4-day Boulder, Colorado Itinerary for Outdoor Enthusiasts

Make the most of your time in the mountains with this 4-day Boulder, Colorado itinerary, including the best hikes, restaurants, and things to do in this adventurous city.

I lived in Colorado for six years and spent many days exploring Boulder. I have fond memories of hiking in Chautauqua Park with my husband on our first visit to Boulder, brewery hopping at Avery Brewing Co. and Sanitas with my friends from college, watching The Lumineers at the Boulder Theater, and showing my out-of-state family around Pearl Street when they came to visit.

If the mountains are calling and you must go, consider using this Boulder, Colorado itinerary to help you plan an epic trip to the mountains. With 300 miles of hiking and biking trails, there are plenty of opportunities to get outside and admire the slanted sandstone formations called the Flatirons that make Boulder so iconic.

Through personal experience, I’ve learned the best hikes, things to do, and places to go in Boulder. This 4-day Boulder, Colorado itinerary is a compilation of my recommendations and will help you make the most of your time as you explore the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

4-Day Boulder Itinerary at a Glance

You cannot possibly see everything Boulder offers in four days, but you can experience many of the highlights of this unique city in Colorado. This Boulder, Colorado itinerary is for outdoor enthusiasts who want to spend at least part of each day outside exploring.

You can customize this Boulder itinerary to best suit your needs and interests, but if you want to experience a little bit of everything, I recommend following the itinerary as-is for a well-rounded Boulder trip.

Where you will visit

  • Chautauqua Park
  • Eldorado Canyon State Park
  • Flagstaff Mountain
  • NCAR trails
  • Pearl Street Mall
  • Boulder Falls

DAY 1: Chautauqua Park
DAY 2: Flagstaff Mountain and Pearl Street
DAY 3: Eldorado Canyon State Park
DAY 4: NCAR trails and Boulder Falls

You’ll enjoy views of the Boulder Flatirons as you explore the city

Day 1: Chautauqua Park

On your first day in Boulder, you’ll learn what makes Boulder such a must-visit destination in Colorado. You’ll spend the morning arriving and getting settled, then explore Chautauqua Park to see the Flatirons up close. To end the day, you’ll pick from one of Boulder’s local delicious restaurants. 

View of Chautauqua Park in Boulder in the summer time
A view of the Flatirons on a summer day at Chautauqua Park

Morning/Afternoon – Hike at Chautauqua Park

Kick off your Boulder itinerary by exploring Chautauqua Park. This area has a park, hiking trails, and a historic district with a General Store and Dining Hall.

There are 40 miles of trails from the Chautauqua trailhead, and you can choose your hike based on how far you want to go, the amount of time you have, and the trail features you’d like to see. There is an on-site Ranger Cottage near the bathrooms with maps and brochures.

For your first visit to Chautauqua Park, I recommend either Chautauqua Trail (moderate) or Royal Arch Trail (more difficult).

Ranger Cottage at Chautauqua Park in Boulder, Colorado
The Ranger Cottage at Chautauqua Park

Chautauqua Trail

Trail Basics

  • Distance: 1.3 miles
  • Type: Out-and-back
  • Elevation Gain: 423 feet
  • Time: 45 minutes
  • Difficulty: Moderate

For a quick, 1.3-mile hike, try the Chautauqua Trail. This moderate trail offers exceptional views of the city of Boulder. You don’t have to go the full distance to see the views and can turn around whenever you feel like it.

As soon as you park in the lot, you’ll see a wide, paved trail leading up to a forested area. It looks steeper than it really is, but you may need to pause and catch your breath if you’re coming from an area of lower altitude.

As you walk up the path, you’ll see the red-orange roof tiles of the University of Colorado Boulder’s campus in the distance. There are plenty of places to stop for scenic photos of the Flatirons with prairie grass and pine trees.

