the longer side, there are several different trailheads here, allowing you to adjust this hike to your own personal needs.

Pro Tip: Avoid the crowds and stick with the southern half of the trail near the El Dorado/South Mesa trailhead. It’s usually a whole lot quieter. The parking fee here is also $5.00.

Distance: 13.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,631 feet
Difficulty: Moderate
Dog-Friendly: Yes
Fee? Yes, $5

19. Boulder Mountain Pine to Peak Loop

Located in the Bald Mountain Scenic Area, this lovely loop trail is great for all skill levels and takes you to the top of Bald Mountain, which you’ll marvel at fantastic panoramas of the nearby Continental Divide and Great Plains. If you can, bring a picnic and enjoy a nice lunch since this is one of the more peaceful hikes near Boulder. rewards

Distance: 1.1 miles
Elevation Gain: 196 feet
Difficulty: Easy
Dog-Friendly: Yes, leashed
Fee? Yes, $5

BONUS: Rocky Mountain National Park

Okay, so I don’t necessarily have one hiking recommendation here, but there are plenty of must-do hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park for all abilities.

For beginners: Hit up the Bear Lake Trail area. It’s got lots of different routes to choose from, including hiking to Lake Haiyaha, one of my personal favs.

Intermediate hikers: Check out the Black Lake Trail, Sky Pond, or the Ute Trail to Tombstone ridge.

Expert hikers: Must-do Long’s Peak, one of Colorado’s best 14ers. If you REALLY love to suffer, scope out the Mummy Traverse.

Pro Tip: You’ll have to pay to enter the park and no dogs are allowed on hiking trails. For more info, check out the Complete Guide to Visiting Rocky Mountain National Park.

Price: It’s $30 per vehicle to enter the park (free with an America the Beautiful Parks Pass), and you’ll need a timed entry permit for certain times of the day.

trails in rocky mountain national park

Tips for Hiking Near Boulder

Boulder offers up amazing hiking trails for beginner hikers, all the way to the expert, long-distance trail runner. Regardless of your skill level, you’ll want to go into every hike, big or small, prepared. Here are a few quick tips for hiking near Boulder:

  • Check trail conditions and trail closures. These past few years a lot of hiking trails near Boulder have closed due to maintenance and upgrades, so check to make sure you can actually hike!
  • Check the weather. Colorado is known for some wild weather, so be sure to check local weather conditions before heading out.
  • Be prepared. Always take the proper hiking gear with you. Never leave home without the Ten Essentials. Colorado is super-dry so I like to leave an extra water bottle in the car and either driving slippers (with a sole) or sandals to treat my feet afterward!
  • Practice Leave No Trace. It’s okay to be new to hiking, but it’s not okay to trash the trails. Always pick up after yourself (this including packing out dog poop, toilet paper, and fruit peels).

Mountain Hiking Packing List

This comprehensive list is perfect for the mountains, including these amazing Boulder trails.

What to wear:

  • Sunshirt
  • Noncotton socks
  • Hiking footwear with good traction that you are comfortable wearing all day. 
  • Non-cotton shorts for hiking
  • Or non-cotton, pants for hiking. Convertible pants are great too!
  • Non-cotton shirt for hiking

What to pack:

Additional Colorado Hiking Resources

Wanna hike in Colorado? I’ve made it my life’s work to give you expert, locally-curated hiking advice for Colorado. Here are a few things to check out:

Looking for a perfect outdoor getaway from Denver? If you're looking for beautiful scenery and hiking trails, Boulder is the perfect Colorado weekend destination! On this post, I share the best hikes near Boulder, Colorado that you can't miss! #Colorado #Boulder
Wondering where to go next? If you're visiting Denver or looking for the perfect Denver weekend getaway, Boulder is the perfect Colorado destination from you! With amazing hikes and the best outdoor scenery, Boulder offers some of the best hikes in Colorado and I share them all on this travel guide! #Colorado #Boulder #USA
Meg Atteberry
Meg Atteberry

Meg is a long-time Colorado local and outdoor industry professional. She's spent the last 15 years hiking, climbing, mountaineering, and canyoneering all over Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and Nevada in search of the best views. She's written for Outside Magazine, REI, Backpacker Magazine, and appeared on the Weather Channel.

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Meg Atteberry standing on a mountain sticking her tongue out

Meg aka Fox is a 30-something who's born to explore. Toddler mom, queer, and neuro-spicy her favorite things to do are climb in the alpine and camp in the desert. Her mission is to get you out on your greatest adventure.