Top 5 Short Hikes in Boulder

For the novice hiker, there are plenty of short hikes with great Boulder views

View from Boulder's Flatiron Trail
••• Andrew Peacock/Getty Images

The state of Colorado is a hiker’s heaven, with plentiful opportunities to hit the trails no matter where you are, from Fort Collins to Durango. Boulder is great because of its proximity to the mountains and the wide range of options; a five-minute drive through town can have you at a trailhead in the foothills, and a long trek up I-70 opens up almost limitless possibilities for mountain hikes.

Sometimes, though, you don’t have time for a lengthy excursion through the hills. These hikes will give you a taste of the outdoors and a decent workout but can be completed in an hour or less.

  • 01 of 05

    This is an easy to moderate hike at the very north end of Boulder, just past where Broadway merges with 28th St. The total loop is just over 2 miles, and it will take about an hour and a half to complete at a steady pace. The hike takes you up and over the north Boulder foothills, with good views of the snow-capped Rockies at the top.

    At the start of Hogback Ridge Loop, veer right and take the steady incline to the crest of the hill. After gaining about 1,000 feet, you’ll be to the top of the ridge and get a great look at the foothills to the west and Boulder and the plains to the east. The hardest part of the hike is over, and following the ridge south takes you down a steeper decline to complete the loop.

    Getting There: Drive north on Highway 36/28th Street past where it merges with Broadway. Continue north and in less than a half mile, turn right into the parking lot at the Foothills Trailhead. Take the Foothills Trail underneath 28th until it meets the Hogback Ridge Loop.

  • 02 of 05
    View of Boulder from Mount Sanitas
    ••• View of Boulder from Mount Sanitas. Hustvedt/Wikimedia Commons

    Sanitas is one of Boulder’s most popular hiking spots, and while it’s on the long end of the “short” hikes, you can still knock out the round trip in two hours. If you’re looking for a workout, this is a good one; the 3-mile loop ranges from moderate to strenuous.

    Follow the well-marked trail around the back of the sandstone peak. The hike gets more difficult near the top, but at the summit are plenty of good spots to take a break and take in the views of Boulder.

    Getting There: In Boulder, take Broadway north and turn left (west) on Mapleton Ave. Head west until you see signs for the Mount Sanitas Trailhead on the right. There are a few parking spots along the road, but if they’re full you can find parking in one of a few small lots near the trail.

  • 03 of 05
    Flatirons in Autumn
    ••• Eddyl/Wikimedia Commons/ CC BY-SA 3.0

    There are multiple options for quick vertical hikes up the Flatirons. Starting at the Chautauqua Ranger Station, you can choose a trail to take you up Flatiron #1, 2, or 3 (or all of them!). The hikes generally gain 1,500 feet of elevation and run 90 minutes to 2 hours round trip.

    The Flatirons hikes are some of the best in town because they take you up Boulder’s signature feature and offer a great elevation gain in minimal time. Flatiron #1 is the best trail for first-timers; start there and move on to 2 and 3 on your next outings.

    Getting There: Park at the Chautauqua Ranger Cottage, which can be reached by taking Baseline Road west past Broadway. The parking lot is often full, but ample street parking assures you’ll almost always get a spot at this crowded trailhead. Head west through the main meadow toward the Bluebell-Baird Trail junction, then follow the signs for whichever Flatiron trail you choose.

  • 04 of 05

    Lichen Loop is a short and easy hike in the park that you can complete in around a half hour.

    The loop starts by crossing a bridge over a small creek, and after that is essentially a gentle climb up through a thin pine forest. The climb is only a few hundred feet total, but at the top, you still get decent views of the surrounding area.

    Getting There: Take 28th St. north to Left Hand Canyon Drive (about 4.5 miles past Broadway). Go left on Left Hand Canyon Drive, then take a right less than a mile later on Geer Canyon Road. Follow the road about a mile and look for signs for the trailhead, which will be on the right.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    The hike to Boulder Falls is actually more of a short walk but the spectacular setting is well worth the short trip.The falls themselves are nestled at the end of the short trail.

    Note: Boulder Falls is closed from Nov. 1 to April 30.

    Getting There: From Boulder, take Canyon Drive (SR 119) west 11 miles. Look for signs for Boulder Falls (it is on the right), and park directly across the street on the south side.