View of the CU Boulder campus at Chautauqua Park
View of the University of Colorado’s Boulder campus from Chautauqua Trail

Royal Arch Trail

Trail Basics

  • Distance: 3.3 miles
  • Type: Out-and-back
  • Elevation Gain: 1,404 feet
  • Time: 2-3 hours
  • Difficulty: Hard

For a challenging hike, I recommend the Royal Arch Trail. This popular 3.3-mile trail starts as a dirt trail weaving through a shaded pine forest. Along the way, you’ll enjoy views of the Flatirons.

The trail ends at a unique arch rock formation with views of Boulder. The hike is considered hard due to the elevation gain and half-mile worth of flagstone stairs you must ascend to reach the arch.

When you finish hiking, I recommend relaxing in the grassy area of Chautauqua Park. If you have a snack, book, or frisbee, this is the perfect place to lay out a blanket and relax on a sunny day.

If time allows, you could also explore the Chautauqua historic district before dinner. The General Store has espresso, ice cream, candies, and small souvenirs.

View of a picnic table and people enjoying Chautauqua Park
A beautiful fall day at Chautauqua Park in Boulder

Evening – Dinner at a Local Boulder Restaurant

If you want to stay in the Chautauqua historic district for dinner, try the Victorian-style Dining Hall, which provides a more upscale dining experience. Vegetarian and vegan options include a southwest black bean burger or asparagus tacos. Reservations are encouraged, and they also have an excellent brunch menu if you decide to come back one morning.

Check out Mountain Sun Pub and Brewery if you prefer a more casual option with a quirky, Boulder-esque vibe. They have two different locations in Boulder: one on Pearl Street and the other (called Southern Sun) on South Broadway. This cash-only restaurant is known for its famous fries, and vegan options include a vegan chili or an Impossible burger.

The outside of Mountain Sun on Pearl Street in Boulder, Colorado
The outside of Mountain Sun on Pearl Street in Boulder

Day 2: Flagstaff Mountain and Pearl Street

On your second day in Boulder, you will get to see Flagstaff Mountain and choose if you want to drive or hike to the summit. You’ll also have time for shopping, dining, and people-watching along Pearl Street. The day ends with dinner and drinks at The Rayback.

Morning – Flagstaff Mountain and Brunch

If you’re craving a stunning view of the Rocky Mountains, head up Flagstaff Mountain. You can choose to drive, bike, or hike up the mountain.

If you drive, it’s 4.5 miles up a steep, paved road with hairpin turns. You don’t need a 4-wheel drive vehicle for this scenic road, but you will want to go slow and drive carefully.

Bring $5 cash to put into an envelope for parking. When you reach the top of the road, I recommend parking at the Flagstaff Nature Center and hiking along the easy 1.2-mile Boy Scout to Flagstaff trail loop. 

Boy Scout Trail, Mary’s Point, and Flagstaff Trail Loop

Trail Basics

  • Distance: 1.2 miles
  • Type: Loop
  • Elevation Gain: 193 feet
  • Time: 30-40 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy

The Boy Scout Trail to Flagstaff Trail is an easy loop to stretch your legs after driving up Flagstaff Mountain. With only 193 feet of elevation gain, the trail is pretty flat and easy.

You will see a turn-off along the loop for Mary’s Point. There is a bit of a scramble here over some boulders, though it is doable for beginners.

Along the trail, you’ll enjoy panoramic views of Boulder’s Pearl Street and the snow-covered Rocky Mountains in the distance.

Gregory Canyon, Range View, and Flagstaff Loop

Trail Basics

  • Distance: 3.8 miles
  • Type: Loop
  • Elevation Gain: 1,200 feet
  • Time: 2-3 hours
  • Difficulty: Hard

For those who prefer a longer hike and want to avoid driving up the steep road, I recommend parking at Gregory Canyon Trailhead and hiking up Flagstaff Mountain.

This hike is a 3.8-mile loop that combines the Gregory Canyon Trail, Range View Trail, and Flagstaff Trail. It is a challenging trail with an elevation gain of 1,200 feet, so I only recommend it for experienced hikers.

