The Boulder Range is composed of at least four major mountains and at least five minor summits, all within the confines of Boulder, Colorado. While technically members of the Front Range, these peaks are the frontmost of them all and separate the high plains to the east from the jumbled canyons and hills rising up to the Indian Peaks Wilderness on the Continental Divide. In the space of three miles, the terrain rises from the flat prairie at 5500' to summits at over 8000'. Few other places in the world is the transition from plains to mountains as abrupt and obvious. This is largely due to a great, tilted block of Fountain and Eldorado Formation sandstone which forms the peaks and the world-famous Flatirons formations which cover the eastern side of the range. The northern and southern boundaries of the range are somewhat nebulous. For the purpose of this group, I have used the boundaries of Boulder's Open Space and Mountain Parks.
An overview map of the Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks. Blue circles denote peaks, red circles denote trail heads. Major roads are in green and established trails are in red. See this link for more detailed maps.
The Climbing!The mountains in the Boulder Group are very nice, but the real reason to visit is the spectacular, world-class rock climbing. There are three principle venues for climbing in Boulder, each of them remarkably different in style and geology. The fact that each is within walking distance of downtown Boulder (well, perhaps a long walk) makes Boulder the climbing Mecca that it is.
"Eldo" as it is known is a deep slash between through the Fountain and Eldorado Formation sandstone that forms much of the range. Eldo is an intimidating and storried place where trad climbing pioneers, hardmen such as Layton Kor, developed cutting-edge routes and new techniques starting in the 1950s. Innovation and popularity with hard-persons continue to this day; Eldo is the only place where I've seen a line three parties deep on openning day for a 5.11 climb. Opening day that year was on a Tuesday!
Complete details of the hundreds of climbs at Eldo is found in the Falcon Guide "Rock Climbing Eldorado Canyon". A few of the more moderate ultraclassic climbs at Eldo include: Bastille Crack (5.7), Yellow Spur (5.9+), Wind Ridge (5.8), Great Zot (5.8+), Rewritten (5.7), and Swanson Arrete (5.5).
From almost any point in Boulder, it's hard to miss the Flatirons, huge plates of red-grey sandstone tilted at a uniform 50o along the eastern side of Eldorado Mountain, Bear Peak, and Green Mountain. The east faces of the flatirons are typically quite easy, runout climbing; 3rd class to 5.6 or so. Harder routes, up to 5.13c, tend to be found on the north, south and west faces.
Those looking for long, casual routes could do worse than the east face routes on many flatirons. The largest and most popular rocks are found on the northern end of the range as the First and Third Flatirons. The standard east face route on the Third (5.2-ish) has been described as "eight pitches of the best beginner climbing in the Solar System." Similarly high quality, classic routes exist on many less-popular rocks such as Seal Rock, the Matron, and the many clustered flatirons on Dinosaur Mountain.
Gerry Roach, guidebook author and Boulder mountaineer extraordinaire, has put forward a list of classic Flatirons climbs. Ten of these routes have been declared to be the ultraclassic list (all are 5.7 or easier) and a tradition of racing through the climbs has been established. The list contains something like 60 pitches of climbing, a dozen rappels, 10 miles of hiking and 6000' vertical feet of elevation gain. The record trailhead-to-trailhead stands at under 7 hours.
Boulder Canyon is not as famous or spectacular as the other two Boulder venues. A dozen or more crags of various sizes line the sides of the canyon along the Boulder Creek at the north end of the Group. The canyon tends to be fairly top-heavy with many short, hard routes in the 5.10-plus range, but there are a number of good moderate climbs as well. Unlike the Flatirons or Eldo, Boulder Canyon is predominantly hard granite and the climbs have a very different feel to them.
Flagstaff is known for it's bouldering. The same gritty sandstone which forms the Flatirons to the south crops up in numerous small crags perfect for bouldering problems. Particularly famous are the Monkey Traverse and Beer Barrel Rock.
The Trailheads and TrailsThe Boulder peaks are serviced by a large network of city trails and are hence quite popular. There are three major trailheads and numerous minor ones as well.
|1||Chautauqua is located at the west end of Baseline Road. From the intersection of Broadway and Baseline, head west up the hill approximately one mile. Turn left (south) at Chautauqua Park. There is limitted parking immediately on the right. When this lot is full, you can continue up the road to the Gregory Canyon parking area. Chautauqua accesses the major flatirons, Green Mountain and the Mesa Trail.|
|2||NCAR (National Center for Atmospheric Research) has a large parking area (hundreds of cars) and is the best access for Bear Canyon and the middle part of the Mesa Trail. It provides access to Dinosaur Mountain and the northern routes on Bear Peak and South Boulder Peak. Head west 2.5 miles on Table Mesa Drive from the intersection with Broadway. Watch for deer and cyclists in the road.|
|3||South Mesa Trailhead is located on Eldorado Springs Road and can accomodate several dozen cars. This is the place to access the southern end of the Mesa trail, Shadow Canyon, and the southern routes on the Flatirons. Head west from the intersection of Marshall Road with Broadway/Rt 93.|
Red TapeThis being Boulder, and a city park at that, there is quite a lot of red tape. If the current Visitor Master Plan is enacted, there will be a great deal more red tape.
The most important red tape (at this point):