Best Outdoor Activities in Boulder: Boulder, CO Outdoor Activities & Recreation Guide
One of the great things about Boulder is that residents can go from popular city attractions to awe-inspiring wilderness in only a short drive. No matter what outdoor activities someone enjoys, they'll find something fun to do here. For those who don't know where to start, these five options allow people in the Boulder area to indulge in a new outdoor activity every weekend.
Hike Through the Mountains
Places to Hike Near Boulder
- Chautauqua Park
- Eldorado Canyon
- Mount Sanitas Trailhead
- Boulder Canyon Trail
- Realization Point
The Boulder area offers hiking options for every skill level and preference. Hikers can check out majestic waterfalls one day, or take their dog out for a short jaunt on another. There are even hikes on winding, paved footpaths within the city that allow people to stop for lunch and browse in local shops while they explore the area on foot.
One exceptionally popular hike is the 2.6-mile trail between the first and second Flatirons located in Chautauqua Park, on of Boulder's most popular parks. This trail's variable terrain includes breezy strolls across meadows, then a more challenging ascent up the Second Flatiron. Hikers are rewarded with breathtaking views of the snow-topped Rocky Mountains.
Eldorado Canyon is a popular destination for reasons that will become obvious as soon as visitors arrive. The tall canyon walls shut out views and sounds of the city, making visitors feel like they've entered another world. It's best to arrive early, as the area tends to fill up.
Mount Sanitas has trails that start right in the heart of Boulder and is a great place for people who want to go on a leisurely trek with their dogs. More experienced hikers can check out more challenging trails that lead up the side of the mountain. Those who make it to the summit can enjoy panoramic views of the city below.
Camp at Golden Gate Canyon State Park
Golden Gate Canyon State Park Amenities
- Camping in cabins and yurts
- Hunting during permitted season
- Backcountry camping
- Dogs allowed
- Horseback riding
It's easy to get away from it all when the wilderness is less than an hour's drive away. Golden Gate Canyon State Park offers several camping experiences to its visitors. Nestled between the pine-covered hills, cabins and yurts are available year-round and provide cozy accommodations for up to six guests. There's no refrigeration, so it is advised to bring a cooler or shelf-stable items.
The more glamping-inclined may wish to reserve the four-bedroom, two-bath guesthouse at Harmsen Ranch. Located along Gap Road, the Ranch provides easy access to Dude's fishing hole, Panorama Point, and a number of trails. Amenities include gas fireplaces, linen service, and a full kitchen.
Over in Aspen Meadows, campers can choose from 35 basic, tent-only sites. There is a nearby water pump with potable water as well as fire rings, picnic tables, and vault toilets. Inquire in advance, as this campsite closes seasonally.
There are also a number of backcountry sites that let visitors get even further away from it all on their Boulder vacation.
Those bringing RVs, campers, or trailers can find sites with electric hookups and nearby access to shower and laundry facilities. The site at Reverend's Ridge is open year-round, but some facilities are closed for winter, so it is advised to call ahead of time.
Go Tubing or Kayaking at Boulder Creek
- River rafting
Even Boulder gets hot sometimes. When that happens, the best way to see the area is from the water. Scenic waterways and water activities in the Boulder area range from lazy tubing rivers to challenging whitewater thrills.
Boulder Creek is a great place to enjoy gliding downstream at a calming pace. This waterway was voted one of the top 10 lazy rivers by Men's Journal. Kayakers can also enjoy a 20-slalom-gate course that allows them to test their paddling skills. No kayak? No worries, because Colorado Water Sports offers kayak rentals, along with rentals of canoes, rafts, tubes, and stand-up paddleboards. One of the more intriguing offerings includes fully rigged rowing rafts, which are perfect for multiday expeditions. People who are not yet sure of their skills can also book classes to learn what they need to know for an enjoyable day on the water at Boulder Creek.
See the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Amenities
- Animal encounters
- Over 750 animals
- 11 habitats
- Camps and classes
- Membership available
The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo was founded nearly 100 years ago by philanthropist Spencer Penrose. While the zoo's original purpose was to house Penrose's collection of exotic animals, the facility soon became a non-profit public trust, where local residents could learn about conservation while enjoying recreational opportunities. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is the country's only mountain zoo and has the experiences to match.
Today, the sprawling zoo is home to dozens of species, including over 30 species of endangered animals. Visitors can wander between exhibits or soar overhead on the Mountaineer Sky Ride. The zoo offers many interactive opportunities that range from goat encounters and chicken feeding time to snack time for the zoo's elephants, giraffes, rhinos, and budgies.
The zoo is active in a number of conservation programs. The Quarters for Conservation program allows guests to directly contribute to the health and sustainability of wildlife all over the world. Educational exhibits help visitors of all ages understand how their contributions make a difference and what changes they can make in their everyday life to help maintain wildlife's future.
Those who want a closer look can also arrange for VIP group tours, as well as private one-on-one animal encounters. The Amur Leopard encounter allows visitors, for instance, to spend time with this elusive cat. Only 100 are left in the wild. Other custom experiences can be arranged, allowing people to get up close to the animals they are most passionate about.
Learn Fly Fishing
Colorado Wilderness Rides and Guides Amenities
- Available to anglers of any skill level
- Wading or walking
- Half-day trips
- Lower prices for larger groups
- Transportation included
- Free lunch
- Tackle and equipment provided
The areas around Boulder offer a wide range of fish species. The area is especially well-known for its exciting dry fly-fishing. In the rivers, fishers will find challenging coldwater fish like rainbow trout, with specimens as large as 27 pounds. In the deep waters of the high mountain lakes, cutthroat trout abound. Environments range from the rushing waters in Rocky Mountain National Park to streams, creeks, and ponds throughout Boulder and Boulder Canyon.
Those who are new to fly-fishing can learn from local guides, such as those at Colorado Wilderness Rides and Guides. There are many experienced guides available who can teach everything from how to tie a fly to the best casting technique to how to spot the best places to find hiding fish. Guided excursions range from brief happy-hour fishing trips to multiday camping expeditions.
Discover the Outdoors in Boulder Today
No matter what types of outdoor entertainment people enjoy, from golfing to extreme sports, they can find something that will appeal to them after moving to Boulder. From the rock formations of the Flatirons to the west to the Rocky Mountains and more, there are many sights to see and activities that will relax, invigorate, educate, and astound. Plan a day trip to experience the best outdoor activities in the area, book a room at a Boulder hotel for a fun vacation, or search for available Boulder mountain cabins or luxury homes to access nature from your backyard.