One of the greatest things about living in or near Boulder is the multitude of hiking options readily available. Within just 10 minutes, you can be at a trailhead with your boots and day pack on, ready to explore. But in the winter months, the excitement for hiking can wane; the days are shorter, the temperature lower, and the trails just don’t seem quite as enticing.
Even though the cooler temps may put a chill in the air, don't let it dampen your spirits. Offseason hiking in Boulder can be just as rewarding as in the summer months. Colorado’s winters are generally mild, so you can often find hiking areas with limited or no snow, especially at lower elevations. Plus, the trails are considerably less crowded in the winter, which can make for an even better hiking experience.
Here's a look at some of the best places for winter hiking in and near Boulder.
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For starters, here’s a trail right in the heart of Boulder that takes you on a relatively quick trip (just over a mile one-way) up the area’s most defining geological feature: the Flatirons. It becomes a fairly upright, somewhat strenuous hike near the latter half, but the views of downtown Boulder and the Front Range from the top make it worth it. Ample sunlight means snow is minimal, even in the cold months.
Park at the Chautauqua Ranger cottage and head toward the Bluebell-Baird Trail junction. Bear left, then immediately head right, following the signs for Flatiron #1.
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Just outside Boulder, Eldorado Canyon is a quiet, easily accessible treasure with plentiful options for winter hiking and rock climbing. The multiple trails range from easy to difficult, with great views of the continental divide awaiting those that climb to higher altitudes.
Take Highway 93 south from Boulder. About 5 miles out of town, take a right at the stoplight on to Highway 170/Eldorado Springs Drive. Follow the road down through Eldorado Springs and you’ll end up at the state park entrance.
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This is a great hike for any time of year, but the quick trip to the top (45 minutes to an hour) and low trail elevation make it ideal for winter hiking. If you want a longer trek, start from the Chautauqua Trailhead, for a great half-day getaway. Hikers that make it to the end of the trail are rewarded with a beautiful sandstone arch and great views of the plains from above.
Start from the Chautauqua Ranger Cottage, and head up the Bluebell Mesa Trail. From there, follow signs for Royal Arch. Be sure you’re up for it; the total elevation gain is about 1,200 feet.
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Just a few minutes outside of Boulder, Betasso Preserve sits between Sugarloaf and Four Mile canyons. It’s a wide, well-maintained trail that is suitable for casual hikes or mountain biking (note: bikes not allowed on Wednesdays and Saturdays).
The main loop is 2.4 miles long, and there are plenty of offshoot trails for those that want a longer hike.
Take Highway 119/Canyon Road west out of Boulder. After roughly six miles turn right on Sugarloaf Road. Follow Sugarloaf about a mile, then take a right on Betasso Road. Follow it to the preserve and trailhead.Continue to 5 of 5 below.
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Red Rocks Trail at Settler's Park
First, don't confuse this popular hiking spot with Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater in Morrison, near Denver. Settler's Park is close to downtown Boulder and has trails for all levels of hikers.
Red Rocks Trail has several routes, but the most popular one for novice hikers is about a half mile long and begins at Settler's Park Trailhead. Walk toward the "five fins" and you'll be at an elevation of about 300 feet in no time, with a spectacular view of the city.
Take Boulder Canyon Drive west out of downtown Boulder, for less than a mile. Turn right on Pearl Street and you'll see Settler's Park.