The very pleasant hike starts just above the city of Boulder at the Colorado Chautauqua, which is only a few miles a way from downtown. The Colorado Chautauqua arose as a camp in 1898 and counts a number of 99 cottages as of today. An amount of 58 of them are available for tourists to rent. On some houses there will even be a number indicating the year of construction. The Chautauqua was an adult education movement out of the late nineteenth century that managed to spread all over the United States and brought entertainment and culture for the whole community. Lifelong learning, love of nature and a great interest in culture are among the ideals of the movement. The Colorado Chautauqua is one of the very few Chautauquas still operating continuously since the heyday of the movement in the 1920s and the only one open for public visit free of charge. Moreover, it was named a National Historic Landmark in 2006.
The trail begins at the Ranger Cottage and follows the way up the slightly rising Bluebell Hiking Trail. Here you'll have a magnificent view to the fascinating Flatirons, one of Boulders very special landmarks. Interestingly enough, the rocks got their name from female settlers that were reminded of flat-ironing while looking at them. Meanwhile, if you take a glimpse back at the trail you can enjoy the view onto Boulder and the Great Plains.
Soon you will get to a junction from where you follow the Mesa Trail sign to the left. Then you will get to a path that leads your way through the woods.
A smell of vanilla and butterscotch
Eventually you will reach a turning point from which the next part of the way will be a little bit more difficult and going uphill. Subsequently there will be another junction where you will take a right. This will take you to a first elevation with very unique trees all around you. Just take a short break here and smell the air around you. Can you smell the taste of vanilla and butterscotch that comes off the Ponderosa Pines?
Now it goes downhill with a slight inclination until you reach a fork in the path where you turn left to get onto a gravel road. The surroundings start to get clearer and brighter as the way continues and you can begin to enjoy yet another great view of Boulder and the Great Plains. After crossing a small bridge you have reached the camps of Colorado Chautauqua once again, before the trail ends on an Auditorium, where concerts and screenings are held regularly.
Where to eat
There are no places to get food directly on the tour. However, you may get a refreshing drink and something to eat at the beginning or ending of your trip on the Chautauqua terrain. You can eat breakfast and lunch at the Dining Hall, where it is wonderful to enjoy the regional cuisine on the outside veranda. Furthermore, the neighbored “Cottage 100” offers coffee and pastries of many kind beside hike equipment and souvenirs for those who had enough to eat.
- You're traveling a distance of 3 miles on this easy trail. The hike is therefore not too long. The average length of all hikes in Colorado is 9 miles.
- Elevated between 558 ft and 6132 ft, the hike is among the 3 highest elevated hikes in the USA. You're facing an uphill climb of 371 vertical meters on this hike. This makes the hike one of the 5 hikes with the most ascent in the USA.
- This easy hike is perfect for the whole family. What’s even better: You can also bring the family’s best friend on this dog friendly hike.
- In case of good weather conditions, the hike can also be done without bringing your hiking boots. There are places to buy beverages and food along the track. However it’s always recommended to bring enough water and food along with you.
Highlights of the tour
In addition to the beautiful landscape the panorama views of the distinctive Flatirons and the city of Boulder with the Great Plains are absolute highlights of the tour.
Sturdy shoes are of advantage as the trail is very stony at times.
Boulder is located on the US Highway 36, about 50 kilometers away from Colorado's state capital Denver. Take the exit “Baseline Rd” right before the University of Colorado (CU Boulder) and follow the road. Then turn towards Colorado Chautauqua onto the Kinnikinic Road which leads directly to the parking lot of the terrain.
Using public transportation:
Because there are only a few parking spaces available at the Colorado Chautauqua it is beneficiary to park your car in the city and take the bus (line: "Hop") towards Chautauqua. Get off the bus at the Columbia Cemetery station (College Ave & 9th St). In addition, there are buses operating regularly between Denver and Boulder.