a VirtualTourist member from Ewing
My girlfriend and I just decided to go out to Boulder in a couple weeks because everyone who knows us says we will love the city. We don't have much time to plan so I am looking for some advice on hiking options. Preferably we want to avoid renting a car. Are there enough good hiking options in or near the city accessible by either foot or public transportation? Or will it be worth it for us to rent the car anyway and drive out to a better hike (e.g. Rocky Mountain NP). We're fairly experienced hikers although currently not in shape enough to do an insane hike. Also, coming from NJ, we will not be acclimitized to the altitude right away. We're interested in great scenery, possibly interested in a peak or two but have no idea what the February conditions will limit us to.
Thanks for any help!
I have been to the Boulder area twice in recent years. Aside from it being a very cool and green town there are a lot of hiking possibilities. Having a car will definitely help but you could make do without one if you are willing to settle for some good hikes but not with the most spectacular scenery.
Here is where you might consider;
In town- To acclimate yourselves I would start out with the White Trail (also known as the Ann White or Canyon Trail). It's about 3 miles round trip and has an altitude gain of under 500 feet. To get there To get to the trailhead, take Broadway north to Lee Hill Road. Heading west on Lee Hill road, turn left on Wagonwheel Gap road and left again on Pinto Drive to the trailhead (map). The tree-lined creek provides nice shade in the summer. This trail I have actually been on and its a very easy hike. There are a lot of rocks on the trail and it can be icy and wet during winter. (Directions courtesy of vistingboulder.com)
Another area which is still in town is called the Chautauqua. It is named after a park in the area. There are several trails running from the park some pretty flat and some that will give you a good workout. Mesa you will find pretty boring but for someone older like me its fine.
If you can handle an an altitude climb of just over 1,200 feet in a mile then I would recommend the Royal Arch Trail. To get there go the Chautauqua Ranger Station and follow the Mesa Trail. When you get to a shelter called Bluebell, you will see signs pointing to Royal Arch. There is a rocky ascent but if you are a moderate hiker you won't have a problem. You can go beyond this trail to Green Mountain Trail which increases the altitude gain to nearly 2,500 feet and adds another two plus miles to the trip. The trail from the shelter is just less than 1.5 miles and you will be able to test how well acclimated you are based on this trail. Definitely this time of year you could run into ice, mush and snow on these trails too. Rocks will be slippery. I have not been on any of these trails other than the first part of Mesa.
To get there you might be able to make it via public transportation, not sure. Take Highway 93 to Baseline road, then go on Baseline Road to Chautauqua Park. Get off there and that is where the trails begin.
Rocky Mountain NP has great scenery and trails but figure several hours getting there and several hours back.
In sum, no real need to rent a car if you are willing to take the bus and do some walking. Also check out the City of Boulder Parks site for other trails in the area.
TIP: If you decide to rent a car do so on weekends only. Cost is less than 50% of what it is during the week.
Unfortunately, hiking is going to be somewhat of a problem in a couple of weeks, as there will still be quite a bit of snow on the ground. The Rockies have been hit pretty hard this year. Even if you delayed the trip into early April, you'd hit Colorado's "mud season," which is the worst possible time to hike.
I tried to hike to Arapahoe Glacier from Eldora in early June and hit a wall of snow after only a mile and a half (after working hard to cross a frozen creek). There's a very short hiking season up there, unfortunately.
Hope you like skiing.
When hiking in the mountains, be sure to turn around periodically and look for a point behind you. This way it will be easier to find your way out.