This past weekend, Brian and I escaped for a weekend getaway to Boulder, Colorado without the kids. Earlier this year, my parents invited Natalie and Carter to go camping at Half Moon Bay, and when the trip was inked on the family calendar, Brian and I made plans for a weekend getaway to Boulder, Colorado to see Dead & Company play two shows at Folsom Field and catch a Melvin Seals & JGB preshow.
This meant we had the days free to do some exploring. On our first day in Boulder, we explored Pearl Street Mall and enjoyed a delicious early lunch before heading over to Chautauqua Park to go for a walk and check out the amazing views of the famous Flatirons.
When we arrived at the park, Brian and I were both shocked at the number of people that were there and the major lack of parking! Luckily after waiting a bit, we ended up finding a parking spot on Baseline Road not to far from a narrow dirt trail that wound through a wide open, grassy meadow. With the magnificent Flatirons rising up before us, and wildflowers dotting the meadow at our feet, we walked the trail and were surprised to find it quiet and peaceful, even though there were so many people at the park.
There are five large Flatirons, named First through Fifth, ranging from north to south along the east slope of Green Mountain. Originally the Flatirons were named the Chautauqua Slabs, and later called The Crags. Today name, the Flatirons, is believed to have come from either their resemblance to old-fashioned clothes irons or their resemblance to the Flatiron Building completed in 1902.
A few benches, strategically placed along the trail, gave us opportunities to sit and relax in the warm sun, take in the views, ponder a drive up Flagstaff Mountain, and if I’m being honest, wishing the kids were with us to see this too. We’re definitely already planning on coming back with them to do some hiking!
The Colorado Chautauqua
Sitting at the base of the spectacular Flatirons, Chautauqua Park is part of the Colorado Chautauqua National Historic Landmark, which includes an auditorium, dining hall, lodging, and miles of hiking trails.
The area dates back to when the City of Boulder began preserving wild lands 120 years ago. In 1898, Boulder citizens approved a bond issue to purchase 80 acres to be used as a Chautauqua — a family retreat, focusing on culture, education, music, nature, activities, and sometimes religion.
- Chautauqua Park, which has a playground, tennis courts, and open turf, is adjacent to Open Space Mountain Park trails trails, the Chautauqua Dining Hall, Auditorium, and Ranger Cottage.
- The Chautauqua Trailhead provides access to 40 miles of Open Space Mountain Park trails, some of which head right up into the Flatirons.
Colorado Chautauqua History
In 1898, a group of Texans chose Boulder as a retreat to escape the hot Texas summers. Through a collaboration with residents, the Colorado Chautauqua was born, instantly becoming one of the nation’s most beautiful vacation spots. It is the only Chautauqua west of the Mississippi River that has operated continuously since its founding, and it was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2006.
The Colorado Chautauqua kicked off Boulder’s parks and open space preservation efforts. The day after Chautauqua’s grand opening, the city of Boulder purchased the eastern slope of Flagstaff Mountain from the United States Government.
Know Before You Go
- Chautauqua Park is located at the Colorado Chautauqua National Historic Landmark at 9th Street and Baseline Road, Boulder, Colorado 80302.
- The Colorado Chautauqua National Historic Landmark includes an auditorium, dining hall, lodging, a beautiful park, and miles of hiking trails.
- The park has picnic tables, a playground, restrooms, tennis courts, hiking trails, and more. Parking is available in a lot and on the street.
- Download a Chautauqua Park Trail Map.
- The Flatirons are rock formations on Green Mountain within the City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks system.
- The Chautauqua Trailhead provides access to several Open Space Mountain Park trails.
- If you’re hiking with children, be sure to stop by the Ranger’s Cottage to pick up a nature discovery pack with binoculars, field guides, activities and more — they’re free to borrow.