Whether you’re a local or a first-time Front Range visitor, hiking is an ideal way to explore our gorgeous state. Here are six of my favorite day hikes within an hour’s drive of Boulder. Be sure to get an early-morning start to avoid afternoon thunderstorms, and bring along plenty of warm clothes, rain gear, sunscreen, and water—no matter how long you think you’ll be out.
This short trail climbs steeply through the Flatirons to a beautiful natural arch and one of Boulder’s most breathtaking vistas. From the parking area in historic Chautauqua Park, the trail climbs 1,500 feet in 1.75 miles (one way) to a rocky perch with sweeping views of the forested foothills, the sparkling city, and the flat plains stretching to the horizon.
Another short but hardy local hike (or jog) is the route that climbs Mount Sanitas. From the trailhead, not far from the western edge of Boulder’s bustling Pearl Street Mall, there are two options to the top. The most popular is the 1.1-mile (one way) Mount Sanitas Trail, which runs up the mountain’s steep and rocky south ridge. A slightly longer alternative is to ascend via the Sanitas Valley and East Ridge trails. Either way, you’ll enjoy great views of the university, the Pearl Street Mall, and the surrounding scenery from the top.
This classic uphill hike ascends Boulder’s most prominent mountain, 8,461-foot-high Bear Peak. From the National Center for Atmospheric Research parking lot, the 2.8-mile (one way) route first leads you down the Walter Orr Roberts Trail, past a green water tank, to an intersection with the Mesa Trail. Follow this south about 1.2 miles to the Fern Canyon Trail, which climbs steeply through the fabulous Flatirons to a surprisingly craggy summit, where you’ll need to carefully scramble on hands and feet to reach the lofty top.
Although high in elevation, this easy-to-follow trail up 13,229-foot Mount Audubon rewards you with stunning views of wildflower-filled meadows and snow-capped peaks. The route, which begins at the Mitchell Trailhead 17 miles west of the mountain town of Nederland, climbs 3,000 feet in four miles (one way) to a rocky summit where, in good weather, you can search for scurrying marmots and enjoy the expansive views that stretch all the way from Denver to Rocky Mountain National Park.
For unparalleled views of Longs Peak’s Diamond face (a world-famous alpine climb), hike up the nearby 11,428-foot Twin Sisters peak. This 3.5-mile (one way) route climbs 2,400 feet to a twin summit with singular views of the Continental Divide. Along the way, the trail crosses a landslide scar left from the dramatic 2013 floods.
The trail up Wild Basin, an outlying area of Rocky Mountain National Park, is a popular route that passes meadows filled with wildflowers and several gushing waterfalls. While some people may want to walk 4.2 miles (one way) to sparkling Chasm Lake, this out-and-back trail is also a great option for those who want a peaceful place to picnic or a hike requiring a little less commitment.