Boulder, CO: Flatirons Loop

Get up-close and personal with Boulder's signature Flatirons on this popular 2.9-mile loop that leads to a rocky perch high above Chautauqua Park.
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Get up-close and personal with Boulder's signature Flatirons on this popular 2.9-mile loop that leads to a rocky perch high above Chautauqua Park.

With the greater Denver area extending to the east and the miles of untamed wilderness stretching to the west, you'll truly be straddling the edge of civilization on this 2.9-mile local favorite in Chautauqua Park. From the Ranger Cottage, follow the Bluebell Road (an emergency access road) for an easy climb through a golden meadow. After half a mile, pick up the narrow Royal Arch Trail as it weaves through a dense pine forest before hitting the Bluebell-Baird Trail. The path steepens and passes several side trails to popular bouldering spots.
Catch your first panoramas of the expansive eastern plains as you continue toward the junction with the First-Second Flatiron Trail. At the intersection, bear left onto First-Second Flatiron Trail and prepare to climb a series of moderate yet rocky switchbacks. Half a mile later, you'll reach the hike's highpoint—the saddle between the monolithic First Flatiron and Sunset Rock.
Enjoy stunning, 360-degree views of the surrounding landscapes: metropolitan Denver to the east, a sweeping natural rock amphitheater to the west, and the jagged peaks of the Flatirons to the north and south. Hikers with an insatiable appetite for adventure can climb even higher by bouldering up the magnificent rock formations that form the saddle's frame. Backtrack to the Bluebell-Baird Trail and bear left to finish the clockwise loop back to the trailhead.
-Mapped by Brian Beer and Kim Phillips

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 4.7

Waypoints

FIL001

Location: 39.999006, -105.282822

From the parking area, head south on the paved Bluebell Road.

FIL002

Location: 39.998826, -105.282897

Continue heading straight on the Bluebell Road @ 3-way intersection near the Ranger Cottage. The paved path climbs gently for about 0.5 mile as it meanders through a rolling meadow.

FIL003

Location: 39.991693, -105.285378

Bear right onto the Royal Arch Trail. There are restrooms about 100 feet past the junction.

FIL004

Location: 39.99177, -105.28598

Veer left @ Y-junction as the meadow begins to yield to stands of ponderosa pines.

FIL005

Location: 39.991019, -105.28747

At the 4-way junction, veer left to stay on the Royal Arch Trail. The Bluebell Shelter (located at the trail junction) offers a perfect spot to stop for a picnic lunch.

FIL006

Location: 39.991186, -105.287958

Cross a small boardwalk as the trail narrows and you fully leave the meadow and enter a pine forest.

FIL007

Location: 39.98926, -105.288699

At the Y-junction, bid adieu to the Royal Arch Trail and turn right onto the Bluebell-Baird Trail. After about 500 feet, the path becomes rockier and steeper.

FIL008

Location: 39.989546, -105.289965

The trees clear as the path weaves through a rugged boulder field.

FIL009

Location: 39.98946, -105.290625

At the Y-junction, bear right to bypass the Third Flatiron climbing access and continue on the Bluebell-Baird Trail. Carved into the side of a steep slope, the path steadily dips while offering a distant glimpse of the Denver skyline to the southeast.

FIL010

Location: 39.990405, -105.290238

The trail levels out and opens up to a spectacular panorama of Boulder and the seemingly infinite eastern plains.

FIL011

Location: 39.991966, -105.289246

At the Y-junction, turn left onto First-Second Flatiron Trail. Ahead, the trail begins its 0.5-mile ascent to a rocky saddle between the Flatirons.

FIL012

Location: 39.991318, -105.292039

Bear left @ Y-junction. About 40 feet down the path, pass a wooden bridge leading to climbing routes, then bear left to continue your ascent.

FIL013

Location: 39.990968, -105.291617

Reach another boulder field and take in more striking views of Boulder and the Front Range to the north.

FIL014

Location: 39.990343, -105.293135

After the trail delves into a series of moderate switchbacks, the trees break to reveal a magnificent sandstone rock face that offers plenty of bouldering opportunities. About 50 feet further, trees frame a postcard-like vista of the CU campus.

FIL015

Location: 39.989722, -105.293859

The trail culminates at the saddle between the jagged First Flatiron and Sunset Rock and offers views of a sweeping natural rock amphitheater to the west. More adventurous hikers can continue scrambling up the inviting rocks at this popular bouldering spot. Next, return to Waypoint 11 and turn left (north).

FIL016

Location: 39.992032, -105.289224

Turn left @ T-junction onto the Bluebell-Baird Trail.

FIL017

Location: 39.992854, -105.289214

Continuing your descent, follow signs to the Ranger Cottage at this four-way intersection.

FIL018

Location: 39.994029, -105.287423

The gradually thinning trees open up to a gentle meadow as the trail widens and smooths out.

FIL019

Location: 39.995679, -105.286263

Bear left @ Y-junction and continue descent through the meadow.

FIL020

Location: 39.997153, -105.285542

Bear right while taking in views of Flagstaff Mountain, Mount Sanitas, the red-roofed CU campus, and the Front Range stretching to the north. Follow the path back to the Ranger Cottage and parking area.

The Flatirons

Location: 39.998821, -105.282873

The Flatirons rise behind a grassy meadow in Chautauqua Park.

Top of Bluebell Road

Location: 39.991597, -105.285547

An outhouse sits at the top of Bluebell Road.

Bluebell Shelter Sign

Location: 39.991716, -105.285936

View of the Flatirons

Location: 39.991785, -105.286

Bluebell Shelter

Location: 39.991194, -105.287124

Trail Junction

Location: 39.98937, -105.290418

Trail Sign

Location: 39.989263, -105.288694

Boulder Field

Location: 39.989527, -105.290159

Wildlife

Location: 39.990282, -105.290346

Trail Sign

Location: 39.991309, -105.29195

Views of Boulder

Location: 39.990914, -105.291896

Flatirons

Location: 39.989735, -105.293865

Flatirons

Location: 39.989735, -105.293865

Overlook

Location: 39.989717, -105.293828

Deer

Location: 39.991935, -105.28992

Deer

Location: 39.991935, -105.28992

Chautauqua Trail Sign

Location: 39.993114, -105.28903

Chautauqua Trail

Location: 39.993114, -105.28903

Meadow along the Chautauqua Trail

Location: 39.993762, -105.288334

Flatirons from the Chautauqua Trail

Location: 39.99564, -105.286294

Chautauqua Trail Sign

Location: 39.99728, -105.285467