The Flatirons provide one of the most scenic hikes in all of Colorado. As the state has mild winters, many days can be convenient for a winter or summer hike. The range offers many hidden hiking trails, well-known or not, and features stunning views of Boulder below. These courses draw visitors across an open meadow and then take you through the First and Second Flatiron. Many find that the best part of the route is at the end of the trail, where hikers can spot the Colorado Rockies.
Below is a list of some of the First and Second Flatiron trailheads, along with a checklist of what to prepare before your journey.
Flatiron Trails at Chautauqua
Chautauqua Trailhead: Visitors can begin their hike from two different places. The first is the Chautauqua trailhead. It features a historic Ranger cottage and provides free maps for the Flatirons at the entrance. If the parking lot fills up by 8:30 in the morning, you can still find parking along Baseline Road.
Enchanted Mesa Trailhead: A more hidden trail (see Google maps), but well-known to locals, this trail will lead you to move across Chautauqua Park and later meets the Chautauqua trail. Others like to make a trip by following the McClintock Upper Trail. This helpful hiking map will give you a better idea of where to start.
First Flatirons Trail Sequence
The most direct way to explore the mountains is via the Chautauqua trail to the first and second Flatiron trails. Coming back, the Bluebird Mesa trail features an easier climb down and takes you through a patch of pines at the edge of Bluebird Mesa. It gracefully slopes back down to the Chautauqua trail, making for about a 2.5-mile hike. Some hikers may want to take an interesting loop down the backside of the Flatirons and hook back up into Saddle Rock trail.
Second Flatirons Trail Sequence
Once hikers cross the meadow and begin the first and second Flatirons trails, you’re going to ride the ridge of the second Flatiron up to a notch between the 1st and 2nd Flatirons. A course continues behind the Flatirons, bends north and takes hikers up into a canopy formed at the back of the first Flatiron. If starting at the Chautauqua trail, you’ll get a glimpse of the beautiful meadows at the mountain base. This will take you to a forested area. Wear long pants because there can be a lot of poison ivy surrounding these hiking areas.
If you decide to take the Bluebird trail to the left, you’ll discover a fork. The signage will direct you toward the first and second Flatirons trail. As you emerge from the woods, you’ll come across a talus field, but the path takes you through rock piles. The aerial view here is stunning. Eventually, the trail leads to a short scramble over larger rocks to regain the direction.
The next landmark is a notch lying between the first and second Flatirons with the angled outcrop of the second sitting just below the notch. This is where most hikers stop and relax and this spot offers better views of Boulder and the CU campus. However, some might suggest you take a break behind the notch because here, you’ll see views down into the canyon between both Flatirons and you’ll get a snapshot of Flatiron three’s profile.
Next, hikers can take the course up some switchbacks as it curves north. At the saddle, the trail bends right and hikers then find themselves in the presence of the first Flatiron’s massive top. Here, hikers explore different mountain shelves and nooks to sit and enjoy the scenery of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains toward the West.
Tips for Exploring the Flatirons
- Choose a trial that applies to your fitness level. This helps you become familiar with the terrain. Lion’s Lair Trail is a great option for new hikers. AllTrails is a great option to see which course would be perfect for more experienced hikers. Remember, it’s best to start off easy and then graduate to harder trails.
- Mountain trails tend to become crowded, especially on warm days. It’s best to start early (around 8:30 a.m.).
- Prepare and pack a breakfast or lunch. Many of the Flatiron’s little crevices and nooks are perfect for picnicking. Don’t forget to bring plenty of water.
- Dress for safety and comfort. It’s best to wear layers to cool down if you get warm. Don’t forget gloves, hats, scarves and wool or non-cotton socks. Wear shoes that have traction and support for the trails.
- In the summer, the weather changes quickly. Bring supplies to protect against the rain, like a jacket and waterproof clothing.
- Dogs are allowed on the trails if they are leashed. The park also does allow dogs off-leash if you have a special “Voice and Sight Patrol” tag. Find more details here.
If you’re invested in exploring the Flatirons you can also sign up for new hikes and check out the Dayhikes Near Denver Trail Dispatch’s Hiking Guide. Happy hiking!