There are some hikes I never get sick of no matter how many times I do them. The Boulder Flatirons hike – specifically between the first and second flatiron in Boulder, Colorado is a standout hike and one of my all-time favourites. I’m guessing that I did it about 100 times when I lived in Boulder. I’d do it at all hours of the day in all weather.
The Boulder Flatirons hike is not an easy hike. And part of the hike was not on any map when I lived in the city. But don’t let that dissuade you. The hike offers first rate scenery, a great workout and on at least half the hike you’re likely to have the trail to yourself.
The Boulder Flatirons hike with a start at Gregory Canyon
Let me walk you through the hike – beginning in Gregory Canyon at the far western end of Baseline Road, just before the road starts climbing Flagstaff Mountain. If you’ve started driving up Flagstaff Road you’ve missed the turnoff to Gregory Canyon.
The hike starts off easily enough at the end of the Gregory Canyon parking lot. The first half mile or so has loads of poison ivy so it’s not worth venturing off the trail. I always wash my legs and hands well with soap and water the minute I get home just in case I’ve touched it.
At the first intersection take the trail to the left marked Saddle Rock Junction. You can’t miss it.
Stay on the Saddle Rock Trail
The trail climbs relentlessly. About a quarter of the way up you hit another junction. Keep to the right on the Saddle Rock Trail. If you turn left, you’ll end up doing a loop and will be back at the parking lot in 15 minutes. Don’t wimp out here!
There’s a viewpoint about a third of the way up and then this section of the trail which stays shady which is much appreciated on a hot summer’s day.
The challenging part of the route finding
For three quarters of the trail the route is very easy to follow.
The slightly more challenging route finding section comes when you pass a marker pointing to the Saddle Rock Trail, with no other named trail on the marker.
Stop. Look straight ahead. You can see a trail – they just haven’t named it. It’s not hard to follow but on occasion you need to look before you move as it’s a jumble of boulders and logs.
At the top of the trail wander around the jumble of boulders. Descend about fifty feet on the other side on an obvious trail, park yourself on a rock and admire the back views of the Third Flatiron.
The descent between the First and Second Boulder Flatiron
The trail down has a totally different feel to it. First off the city noise hits you as you hop over a rock and start the descent. It’s an assault on the senses and it grates on me every time I hike it. From the saddle, head hike down on a badly eroded trail shared by climbers and hikers alike.
Do you dare peer over the edge?
There are a few points along the way where you can peer over the second flatiron. For some – it’s a holy shit moment as they look way, way down. The view do the First Flatiron feels a little airy too. But the trail is not. It’s a series of switchbacks.
Once past the boulder field you’re almost down. The walking gets positively easy at this point. If you end up at the ranger cottage and you parked at Gregory Canyon just walk back along the road – it’s only about 10 minutes away.
At the end of the hike
If you’re hungry or thirsty at the end of the hike I highly recommend heading for the Chautauqua National Historic Landmark – specifically to the dining hall. With a little luck you might score a table outside where you can appreciate the view of the Boulder Flatirons, while sipping a cold one.
Further reading on things to do in Colorado
- 5 of the Best Hikes Near Boulder, Colorado
- Hiking the Devil’s Thumb Bypass Trail near Boulder, Colorado
- An Unforgettable Stay at Latigo Ranch in Colorado
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