Friday, April 16, 2010

Royal Arch in Boulder Colorado

Did you know there is a huge rock arch formation in Boulder, Colorado; similar to the arches found in Utah? 
This huge rock formation is worth the long steep hike to reach it for the incredible views of Boulder and the Flatiron Mountains. 

The warm spring air makes me very excited to wake up early, get out the door and on the trail!  For all the hikes I have done in this state, Boulder is one place that I have not hiked very much.  This is mostly due to the crowded trails, but they are crowded for a reason; the Flatiron Mountains are amazingly beautiful and unique.  Boulder is also very dog friendly and has unique leash laws that allow dogs to be offleash on certain trails if you register your dog with a voice and sight tag.  More information on this can be found here.   The trail starts at the Chautauqua Trailhead in Boulder. 

Getting there:  From the Golden area, drive up highway 93 to the town of Boulder and turn west or left on Baseline Road.  Continue on Baseline for about a mile until you reach Chautauqua Open Space Park on the left.   Park in the parking lot at the park, or on Baseline Road if the lot is full; just be careful to park only where it's marked. 
There are several ways to reach the Royal Arch trail, which is a 1.1 mile, out-and-back trail.  Start on the Chautauqua trail and take an Open Space map before you start hiking.   The route I took to reach the Royal Arch Trail was: start on the Chautauqua Trail, next I took the 2nd -3rd Flatiron Access Trail which goes directly under the huge Flatiron Mountains and that loops around to intersect the Royal Arch Trail.  The Royal Arch Trail is 1.1 miles one way to reach the Arch. 

The Journey:  I woke up early on Thursday to get some work done before I left the house to drive up to Boulder.  Driving up highway 93, the sun was reflecting off the Flatiron Mountains making them almost glow.  I reached the Chautauqua trailhead around 10:30am, and it was already crowded.  The dogs were so excited to get out of the car and start hiking!  We started up the Chautauqua trail, which is a pretty steep trail that leads you under the Flatiron Mountains.  The Boulder trails are very well marked with maps at most trail intersections; so it's easy to make sure you are going the right way.  I decided to take the longer route by hiking the 2nd and 3rd Flatiron loop before reaching the Royal Arch Trail.  This trail takes the hiker directly underneath the Flatirons; climbers can scale the mountains here, while onlookers can watch in awe.   After about 40 minutes, I reached the start of the Royal Arch trail.  There trail immediately gets very steep and rocky as you hike up the trail through the woods; large unique rock formations can be seen along the way. 
Once you reach the top of the mountain; the trail then heads down into a rocky ravine, make sure you follow the signs here to head down the mountain.  Next the trail gains elevation again, all the way to the arch.  This part of the trail is definitely steep and rocky; at one point the trail climbs up a waterfall which can be very slippery.  Just as the hike gets really tough, the arch comes into view!  What a great reward after a tough hike!  The arch is much larger and more incredible than the photos make it look. 

Just beside the arch are the Flatiron Mountains; the Flatirons are breeding grounds for eagles and raptors; you can look up and see the huge birds flying in and out of the rocks.  It was amazing to watch the birds soaring above the mountains.  There are several good spots to sit and check out the amazing views at the Arch, unfortunately for me, they were all taken.  After snapping some shots of the arch and city views to the east, I started back down the Royal Arch Trail to the Chautauqua trail.  This was a different route than on the ascent.   It took me about 1 hour and 40 minutes to reach the arch, and about 50 minutes to get back down the steep trail to my car just after 1pm.  The route I took is approximately 4.5 miles long.  Here is a map; in blue you can see my route.   

Click on the map to the right to enlarge it. 

There are so many trails to check out at the Chautauqua Park and I will definitely be back to climb Flatiron number one in the near future. Have you hiked to the Royal Arch or are you familiar with the Chautauqua trails?  I would love to hear about your favorite Boulder trail or hike. 

Below is a map to get directions to the trail, click map and input your address for your own personalized directions.


  1. Hey, I stumbled across your blog while researching local trails; I'm new to Denver and your blog has helped me tremendously! Thanks for the wonderful details and pics!

  2. I am so glad the blog helped you out! When I moved to CO, I could only seem to find Open Space trails and quickly got tired of them after hiking so frequently. This blog was started to list some of the other amazing trails in Colorado!

  3. When will this trail re-open from its recent re-construction?

  4. There is no date yet to re-open. Many of these trails were severely damaged in the floods last September.
    Here is the most recent info from the site.