The views are worth the hard work, though. When you reach Realization Point, you’ll enjoy views of snow-covered peaks of mountains in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Afternoon – Pearl Street Mall

Once you’ve had your fill of the mountain views from Flagstaff Mountain, it’s time to head to Pearl Street Mall. Before you hit the shops, though, I recommend fueling up with a tasty brunch at one of Pearl Street’s breakfast joints. 

Snooze, an A.M. Eatery is a small breakfast chain that originated in Colorado. They have a delicious breakfast and brunch menu, including vegan banana bliss pancakes or a breakfast tofu scramble, and they can customize almost all of their plates to make them vegan or vegetarian.

Pedestrians on Pearl Street in Boulder, Colorado
Pedestrians shopping and dining on Pearl Street

Once you finish brunch, you have the afternoon to explore the fun shops along Pearl Street Mall. This area is a four-block outdoor pedestrian mall with hundreds of cute shops.

I recommend checking out the Boulder Book Store, Common Threads consignment shop, Two Hands Paperie for lovers of crafts and paper products, and outdoor brand shops like Patagonia, Arc’teryx, and Backcountry.

As you shop, you’ll also likely encounter street performers along the way. If you ever want to take a break and rest, Pearl Street Mall is the perfect place to find a bench and people-watch.

Street performer on Pearl Street in Boulder, Colorado
Pearl Street is full of street performers with a variety of talents

Evening – Food Trucks and Drinks

End your day with a casual dinner and drinks at The Rayback, a food truck park with a full bar, tap house, and coffee shop. There is something for everyone here, and they often have live music and trivia nights.

Their food truck offerings change daily, so check out their schedule to see the options before you go. If you visit Boulder on a holiday, The Rayback often has fun holiday-themed festivals and events. I visited during the fall and stumbled upon a German night with special music, beers, costumes, and food.

People enjoying food and drinks outside on the patio at The Rayback in Boulder, Colorado
People enjoying food and drinks outside on the patio of The Rayback

Day 3: Eldorado Canyon State Park

For day 3, prepare for a day hike in Eldorado Canyon State Park and an afternoon adventure (e-bike tour of Boulder, Museum of Boulder, or a tour of Celestial Seasonings). For dinner, you’ll head to The Sink, a family-owned restaurant known for burgers and pizza.

Morning – Hike at Eldorado Canyon State Park

Located just 20 minutes outside Boulder, Eldorado Canyon State Park is a beautiful spot for hiking and rock climbing. No matter which trail you explore, you’ll admire views of sandstone cliffs, Boulder Creek, and the golden rock walls.

If you visit during winter, you can also cross-country ski or snowshoe here. Note that if you visit on weekends or holidays from May 15-September 15, you must purchase an advanced permit.

Two of my favorite hikes here are Rattlesnake Gulch Trail and Eldorado Canyon Trail. Both are moderate and have similar views of the canyon, but Rattlesnake Gulch has unique trail features, while Eldorado Canyon Trail is a better option for those looking for a longer day hike.

Rattlesnake Gulch Trail

Trail Basics

  • Distance: 2.9 miles
  • Type: Out-and-back
  • Elevation Gain: 728 feet
  • Time: 1.5 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate

There are two unique sites to see along the Rattlesnake Gulch Trail: the Crags Hotel ruins and the Continental Divide Overlook.

In 1912, the Crags Hotel caught on fire, and now its ruins are a historical site you can visit along this trail. There is a sign detailing the hotel’s history that is interesting to read as you explore the abandoned ruins.

At the end of the trail, you will see the Continental Divide. This turnaround point is a convenient and scenic place to sit and eat a hiking snack before heading back out.

Eldorado Canyon Trail

Trail Basics

  • Distance: 6.6 miles
  • Type: Out-and-back
  • Elevation Gain: 1,978 feet
  • Time: 4 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate

If you’re looking for a moderate challenge, try the Eldorado Canyon Trail, which offers views of the Rocky Mountains, Eldorado Canyon, a small waterfall, and the Denver skyline along the trail.

I recommend packing a picnic lunch for this hike. At the end of the trail, you will arrive at Boulder Creek, where there are excellent spots to eat and relax.

