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Tyson Gillard | 12.01.2015

Hiking in Boulder is fantastic. So much so, I often say it's hard to find a bad trail to hike on. But if you're new to the area or looking for family-friendly options that are good for all ages, these are 15 of my favorite places to go.

McClintock Trail

A relatively flat and short trail that passes through a beautiful ponderosa forest. It's quieter than other nearby trails, but sadly, dogs are not permitted.

South Boulder Creek via Bobolink Trailhead

This kid-friendly trail has great views of the Front Range, and it's conveniently accessed from downtown Boulder. Be on the lookout for the occasional bike, or grab your own, but stick to the designated areas.

Mount Sanitas Trail

This true gem of Boulder hiking is right outside of town, but because of its location it can get pretty crowded. If you don't mind sharing the trail with others, the views are magnificent. 

Chautauqua Trail

The Chautauqua Trail is a fun, short hike with great views of the Flatirons. Expansive meadows rich with wildflowers make it a great place to take photos. Informative signs spaced along the trail share information on the flora, fauna, and human history.

Walden Ponds Wildlife Habitat

Less a hike than a place to stroll in nature, Walden Ponds is a great place to enjoy watching birds and other abundant wildlife. The ponds are an ecologically restored site that was a gravel pit mine until the 1960s and is now a wildlife sanctuary. Don't forget to bring a pair of binoculars.

Royal Arch Hike

I'm a sucker for any hike that takes me through a giant natural rock arch, and given the popularity of this hike I'm not the only one. The steepness of the trail makes it a worthy accomplishment for kids and the views make it all the more impressive.

Fowler Trail

This is an impressive hike in Eldorado State Park to the south of Boulder. The short trail offers impressive views and an opportunity to watch climbers on the surrounding rock faces. It's a nice, easy trail that's good for the whole family.

Bear Peak via Fern Canyon

The Flatirons invite hikers to take to the hills just outside of Boulder. While reaching the summit of many of the peaks require some climbing or mountaineering experience, Bear Peak is a strenuous but accessible option. The views from atop are spectacular. Note that areas north of the trail are closed from February through July to protect nesting raptors.

Red Rocks Trail

This trail leaves from the edge of town, meaning you could conceivably walk from downtown shops right into the beauty of the Front Range on this hike. The hike around Red Rocks is a short trail that'll leave you wanting to go deeper into the surrounding mountains.

Mitchell Lake + Blue Lake

A popular yet wildlife-filled day hike in the mountains awaits summer visitors to Mitchell Lake + Blue Lake in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. Moose are a common site in the area, as are marmots and other alpine species. The 6-mile round-trip hike with moderate elevation gain is an accessible way to experience the glory of the Rocky Mountains outside of Boulder.

Mount Audubon Hike

From the Mitchell Lake Trailhead, the hike to the summit of Mount Audubon is a more strenuous hike that gets you above 13,000 feet. The views of the Indian Peaks Wilderness from atop Mount Audubon are truly spectacular. Watch for moose at the start of the trail, and also note that due to the popularity of trails leaving from the trailhead, parking can fill up fast.

Long Lake via Jean Lunning Trail

Finding kid-friendly hikes in the mountains can be a challenge, but the hike to Long Lake via the Jean Lunning Trail is a perfect option. The less than 3-mile loop around the lake enchants hikers with spectacular high alpine scenery and abundant wildlife. The trail can be extended with more options from the lake's north shore (see below).

Diamond Lake

Getting here requires braving a long and bumpy gravel road, but once you've made it, the trail is great. Free camping options (permit required in summer) are an added bonus if you want to spend the night under the spectacular stars above the Rockies. Along the hike into Diamond Lake, waterfalls and wildlife abound. August is a great time to enjoy the abundance of wildflowers in bloom.

Long Lake, Lake Isabelle + Pawnee Pass

This extension of the hike around Long Lake (from above) takes you deeper into the majesty of Colorado's Rocky Mountains. Pawnee Pass sits at 12,550 feet on the Continental Divide, and it marks the border between the Roosevelt and Arapaho National Forests.

Hall Ranch: Nighthawk Trail

Hall Ranch, north of Boulder, is a designated open space with many multi-use trails. The Nighthawk Trail is the only one exclusively reserved for hiking, allowing for some solitude in an area loved by mountain bikers. Beware of rattlesnakes.


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