First and Second Flatirons, Boulder
At the Chautauqua Park trailhead, you’re ideally captivated by the immediate view of Boulder’s iconic landmark: the Flatirons, those slanting, geologic marvels against the forested mountainside. More likely here, you’re hassling with parking.
In the summer, good luck getting a spot. Your chances are better in the winter.
“You’ll see plenty of other hikers in winter, too, especially on warm days,” reads a trail description on the city’s official tourism website, “but it’s a good time to get out on these popular trails while there are fewer crowds.”
That’s the word on the suggested trek to the First and Second Flatirons, as the formations are known. Facing them from the Chautauqua Park trailhead, the first is farthest to the right (north), with the second just to the left. The destination of this trip is the scenic slot between them.
Because of how well-marked the trail system is, you won’t have a problem finding your way. We recently found that to be the case even amid the jumbled talus field reached in about a mile; the path was clear, trampled in the snow.
Start on the wide Chautauqua Trail, steadily ascending the meadow into the tall woods. This is the warm-up for a sustained climb. At the junction with Bluebell Trail, you’ll continue uphill, coming to another marked junction, where you’ll turn right for the talus field.
The switchbacks continue to spots where you might stop for a break in the shade of the Flatirons. The views east include the University of Colorado’s terracotta-defined campus and city reservoirs. The prize awaits higher: a clear look west at the Continental Divide.
Trip log: 2.6 miles round trip (out and back), 1,402 feet elevation gain, 7,152 feet max
Getting there: Off Interstate 25 in Denver, take U.S. 36 west toward Boulder. Exit for Baseline Road and turn left on the road, proceeding 1.4 miles to Chautauqua Park.
FYI: Parking closed between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. Hiking and horses allowed on most trails in the Chautauqua network. Dogs on leash. Icy in winter; wear traction.
SETH BOSTER, THE GAZETTE