There is a gradual elevation gain throughout the trail with a good balance of ups and downs. If you ever need a break, there are numerous benches throughout the trail where you can stop to catch your breath and drink water.

Purple wildflowers in Boulder
Depending on the time of year you visit, you can admire views of wildflowers like these along the trail

Afternoon – Choose your adventure

Depending on your interests, there are a few ways you can spend your afternoon in Boulder. I recommend trying an e-bike tour, visiting the Museum of Boulder, or taking a tour of Celestial Seasonings (a tea factory).

Here is information about each to help you pick your ideal experience.

  • E-bike tour of Boulder: Did you know Boulder is ranked the 3rd most bike-friendly city in the U.S.? Multiple companies offer e-bike tours of Boulder. Depending on the tour you pick, you can ride around the University of Colorado campus, Chautauqua Park, Pearl Street, National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), Wonderland Lake, and Boulder Creek. You can also choose more adventurous tours that go up and down steep hills or pick a flat and scenic one like JD’s Joyrides to see Boulder’s street art and murals up close.
  • Museum of Boulder: If you enjoy learning about the history of the places you visit, I recommend a stop at the Museum of Boulder. This museum includes exhibits on Boulder’s native roots and how it became a mecca for tech-savvy and health-conscious people. You can also learn about famous Boulder athletes and celebrities while enjoying hands-on missions like rescuing a virtual climber off Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park. The scenic rooftop of the museum is a must-stop for views of downtown Boulder and the Flatirons.
  • Celestial Seasonings tour: If you drink tea, chances are high that you’ve heard of Celestial Seasonings, the largest tea manufacturer in the U.S. Did you know one of their factories is in Boulder? You can pay $5 for a 45-minute tour to learn how they make and package their teas while trying over 100 tea samples. It is a must-visit Boulder destination for tea lovers.
People smiling on an e-bike tour in Boulder
An e-bike tour in Boulder allows you to see the city and Flatirons from new angles

Evening – Dinner at The Sink

For a local Boulder restaurant, I recommend heading to The Sink. This family-owned spot is fun and quirky and offers unique menu options like a Sinkburger and Ugly Crust pizza. 

Since 1923, the restaurant has operated in Boulder near campus on The Hill. Many famous people have visited here and signed the walls, including Barack Obama and Guy Fieri. 

If you are vegetarian or vegan, there are plenty of tasty options. I recommend trying the cauliflower buffalo bites, veggie burger, or plant-based pizza with vegan cheese and veggies.

A colorful mural at The Sink in Boulder, Colorado
A colorful, quirky mural at The Sink in Boulder

Day 4: NCAR trails, Boulder Falls, and a craft brewery

Your last day in Boulder consists of one more hike, a quick trip to Boulder Falls, and a visit to one of Colorado’s famous craft breweries. I also offer ideas on some of Boulder’s best music venues.

Morning – Hike the NCAR trails

The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder offers a free parking lot for Boulder Open Space trails. There are several hikes from here with incredible views of the Flatirons.

A couple of popular options are Mallory Cave and Bear Peak. Mallory Cave is a moderate option, while Bear Peak is challenging for even experienced hikers.

Mallory Cave

Trail Basics

  • Distance: 3.0 miles
  • Type: Out-and-back
  • Elevation Gain: 1,174 feet
  • Time: 1.5 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate

As the name suggests, the Mallory Cave trail leads you to one of Boulder’s caves. Although people are no longer allowed to go inside the cave to reduce human contamination harmful to bats, there is a gate in front of the cave which you can look through to see inside.

I recommend downloading this trail map ahead of time since several other trails branch off of the Mallory Cave trail. The final ascent to the cave can also be a little confusing to navigate as you trek across a rock scramble.

Bear Peak Trail

Trail Basics

  • Distance: 6.2 miles
  • Type: Out-and-back
  • Elevation Gain: 2,811 feet
  • Time: 3-4 hours
  • Difficulty: Hard

Bear Peak is a popular yet challenging hike in Boulder. Due to its difficulty with nearly 3,000 feet of elevation gain, I recommend this hike only for experienced hikers who have previously completed hikes with similar altitude and gain.

