Road Trip to Boulder
An Urban + Nature Itinerary
Hop in your car, pack some goodies and hit the road! You’re headed to Boulder for some urban-meets-nature fun.
"Boulder, Colorado may have perfected the urban/outdoors balance: it’s close to Denver for big-city benefits, it has its own smaller city personality, but then it focuses on outdoor activity in every other way." — Lonely Planet
Day 1: Local Favorites + Scenic Drives
Get an early start at the Boulder Farmers Market where you can get your provisions for the afternoon: cheese, bread, fruits, veggies and maybe some prepared foods from the food court.
Take a 20-minute drive to reach Eldorado Canyon State Park — take Hwy. 93 south to Eldorado Springs Drive — and set off on a trail through sandstone cliffs or along South Boulder Creek to find your perfect picnic spot among the pine trees and golden rock walls. If it's a summer weekend, chances are the park is very busy (almost always hitting capacity on summer weekends and holidays) and timed-entry reservations are strongly recommended so you don't get turned away at the gate. Alternatively, you can ride the free Eldo Shuttle, which runs on summer weekends and guarantees entrance.
Feeling up for a scenic drive? Take a jaunt up Coal Creek Canyon and return to Boulder via Gross Dam Road and famously scenic Flagstaff Road. This will take you at least a couple of hours, depending on how often you stop to explore. Here’s a map.
Along the way, you may want to gaze across Gross Reservoir (note: Gross Reservoir is undergoing an expansion project, so you'll want to check for construction updates first), try the popular hiking and biking trails at Walker Ranch Loop, or stop at Sunrise Amphitheater or Panorama Point on Flagstaff Mountain, which overlooks all of Boulder.
When there's an animal in the distance, are you far enough away so you can close one eye and cover the entire creature with your thumb? If not, you’re too close! Keep a safe distance from wildlife to ensure the safety and happiness of both parties.
Once back in Boulder, explore the heart and soul of the city: Pearl Street.
On the way, stop to admire the historic Boulder Theater and the old county courthouse for their art deco architecture, and pop into Art Source International to view historical photos of Boulder, old maps and retro posters.
Day 2: Views, Brews and Big-Name Chefs
Begin with a delicious breakfast on the veranda of the historic Chautauqua Dining Hall, whose owners also run a local farm that helps supply the restaurant with fresh picks for their delicious farm-to-fork cuisine.
Take a few steps from the restaurant and you’re at the foot of Boulder’s famous Flatirons. Burn off the morning’s calories with a Chautauqua hike, or simply sprawl out on the grass and admire the view from Chautauqua Park.
Continue your exploration of East Boulder with dinner at nearby Blackbelly Market, Top Chef champion Hosea Rosenberg’s first restaurant.
Add-on: Rocky Mountain National Park
Boulder is just an hour from Rocky Mountain National Park, so if it fits in your schedule, adding on a day (or a few) to explore the park’s majesty-filled landscape is well worth it. Click here for information on timed-entry reservations.
Follow Hwy. 36 north toward the town of Lyons, worth a stop for its cute cafes and shops.
Continue on to Estes Park, a charming tourist destination with a bustling downtown filled with fudge and ice cream shops, cute boutiques and spectacular views.
You’re now just minutes from Rocky Mountain National Park, with its crystalline lakes, fragrant ponderosa pine forests and sprawling meadows. Hike, picnic, drive Trail Ridge Road, spot wildlife and enjoy the spectacular terrain. Check reservation information in advance, and please be aware dogs are not permitted in the park, except in parking areas and established camping and picnic areas. Here's a map of the drive.
Another option is to take the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway on your return from Estes Park. It's one of the most gorgeous drives in the region with tons to explore along the way.