The Insider’s Guide to the Boulder Creek Path
Boulder Creek Path runs right through the heart of the city and is a hub for outdoor recreation, markets, festivals and quiet reflection. Here are our top tips for enjoying the creek path, plus a few can’t-miss events.
When you're out exploring the creek, help protect the area's natural beauty by remembering these Mountain Manners.
Walk, Run or Bike
Boulder Creek Path hugs the water for over five miles, stretching from 55th Street in East Boulder all the way into Boulder Canyon in the west, winding through city parks, the CU campus and downtown Boulder. Whether you’re walking, blading, running or cycling, you’ll be in good company on this well-traveled track. The path is paved, except for the westernmost tip, which is gravel. It was named one of the top urban bike paths in the country by USA Today.
In winter, the Boulder Creek is a magical place, with crystalized banks and snow-covered bridges. You can go for a walk through the quiet landscape, or opt for a fat bike ride. Even in snowy conditions, the oversized, nubby tires of a fat bike will grip the terrain.
Where to get a bike: Rent a three-speed cruiser from one of the more than 40 Boulder B-cycle stations around town. Or stop by University Bicycles or Full Cycle, where you can rent adult bikes as well as helmets (safety first!) and kids' bikes.
Pack a Picnic
The grassy slopes leading down to the creek were practically made for picnicking, but you can also snag a table at one of the numerous parks along the Boulder Creek Path, including Eben G. Fine Park, Central Park and Scott Carpenter Park. Our favorite foodie ritual? Hitting the Boulder Farmers Market (just north of the creek on 13th Street between Canyon and Arapahoe) on Saturday morning or Wednesday evening for fresh-baked bread, local cheese and wine, and a sampling of in-season fruits to nibble on a blanket by the creek.
Are grills allowed? Sorry — no charcoal grills are allowed, but you can apply for a permit to bring your own gas grill if you're planning a cookout! Visit the Boulder Parks & Recreation website or call 303-413-7200 at least one week in advance to obtain a permit. All city park shelters and city-provided grills are first come, first serve to the general public for groups less than 50 people.
In the summertime, the banks along Eben G. Fine Park are like a big party, with groups cooking out or lounging on towels and tubers floating by.
Float or Flip
Splat rocks. Squirt lines. Slide drops. If these phrases mean anything to you, then kayaking Boulder Creek should be at the top of your list. Boulder’s whitewater kayak park is located in Eben G. Fine Park at 3rd and Arapahoe in the mouth of Boulder Canyon and includes a slalom course and an ender hole dubbed Widowmaker.
Tops for Tubing
Boulder Creek was named one of the 10 best lazy rivers for tubing in the U.S. by Men’s Journal. Tubing down Boulder Creek is one of summer’s main attractions.
Where to tube Boulder Creek: Put in at Eben G. Fine Park and let the creek carry you as far as 55th Street. Just don’t expect a super-gentle float — this ride includes chutes and rapids! For an easier trip, hop on at 6th Street or a few blocks east near Boulder Public Library. Helmet, life jacket and water shoes are recommended regardless of where you put in.
Where to get a tube: Here's a list of places that sell and/or rent tubes.
Check weather and water levels: Tubing usually runs from May to September, depending on the weather. Before you go, make sure to check the water levels on the Mile High Flood District website (look on the left of this page in the gray box under “Flow Rate”). The ideal level for tubing the creek is 40–200cfs (cubic feet per second). Between 200 and 300cfs and you're in for a wild ride. We don't recommend tubing when water levels are above 300cfs.
Boulder Creek’s water levels fluctuate with the seasons. In early spring, snowmelt from the mountains makes the creek swell to its highest levels. Take caution all year round, but especially in springtime.
Cast Your Line
Feel like trying your hand at fly fishing? Pick up a license and scope out a spot on the creek for a leisurely day of catch-and-release fishing. Just watch out for tubers and kayakers! Little anglers (ages 12 and under) will love the Evert Pierson Kids’ Fishing Pond, located on Boulder Creek near 9th Street.
Okay, so you can’t actually dive into Boulder Creek, but you can definitely wade! You’ll find numerous spots for a quick dip along the creek, including Eben G. Fine Park and the area near the Boulder Farmers’ Market under Broadway. Dogs are also welcome to wade, so bring your pooch along (on leash) to cool off.
Admire the Art
Boulder Creek is known for its stone-balancing artists, who stack creek rocks into seemingly gravity-defying towers above the current. The best places to catch these artists at work are the bridges between 9th and 13th Streets. As you walk along Boulder Creek Path, you’ll also find many murals painted under overpasses and on buildings, a sculpture garden just west of 9th Street, a Flood Monument near 13th Street and the intricately carved and brightly painted Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse, which is a work of art itself. Want more? Stop in next door for a visit to the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art.
Can’t-Miss Creek Events
Boulder Creek Festival: Each Memorial Day weekend, Boulder kicks off the summer with a weekend of music, dance, carnival rides, an arts-and-crafts market, food and drink, and a rubber duck race down the creek.
Boulder Creek Hometown Festival: All good things must come to an end, so Boulder sends off summer each year over Labor Day weekend with live performances, a classic car and motorcycle show, and the Great Zucchini Race. Yes, a zucchini race.
Tube to Work Day: Boulderites don their best business attire and hit the creek in this yearly tubing tradition. The event usually takes place in mid-July, starting at Eben G. Fine Park, but you can catch the view of the action anywhere along the creek near downtown.