Boulder, Colorado is a hiker's dream. Nestled at the base of the front range of Colorado's rocky mountains, it offers many excellent parks and protected open space areas within and surrounding the city. Chautauqua Park is home to several great trailheads that lead into the area surrounding the Flatirons. From the intersection of Broadway and Baseline, take Baseline road west. Chautauqua Park is located at the intersection of Baseline road and Grant place. Parking at the trailhead can be scarce on weekends, so you may end up having to park along Baseline road. There is a ranger cottage at the trailhead which I highly recommend visiting. The staff are knowledgeable about the area, and the taxidermy exhibit of local animals is quite interesting. Clean bathrooms and vending machines are also available here.
There are several trails that start in this area. One of the more popular trails to take is a loop made by combining the Chautauqua and Blue Bell Mesa trails. Start at the Chautauqua trailhead located west of the ranger cottage. The trail gradually climbs as it heads southwest towards the Flatirons. After 0.2 miles you will reach a junction with the Ski Jump trail that leads west. Continue southwest on the Chautauqua trail until the first junction with the Blue Bell Mesa trailhead at the 0.3 mile mark. For this description I will cover the loop in counter clockwise direction. Continue straight on the Chautauqua trail. As you continue you slow ascent, the Flatirons loom closer and closer. If you look closely, you may spot rock climbers on the one of the rock faces.
The trail switchbacks a couple of times before reaching the intersection with the Bluebell-Baird trail at the 0.6 mile mark. Turn left and take the Bluebell-Baird trail east for 0.1 mile until you reach the intersection with the Bluebell Mesa trail. Turn left again and take the Bluebell Mesa trail north east. This section of the trail will slowly descend the mountain, but along the way are a few spots where you can stop and soak up some nice views of Boulder. After 0.3 miles the trail will cut back west at the intersection with the Bluebell Spur trail. Continue by heading west on the Bluebell Mesa trail for 0.1 mile until it connects back with the Chautauqua trail. Turn right and take the Chautauqua trail 0.3 miles back to the parking lot.
- Sep 08 2012 ferazamboni