Chautauqua Park is the crown jewel of Boulder’s local trail network and the Royal Arch hike is an ideal sampler for fit (or resilient) first-timers. Starting from the Ranger Cottage, begin hiking up the Chautauqua Trail and turn off onto the Bluebell Mesa Trail before the path disappears into the woods.
About 1.1 miles in, the gradual grade ticks up to not-so-gradual, as the trail begins a two-tiered, 0.7-mile climb up to Royal Arch. Slogging up a series of rock steps, this stretch will leave your lungs hurting on the way up, and then take a toll on your knees on the way down. The view from the top is worth it, though: Royal Arch, a rock edifice perched between drainages, offers various overlooks up and down the Front Range. After backtracking downhill for a bit, the route turns back uphill on a detour that traces one of Chautauqua’s signature Flatirons before returning to the Ranger Cottage.
-Mapped by Mark Harrison