Tucked away in the shadow of the foothills is Royal Arch Trail, Boulder’s au natural homage to the epic stone formations one state away in Utah’s Arches National Park. Nestled between pine forests and larger rock formations, Royal Arch Trail isn’t visible until you are nearly in front of it. The sandstone structure stands about 20 feet off the ground and offers impressive views to the south and east with the grandeur of the arch itself. The hike to Royal Arch Trail is 3.2 miles round trip but gains over 1,400 vertical feet in that short distance.
The hike to Royal Arch Trail begins at Chautauqua Park which means that before setting a single foot on the trail, hikers are treated to impressive views of the towering Flatirons. After hiking a short access road, enter the woods and great ready for a steep, steady climb through the pine-scented forests and undulating hills en route to the arch. Much of this trail was destroyed in the 2013 floods but as of August 2014, has been repaired and will be easy to follow; there are plenty of signs along the way.
Dogs are welcome on the trail. Pups with City in Boulder, Colorado off-leash tags are allowed off-leash, otherwise, canine companions must be on a hand-held leash. It is advised to leash up all dogs at the arch itself since there are some steep cliffs and rock bands that could entice dare-devils.
After working up a final steep hill, the glory of the Royal Arch Trail comes into view. There’s plenty of room to sit and soak in the views, both in the shade and in the sun. While it’s possible to scramble atop the arch itself, the City of Boulder prefers people stay off the easily eroded sandstone in hopes of preserving it for future generations.
Hikers that like steep, rewarding adventures will appreciate the effort to reach Royal Arch Trail. And because the bulk of the trail is dog-friendly and dog-safe, it’s a nice shady place to take Fido in the sunny summer. Natural arches are always impressive to see in person and this one is no different. While it’s not the tallest nor the widest, it’s a unique Boulder feature that adds to the diversity of features in the foothills. While the trail gains a lot of elevation, that shouldn’t intimidate casual hikers nearly every rest spot has great views.
From the intersection of Highway 93(Broadway) and Baseline turn west on Baseline and go up the hill one mile to Chautauqua Park. Parking is limited in the park, especially on busy weekends, so you may need to park on the street. Parking is allowed along most of the road but there are a few places where parking is not allowed; these sections are well marked with signs. From the main parking area, follow Bluebell Road 0.7 miles to the Royal Arch Trail Trail. Continue on the Royal Arch Trail Trail 1.6 miles to the arch, which sits at an elevation of 6,915 ft. above sea level, and return the way you came.
The higher you hike, the more stairs you’ll encounter. It’s nothing like hiking the Incline in Colorado Springs, but it’s still a real workout. If you hike to the Royal Arch Trail on the weekend, this is where you’ll begin to experience the trail congestion so it would be best to hike to Royal Arch Trail early in the morning by getting on the trail before 8 AM, or hiking the Royal Arch Trail trail on a weekday.
After pushing up to Royal Arch Trail, be sure to walk around it and go through it. The views of Boulder are incredible. On a clear day, you can see all the way to Denver.
This hike is commonly listed as a great Boulder winter hike. However, like any winter hike, hikers have to be precautious and prepared for the different terrain and weather you may find on your trek. In the winter months, conditions to reach the Royal Arch Trail can vary from not snowy whatsoever to icy and slushy, so checking trip reports and the local weather before attempting this hike is crucial. It’s also recommended to bring a pair of microspikes for additional traction, especially if there are reports of snow and ice on the trails.
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