Living in Costa Rica, we’ve noticed that the country attracts a lot of native Coloradans—both tourists and expats. It seems the love of the outdoors and adventure activities aligns well with residents of both areas. So it’s hardly any surprise that Colorado immediately caught our attention as a place where we might want to spend extended time in the future—especially if it meant easy access to gorgeous hikes like the Royal Arch Trail.
Like many visitors to Colorado, we love Boulder for its excellent restaurants and bars, as well as easy access to outstanding hiking and climbing. We trekked up to South Boulder Peak during our last visit to Boulder, which was a stunning mountain hike. This time around, we thought we would tackle the Flatirons Trail. We admittedly didn’t make it to the peak we had initially set out for, but we did make it to the top of the Royal Arch Trail—which was pretty epic in its own right.
You’ll find the Royal Arch Trail in Boulder’s Chautauqua Park. The hike is relatively challenging, but the expansive valley views and colorful wildflowers are well worth the effort.
It’s worth noting that the Royal Arch Trail is heavily trafficked, so we recommend hitting the trail either during the week or early morning hours. We hiked in the middle of the week and did not feel the Royal Arch Trail was too busy to enjoy.
Once you arrive at the Royal Arch, be sure to spend plenty of time admiring the view. On a clear day, you might even be able to glimpse Denver! Bring a picnic and soak in the spectacular scenery while catching your breath.
Fast Facts On The Royal Arch Trail in Chautauqua Park
- Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
- Length: 3.9 miles
- Duration: 2-4 Hours
- Elevation Gain: Approximately 1500′
- Season: All Year
- Dogs: Allowed on a leash
Hiking the Royal Arch Trail In Boulder Colorado
We’ll be honest: our video skills have improved dramatically since we shot this clip! But we’ve kept it in so you can still get a good idea of what the Royal Arch Trail hike is like. Head to minute 1:40 to see the start of the rocky steps that lead up to the Royal Arch.
We started our hike from our Airbnb, just steps away from the start of Bear Canyon trail. This path leads to the Mesa trail, which runs parallel to the Flatirons and overlooks Boulder. If you aren’t keen on a super steep hike, this is a somewhat flat alternative to hiking up to the summit.
After about 2 miles, the Mesa Trail eventually runs into signs for the Royal Arch trail. This is where the going gets steep and rocky. After about a mile of uphill climbing on rock stairs, you’ll reach the Royal Arch. Pass under the Arch, and you’ll arrive at the end of the trail, with a rewarding view looking back over Boulder and the surrounding area.
We recommend parking at Chautauqua Park and starting your trek from there to shorten the trip. (Unless you happen to have immediate access to the trails on the opposite side of the park as we did.)
If you begin your Royal Arch hike at Chautauqua Park Trailhead, you’ll take the Bluebell Road Trail to Bluebell Shelter. You’ll then see signs directing you to the Royal Arch Trail. This is where you’ll enter Bluebell Canyon where, if you’re lucky, you might even spot a raptor! The trail will descend a bit before reaching the incline that takes you to the Arch.
Tips For Hiking The Royal Arch Trail:
- Great hiking or trail shoes are a must. My Soloman Speed Cross 3 Trail Running Shoes, which I bought for our upcoming trail marathon, fit perfectly, and felt like a dream.Bring more water than you think you’ll need. We brought our Ultimate Direction hydration pack with two water bottles and a 2-liter reservoir and drank the last sip as we were walking up the house. (Our hike was much longer than it would be if you started from Chautauqua Park.)Be prepared for a steep and rocky ascent the last half of the way or so. We didn’t have trekking poles, but we recommend them, primarily to protect your knees on the descent.
Start your hike to the Royal Arch Trail early. Depending on the time of year, nightfall can sneak up quickly. Give yourself plenty of time for breaks along the way and at least a good 20 minutes at the top to enjoy the view you worked so hard to reach!
If it’s a busy day and there is no parking in Chautauqua Park, then you can look for parking at nearby Baseline Rd.
Have you ever hiked the Royal Arch Trail? What’s your favorite hike in Boulder?