What Makes Boulder Exceptional and Trails for Every Level
No matter what your age or fitness level, Boulder affords all of us the opportunity to experience a truly unique and splendid natural environment right outside our front door.
Ken Steckline is a Colorado native and Boulder area resident of nearly three decades. He has been on every trail Boulder has to offer and now he’s helping us put a finger on what makes our home so uniquely outstanding.
Steckline begins by explaining, “What’s really special about Boulder trailheads are that they start from the edge of town. There’s so many of them that take you right up into the mountains. Also, there’s nothing like the Flat Irons. There’s nothing like them anywhere that I’ve been, especially not on the Front Range, for foothills hiking.”
Most new residents to the area aren’t familiar with the term Flat Irons and need to have it explained. Fortunately, there is a good visual reference from town.
While it’s easy to quickly become jaded by the massive flat rock formations, Steckline reminds us that, “…otherwise it just looks like the Rockies everywhere. I’ve been through the Rockies up into Montana and Wyoming, the big areas are about the same. Hiking those peaks (Flat Irons) are more dramatic, quality hikes because the views of the Front Range, Boulder and everything out west into the mountains is awesome.”
Steckline’s favorite Boulder hikes all stem from the Chautauqua Park Trailheads just off Baseline Road that lead you into the Flat Irons. Hiking on the Flat Irons also lets you explore for caves, watch rock climbers push their limits and gaze at glider planes that seem to be only a few hundred feet overhead.
Lastly, the native Coloradan brings up a point that has been echoed from notable state migrants such as Olympic snowboarder Alex Deibold, triathlete/Ironman Mirinda Carfrae and professional rock climber Matt Segal. Which is, living in Boulder isn’t just about what’s available in the city or county limits. Living here opens you up to a whole world of fascinating, challenging and moment creating terrain, no matter what you fancy for outdoor fun.
When asked if there’s anything special to look for when out hiking, Steckline responds with a laugh.
“Sure, a mountain lion,” he says. Ken merely means for everyone to stay alert and safe.
Here are a few trails to try for every level of outdoorsman…or outdoorswoman:
Bald Mountain: Pine to Peaks Loop – This short hike is great for family picnics, time alone and sprawling views of the plains and Continental Divide.
Legion Park: Legion Loop – At just under a mile, this loop takes you to the hilltop park which was once known as Goodview Hill, a lookout point for local Native Americans. The ecosystem surrounding the park is full of prairie dogs, which means there’s a chance at spotting a raptor hunting for a meal. Keep your head up and your eyes open!
Betasso Preserve: Benjamin Loop – Popular for hiking and biking, this singletrack trail curves, bends, descends and brings you back up again. The moderate hiker will find this trail gratifying due to the varying terrain.
Flagstaff Mountain: Flagstaff Trail – Another amazing hike just off Baseline Road, this steep trail errs on the difficult side due to the slope and length (approx. 2.5 miles). Watch for motorist and high-speed cyclist as the trail crosses a switchbacking road five times, but don’t let the traffic deter you from reaching the summit of this Boulder icon.
Chautauqua Park: Royal Arch – Get up close and personal with the Flat Irons on this narrow and steep trail that leads up a gulch which springs a diverse array of plant life to explore. After reaching the Royal Arch you can find one of several outcroppings perch on and take in the view.
Green Mountain: Gregory Canyon Trail – Follow a stream up the switchbacks to a 100-mile vista. This strenuous, but rewarding trail allows hikers to split off onto connecting routes and create their own loops.