Chautauqua Park is a gorgeous park literally ten minutes from from Boulder and about 20 minutes from downtown Denver. It sits at the top of Nob Hill on the western edge of Boulder just off the University of Colorado campus greek row. The transition from trendy college town to zen wilderness is immediate. One block you are passing snob central and then the hillsides and gigantic slabs of rock giving the Flatirons their trademark name. I roamed over most every trail this park had to offer, including Greenman Mountain (Elevation 8,144) one afternoon after work. We walked out of the canyon sometime after dark had fully settled in.
While this park has several long, satisfying afternoon hikes, my favorite had to be the Royal Arch.
The Royal Arch is approximately four miles round trip. The entire hike is worth doing, from the wooded beginning to the cool solace of a quick solarium of foliage just before the first set of dirt stairs to the platform at the top of the switchbacks to the quick drop down a rocky scramble to the final grueling, stone switchbacks; it is completely worth it to see this giant circle of stone at the top.
You cross through the hole and get to view the entire cities of Boulder, Louisville, Broomfield, Lafayette, Thornton, Glendale, Arvada, Denver, a hint of Aurora and off in the distance you can make out the white tips of the Denver International Airport.
I have no idea how many times I did this particular hike during my last two years in Denver. It was a lot. The first time Linda and I did it together it took us over four and a half hours to complete it. We were carrying Tanis up in the backpack for our first real hike. Linda and I swapped the pack about every fifty yards. We had dinner several evenings up there as a family looking out on Denver on warm, clear evenings.
Looking back on it, those were wonderful evenings. I was just getting into shape after two knee surgeries and a few too many years of sitting on my marshmellow ass exercising only my bicep with the sixteen ounce curl. The evenings in the fall and late summer were priceless. At first we did different hikes in the park, but I quickly latched onto the Royal Arch as my staple with which I measured my physical fitness. Towards the end I was hiking up the Arch two to three times weekly. I never grew tired of it. Some weeks it felt like I was having dinner on the upper slab more than I had it at home. At the end, I did the entire hike up and down with dinner in an hour and twenty five minutes
Jay and Tanis give it:
A Thumb's Up
My family and I spent a lot time out at Chautauqua. While working at Level 3 Communications I would run out to this park and hike two/three times a week, joined by my family at least once a week. Along with the hiking is some funky bouldering and slab climbing.
Amazingly, while I lived in Colorado, I did almost no climbing outside. I had just gotten into rock climbing in July of 2002, about five months before I left the state to head back to Oregon. The first and only time I ever climbed outside of a gym was here at Chautauqua.
I started this climb about halfway around the Bluebell-Baird trail at the base of Flatiron number two. I eventually got too high up on the rock and thought they were going to have to call out some rescue workers to come peel my trembling hands from the rock. Luckily, I found a traverse over to the edge that I could downclimb and get back to the tail. Oh, did I forget to mention I didn't use a rope??? Yeah, I am really, really smart. This is the only known photo of Jody O'Donnell's One and Only Free Solo.