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