Chautauqua Trail is the most popular trail in what is perhaps the most visited mountain park in Boulder, Chautauqua Park. Follow the well-traveled path leading from the parking area and directly across the meadow toward the huge rock slabs called the Flatirons. It is the shortest route to the rocks, and it joins with other scenic loops, which explains the high traffic. Take this route to access Ski Jump Loop, the trail leading up the First and Second Flatirons, or the Royal Arch Trail. You can also link up with Enchanted Mesa a bit further south. If you come to climb, Chautauqua is the trail you take to access routes on the First Flatiron, as well as on the other two.
In addition to the picturesque Flatirons, other views from the trail include West Boulder, Mount Sanitas, and a glimpse into Gregory Canyon. If you continue up the hill on another trail you can see all the way to Fort Collins in one direction and to downtown Denver in the other.
As you explore the area you'll find numerous wildflowers, lizards sunning on the rocks, birds flitting among the bushes, and butterscotch-scented ponderosa pine trees. Keep an eye out for informative signage that explains the area's natural environment and human history. The visitor center offers additional exhibits and rangers on staff. Near the parking area are public restrooms and a large grassy area with picnic tables.
One drawback is that trailhead parking is often full during the summer, even on weekdays. You can park along the street on Baseline Road, but even this sometimes fills. You may find additional parking within the surrounding neighborhoods, or you can reach the park by bus from the city.
Note: This is a Voice an Sight Trail, which means that dogs are permitted off leash with the following conditions: (1) Guardians must be registered in the Voice and Sight Tag Program, (2) Voice and Sight Tags must be displayed on the dogs, (3) Guardian has a leash for each dog, with no more than two dogs.
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