Colorado Hike : Chautauqua Park

We love to get out for hikes as often as possible and thought it would be fun to document these little adventures, like our recent trip to Maroon Bells.

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Last weekend we decided to stay close to home, wanting to explore more of what Boulder has to offer, so for our weekend hike, we headed to Chautauqua Park (pronounced with a soft “shhh” for the CH – I’m still getting the hang of it!). Chautauqua was one of the older open space areas purchased by the city over 100 years ago when it began preserving wild lands. The park is home to the Colorado Chautauqua  Association, which provides cultural and educational programs throughout the year. Among its many buildings and features, the Association has a dining hall, general store, and cottages that you can rent! On this particular day we skipped all of the buildings and headed straight for the hills, but we’re hoping to stop into the dining hall for brunch after our next hike.

**Before moving to Boulder, I was unfamiliar with Chautauqua, the adult education movement. Were you?

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Arriving at the park, we knew it was a popular weekend destination, but were overwhelmed by just how many people were there. These pictures don’t do the crowds justice. At all times there were people in front of us, behind us, scaling the rock face to our right and left. There were babies laughing (and crying), there were more college-age girls chatting away than I wish to remember. Ugh, it was crowded. But, the scenery totally made up for it, and I can’t wait to get back out there on a weekday. A friend also tipped me off that if we start at Four Pines on King St., then we won’t hit the crowds. Keep that secret.

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Before heading out, we asked for some trail recommendations and received a number of excited responses suggesting Royal Arch Trail, but it was still closed for raptor nesting.  So, with all of the well-marked trails in the park, we decided to wing it. We headed up Chautauqua Trail, made a left on Blue-Baird Trail, and then came back down on Bluebell Trail. In total, the hike took about an hour.

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As you hike up the hill you leave the grasslands behind, entering the pine forests and areas of exposed bedrock and boulders of the Flatirons.

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There are two climbers in the photo on the right above! They are near the top of the single pine tree that’s growing out of the rock face. Eventually, you reach a few open areas overlooking the city.

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liveseasoned_summer2014_hike18Just like last week’s hike, there were plenty of flowers blooming here with a promise of more to come.

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On our way back down the hill (mountain?) we left the pine trees behind and welcomed the grasses again. As you can see from these photos, the skies were overcast for our whole hike, but I think that worked to our advantage, keeping us cooler and less worried about sunburns as we walked.

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Extra Details:

  • Knowing that the area is popular on weekends, we were worried about parking but easily found on-street parking a few blocks from the entrance.
  • I had a hard time finding a good trail map online until I looked to Google. Google’s map of the park is great, with all trails well marked!
  • A hiking-with-kids tip: We knew we were heading out during Little A’s nap time, so rather than take the hiking carrier that doesn’t offer him anywhere to rest his head, we put him in the Ergo on Calder’s back. It was an easy carry for this short hike, and within a minute Alex was content and sleeping with his head supported between Calder’s back and the Ergo’s hood.

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