Boulder, CO has so many great trails to choose from, it can sometimes feel overwhelming to decide on a day hike. So, we’ve curated a list of what we think are the best day hikes near Boulder to help you narrow down your choices! As with many Boulder hikes, some of these trails see heavy use; thus, it’s best to opt for an early start to avoid crowds. In addition, each of these hikes varies in length and difficulty, so choose according to your skill level. Happy hiking!
OUR FAVORITE DAY HIKES NEAR BOULDER
Flatirons Vista Loop – 3.5mi.
The Flatirons are immediately recognizable conglomeratic sandstone rocks formed as part of the Fountain Formation nearly 300 million years ago. Located in Boulder, the Flatirons Vista Loop is an easy 3.5 mile trail that is as picturesque as they come. It’s a great spring hike when the wildflowers are in bloom, but accessible year round. The trail is multi-use, so you will often share the loop with hikers, trail runners, mountain bikers, and the occasional equestrian.
Mount Sanitas Loop – 5.0mi.
Mount Sanitas, a 6,821ft. peak in Boulder, is an extraordinarily popular summit frequented by local hikers and trail runners. At the summit, visitors overlook downtown Boulder and the plains to the east. There are multiple trails leading to the summit, but for a moderate ascent, we prefer the 5.0 mile loop route beginning at the Centennial Trailhead via the Sunshine Canyon Trail, linking with the Lion’s Lair Trail, and concluding with a descent down the Mount Sanitas Trail.
Green Mountain Loop – 6.0mi.
The hike to the summit of Green Mountain (8,148ft.), adjacent to the amazing Flatirons, is a quintessential Boulder adventure. There are a few route options, but we prefer a loop hike starting at Chautauqua Park via the Chautauqua Trail for ease of parking. This is a moderate/difficult route, but the summit rewards hikers with expansive views overlooking downtown Boulder and the surrounding foothills.
South Boulder Peak & Bear Peak Loop – 9.0mi.
Along with Green Mountain, South Boulder Peak (8,549ft.) and Bear Peak (8,461ft.) are essential summits for every Boulder hiker. There are a few routes to choose from, but we like to start at the South Mesa Trailhead, which is a fee area if you don’t have a pass. This 9.0 mile loop takes you through Shadow Canyon and to South Boulder Peak via a short spur trail. Double back on the spur trail to the Bear Peak Trail and descend back to the South Mesa Trailhead.
First & Second Flatirons Loop – 2.8mi.
Seeing the Flatirons up close is a must do for every Boulder hiker! While this hike is short, it packs in amazing views of the iconic Flatirons and surrounding Boulder. This hike starts at Chautauqua Park, so we recommend arriving early and be prepared for crowds.
Hall Ranch Loop – 9.8mi.
We absolutely love this destination when we’re looking for a strenuous foothills outing. Hall Ranch is located in Boulder County, just west of downtown Lyons. The Hall Ranch Loop is the premier hike here. Beginning at the lower Hall Ranch parking area, start on the Bitterbrush Trail and quickly connect with the Nighthawk Trail to begin the loop in a clockwise direction. Continue up the Nighthawk Trail’s gradual incline to eventually reach a stunning vista of Mt. Meeker. After enjoying the view, connect with the Nelson Loop and back to the Bitterbrush Trail, ending on a downward slope back to the parking area.
Walker Ranch Loop – 7.9mi.
Walker Ranch is our go-to destination in Boulder for year round hiking. Hikers, trail runners, mountain bikers, anglers, and horseback riders regularly visit the park, especially on the weekends. Get the most out of your visit with the challenging 7.9 mile Walker Ranch Loop. The trail begins at the Walker Ranch Loop Trailhead parking lot. We prefer heading in a counter-clockwise direction, which descends towards South Boulder Creek and leads to Crescent Meadows. You’ll get some great views of mountains in the Indian Peaks Wilderness (notably North Arapaho Peak) too!
Heil Valley Ranch Picture Rock Trail – 10.4mi.
The Picture Rock Trail is a 10.4 mile out-and-back trail located in Heil Valley Ranch, close to Hall Ranch and the town of Lyons. The southern section of Heil Valley Ranch was unfortunately impacted by the Cal-Wood fire, though the park is now open to visitors. We love this trail as one of the best day hikes near Boulder for its sweeping foothills views; note that the trail is multi-use, so you’ll likely see hikers, runners, mountain bikers, and equestrians. The Picture Rock Trail abruptly ends at the Wild Turkey Loop Trail; but options abound if you’d like to extend the hike at this point.
Flagstaff Mountain Loop – 1.1mi.
When driving around Boulder you’ll inevitably want to travel on Flagstaff Road, which offers scenic views of downtown Boulder and the Flatirons. While here, try the short loop hike to Flagstaff Mountain (6,972ft.) for beautiful mountain vistas. We like starting at the lot right off of Flagstaff Road and ascending via the Ute Trail, then descending via the Range View Trail. There are many routes for this hike, but if your main goal is the summit, this route is one of the most straightforward.
Betasso Preserve Loop – 6.8mi.
Betasso Preserve is a popular bike riding and equestrian destination not far from downtown Boulder. But this park has a lot to offer to hikers and trail runners as well! We like merging the Canyon Loop trail with the Benjamin Trail Loop for a moderate 6.8 mile figure eight hike that treats visitors with beautiful mountain vistas. Because Betasso Preserve offers a bit more solitude than many other local parks, we consider this one of best day hikes near Boulder.
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