Exploring Boulder’s best kept secrets with locals who know best.
Everyone loves a good secret. Be it the hot new speakeasy, an upcoming marriage proposal, or a hidden parking garage downtown, the only thing better than one secret is three.
As a way to give outdoor enthusiasts new places to explore, local experts graciously shared their favorite secret spots to hike, bike and climb around Boulder, and what makes each place unique.
Casey is the creator and founder of the Boulder-based recreational culinary school, Food Lab. Along with being a chef in Boulder for over 15 years, she is also a running and hiking advocate, which she playfully describes as “one just being faster than the other.”
Heil Valley Ranch – Picture Rock Trail
It’s not a very used trail. It’s winding and very beautiful with many trees. It’s a lollipop — hikers go straight up from the trailhead and then hit a loop at the top, which looks like a lollipop on a map — so you can make it what you want. It’s eight miles round-trip, or with the lollipop, you can make it 12 miles
The beginning of the hike is open. Going up, it’s mellow switchbacks and eventually becomes a bit rocky; you basically get all terrain. At the top of a loop is a viewpoint that looks over the San Vrain Valley.
It’s open for everything. There’s a great running trail. They allow dogs on leash, and it’s pretty mellow. They also allow mountain bikers, but it’s a quiet trail. You usually have it to yourself, especially in the mornings.
As a climber for over 45 years, Daly has seen just about everything. While he is known for surviving a life-threatening climbing accident in Alaska, he has also become a motivational speaker and outspoken advocate for climbers with disabilities and a part of the outdoor shop Neptune Mountaineering.
South Saint Vrain Canyon – Monkey Skull
You can have any crag within this 30-mile canyon to yourself anytime, and it’s 30 minutes from Boulder. The best part of the secret is the fact that it’s actually pretty accessible.
Nobody goes there. It’s a chopped up area; it isn’t obvious. The crags aren’t all beautiful and paneled — a few of them are — but for the most part, each little crag has less than a dozen routes, and they might be short or carved up a little bit. However, if you want secret climbing in Boulder, if you want to go where you won’t be bothered by people, this is it.
It’s an opportunity for adventure. When you go there, you’re still exploring a little bit. There’s ticks, spiders, bobcats, mountain lions, snakes and all that other stuff. They’re everywhere, and with fewer people around, you are more likely to see them.
Along with being the local biking expert, Taro Smith is known professionally as a renowned health and movement expert, yoga teacher, Co-founder of 90 Monkeys and Boulder Cycle Sport, artist, photographer, scientist, athlete, yogi, and conservationist.
Signature Boulder County Loop
This highly challenging ride is a combination of road and gravel with copious amounts of climbing for the ambitious cyclist. I find that I’m pressed for time to make a day trip into an epic ride to create my own highly efficient, challenging and convenient routes right from the house. Although a local route, it touches on all the elements that Boulder has to offer: epic climbs, the bulk of the route is away from traffic, has incredible views of the Front Range and Continental Divide, as well as occasional wildlife sightings of bear, deer and elk.