Chautauqua Park is located near downtown Boulder, Colorado with free parking located at the corner of Baseline Road and 9th Street. The parking lot is the starting point for numerous trails that are maintained by Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks. Leashed dogs are allowed on most trails with free pet waste bags available, but horses, hunters, motorized vehicles, and bikes are not allowed on the trails. The trails are most suitable for hiking, nordic walking, and rock climbers. Portions of the trails are wheelchair accessible. In addition, there is a picnic shelter that can be rented for gatherings. Restrooms and water can be found at the Ranger Cottage near the parking lot. Cell phone service should be available while on the lower elevation trails.
Hiking from the Ranger Cottage to the south side of Flatiron 1 is approximately a 1,400 feet climb in elevation, from 5,700 feet to 7,100 feet. Since there are numerous interlocking trails, the distance traveled depends on the chosen trails. The following hike was done counter-clockwise using trails of varying lengths. The Chautauqua trail is 0.6 miles long and connects with the Flatiron trails. This trail cuts through an open field and, thus, provides a clear view of the Flatirons and the accompanying ridge.
The Bluebell-Baird trail is north-south and serves as a connector to many others. It rolls gently and provides shade.
Continuing towards Flatiron 1 using the First-Second Flatiron trail marked as “1st and 2nd Flatirons Climbing Access”, you arrive at Flatironette. Flatironette is a rock climbing base station that can be seen in the subsequent picture and video. It is one of many rock climbing sites in the park.
The climb in elevation is more pronounced upwards of Flatironette. A Kelty child carrier is manageable for most of the trail but the following picture highlights one stretch that requires the careful use of hands and, thus, may not be suitable for kids or parents with kids in a carrier.
What makes hiking between Flatirons 1 and 2 so much fun is the seemingly endless switchbacks that cut through forest and along side large rocks.
The trees near the trail subside as you approach the south side of Flatiron 1 and, thus, a view of the ridge including Flatirons 2 and 3 becomes unobstructed. The direction of slope of the mountain side determines what kind of plants and trees are able to survive. Northern and eastern slopes are typically cooler, moister, and contain plants that are shade tolerant. On the other hand, southern and western slopes are warmer, drier, and consist of plants that are shade intolerant. For example, the Ponderosa Pine has deep tap roots and thick, wind-resistant bark so it can survive along drier, southern slopes and along ridges. The following picture looks south and shows both northeastern and southeastern slopes.
The subsequent picture looks west and shows a northern slope. The plants and trees in the following picture get less sun than their southern slope counterparts.
The following video was taken from a perch on the soutwest side of Flatiron 1. It starts with a view to the south of Sunset Rock and then rotates west.
The following picture highlights another rock climbing access point. However, this is not the official 3rd Flatiron climbing access point. Instead, the following picture was taken (I think) about the 1/3 of the way up the 3rd Flatiron Climbing trail.
Continuing south on the 2nd and 3rd Flatiron loop leads you to the Royal Arch trail which connects to the Mesa trail.
The Mesa Trail starts at Bluebell Road and is worth noting because it is the beginning of a trail that runs 6.9 miles south from the Chautauqua Park trailhead. It is a popular because it can be hiked in all seasons.
This hike can be finished by following the Mesa Trail north via the Bluebell asphalt road. This final stretch provides a panoramic view of Boulder and the foothills along the city’s western edge.
In sum, Chautauqua Park is tremendously fun because of its numerous, interconnected trails that each have their own personality, scenery, and challenges. In addition, Mount Sanitas is nearby trail for hiking with dogs and trail running.
11 thoughts on “Chautauqua Park Flatiron Trails – Boulder, Colorado”
Is there any camping around the Flatirons?
No, camping is not allowed in Boulder’s Open Spaces and Mountain Parks so as to protect wildlife and vegetation.
Robert,I am from Arkansas and will be in Boulder to climb the Flatirons in about two weeks. Is there anywhere to camp that would not be to long of a drive to get to the Flatirons every morning? I am having trouble finding camp sites so any help would be great. Thanks,Kevin
Kevin, St Vrain State Park is 21 miles from Boulder: http://parks.state.co.us/Parks/StVrain/Camping/ and would be a 40 minute drive. Also, you can backcountry camp in Coulson Gulch: http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/arnf/recreation/trails/brd/coulson.pdf which would probably be about the same distance from Boulder.For camping closer to Boulder, I recommend calling the Chautauqua Park Ranger Cottage for suggestions: 303 442-3282
Robert,Thanks for all your help.Kevin
Kevin, you are welcome. Did you find camping options closer to Boulder than what I suggested?
Just to let you know, I called Chautauqua about camping near Boulder and they were useless. The woman said they don't allow camping in city limits and then had no suggestions whatsoever about where to go. One of the least helpful people I've ever talked to about tourist information.
Katie, sorry to hear that. Brainard Lake is not too far from Boulder and has an area for camping called Pawnee Campground: http://tinyurl.com/2f2v3b6See snowy pictures here: https://blog.twoknobbytires.com/2009/06/brainard-lake-snowshoeing-hiking-near.html
Katie, when we were there we found a place to camp right outside of Boulder. If you go out of Boulder on Hwy 119 ( Boulder Canyon Dr) watch on your right for a road called Fourmile Canyon Dr. Take it and go about a mile or so and there is a small camp ground on the left. I dont remember the name of it we ended up not staying we couldn't climb the Flatirons something about so kind of birds nesting and we were dealing with some rain. Hope this helps!
Kevin, thanks for the tip!
I wanted to climb and camp there also when I am out in Denver next week but it sounds like the only endangered specie in the Flat Irons is the "human being". I will take my tourist dollars elsewhere. Sounds like thats what they want anyway. No camping anywhere near or in the "Park". Nesting closures etc. I see this an over regulated piece of "open" space.