With a long history in Boulder, Chautauqua Park has its roots in the Chautauqua Movement. In 1898, Colorado Chautauqua, a summer school for teachers, opened at its beautiful foothills location. Today, Chautauqua, a National Historic Landmark, retains its character, offering year-round lodging and arts programs and numerous hiking trails and open space areas. Chautauqua Park currently consists of 40 acres of land and offers a close-up view of the Flatirons. There is a large green expanse, a playground, a Chautauqua Dining Hall, lodging, an auditorium, a school, as well as a Ranger’s Station. Among the reasons, people visit Chautauqua are to hear live music, explore the area’s history, or hike through the park’s many trails.
Chautauqua Park, which is open year-round, is a great place to take advantage of the great outdoors. In the warmer months, hiking is very popular on the trails, which range in length and difficulty, and in the winter, visitors can go sledding, snow-shoeing, and skiing if it’s snowy enough. Picnic tables and grassy areas can be found everywhere, and the playground is generally crowded with children. Chautauqua Park’s history resonates throughout the park and its buildings, making it unique. Chautauqua Dining Hall opened in 1898 and continues to serve food throughout the year, while Chautauqua Auditorium has played host to hundreds of performers and speakers over the last century, including David Byrne, B.B. King, and Hunter S. Thompson. Also, visitors can embark on guided walking tours of Chautauqua or take a self-guided tour.
Despite Chautauqua being a great place to get outdoors or even stay for a few nights, there are some restrictions on outdoor activities. Bicycles are not permitted on the trails, and the park itself does not offer fishing or mountain climbing. Consider other nearby trails or the Boulder Creek Path if you are thinking of doing something other than hiking. Additionally, Chautauqua Park hosts a variety of events throughout the year, including the annual Colorado Music Festival and Art in the Park.
Chautauqua Park is also home to several hiking trails and is connected to other hiking areas. These trails include Mesa Trail, Royal Arch, Woods Quarry, Flatirons Loop, and Baseline Trail. Trails in this area are mostly moderate and can be completed by adults and kids alike, though certain trails will require steep climbs so always wear sturdy shoes, apply sunscreen, carry water when hiking, and be prepared for the high elevation to impact your presumed fitness level.
City of Boulder laws prohibit camping, but Boulder Adventure Lodge has a few private campsites that can be reserved in advance. If you want to stay onsite, you can book one of Chautauqua Park’s cottages or Missions House Lodge, which features eight rooms. There have been visitors to the park since 1898, originally staying in tents that turned into cottages, and all of the accommodations are unique and quirky. To ensure guests can unplug, all the cottages and rooms have no phones or TVs. Cottages are available in studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom, or three-bedroom configurations, and the historic Mary H. Galey Cottage features four bedrooms. It has hosted everyone from David Crosby to the Indigo Girls.
Dogs are welcome at Chautauqua Park, but leash regulations vary on the trail and area of the park. Look for signs indicating where it is safe to let your dog off the leash. Horses are allowed on most of the trails. Also, it’s not uncommon to spot black bears and mountain lions along the trails, as well as mule deer and coyotes. Be mindful of the wildlife, and be sure you know what to do in the event of an encounter with a mountain lion. Lastly, the park is wheelchair accessible, including some of the trails.
The entrance to Chautauqua Park is located at the intersection of Baseline Road and 9th Street on Boulder’s western edge. Visitors can park in the park’s official parking lot or along the nearby streets. Parking nearby can be challenging, especially in the height of summer, so take advantage of Boulder’s free Park to Park shuttle. It operates from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend on weekends and holidays, offering trips from local parking lots into the park, and runs every 15 minutes from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. To help reduce the number of cars around Chautauqua, Boulder also has a partnership with Lyft and offers special promo codes for discounted rides. Other options for getting to Chautauqua are cycling, walking, or hopping on a local bus.
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