On the way up to Bear Peak, you’ll hike on a rocky path through a forest with steep uphills. The 360-degree, panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains at the top of Bear Peak are worth the effort. 

The summit is often windy, so bring a lightweight jacket and a beanie if you want to hang out here. On your way down, you can either go back the way you came (as reflected in these trail stats) or take the Bear Peak Canyon Loop Trail, which adds another 2.2 miles (but no additional elevation gain) to your total hike.

Panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains at the top of Bear Peak in Boulder, Colorado
Although Bear Peak Trail is hard, the panoramic views of the mountains make it worth it!

Afternoon – Visit Boulder Falls

Depending on time, I recommend picking up lunch to-go or packing a picnic and driving 25 minutes from the NCAR trails to Boulder Falls for a relaxing afternoon.

The drive through Boulder Canyon to Boulder Falls is scenic, and there is free parking at the trailhead. If you feel tired from your morning hike, don’t worry – Boulder Falls is not a hike. It’s a 100-yard walk from the parking lot to a 70-foot waterfall.

The waterfall is small but mighty, and it is an excellent spot to take photos, read a book, and hang out for the afternoon. You can put your feet in the water, but be cautious as the wet rocks can be slippery. 

Boulder Falls in Boulder, Colorado
Boulder Falls is a scenic place to rest and spend a relaxing afternoon

Evening – Craft brewery and live music

For your final night in Colorado, visit one of Boulder’s famous craft breweries or a hip venue for live music (or do both if time permits).

Boulder Craft Breweries

Here are some Boulder, Colorado breweries I recommend exploring.

  • Avery Brewing Co.: Avery has a taproom with over 30 beers, a restaurant with options for dinner, and a merch store. Their huge brewery facility offers tours with three tasters for $10.
  • Upslope Brewing Company: Upslope is a microbrewery with over 20 beers, food from The Mighty Burger (with the option for veggie patties), and live music. They have plenty of seating inside and outside.
  • Sanitas Brewing Company: Sanitas has over 32 beers on tap and an on-site taco restaurant called McDevitt Taco Supply. They have a hip, industrial-style taproom and offer fun community events. I’ve even taken a yoga class here before.
People doing yoga at Sanitas Brewing in Boulder
Yoga in the back of Sanitas Brewing Company in Boulder

Boulder Live Music Venues

If you love live music, I also recommend checking out one of Boulder’s iconic venues.

  • Velvet Elk Lounge: Check out the Velvet Elk Lounge for funky tunes and dancing. Located on Pearl Street, this small venue has live music almost every night, and most nights do not require a cover or tickets to enter. They also have delicious craft cocktails like Campfire Sling and Lavender’s Baby.
  • Boulder Theater: A historic Boulder music venue, the Boulder Theater has showcased musicians since 1906. They often get big-named artists like The Lumineers, but you must purchase tickets in advance to attend a show here as they tend to sell out. 
  • Fox Theater: Located on The Hill near The Sink, Fox Theater is another historic Boulder music venue with vintage charm. They have a variety of artists (both big and small), and tickets for some shows are $25 or less. 
The outside of the Boulder Theater in Boulder, Colorado
The vintage sign on the outside of the Boulder Theater
If you have more time…

If you have an extra day or two in the area, you can also drive 1 hour to Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s worth the drive to see the park, watch the wildlife, go for a day hike in the park, and check out the town of Estes Park. If it’s your first time visiting, check out these tips for your first trip to RMNP.

Boulder Itinerary FAQs

Have a question about this Boulder itinerary? Check out these frequently asked questions along with their answers.

How many days do you need in Boulder?

The number of days you should spend in Boulder depends on your travel style, what you want to do, and how much time you have. I think four days is plenty to experience many of the best things to do in Boulder.

You will see iconic Boulder destinations, go on the best Boulder hikes, try local restaurants, and visit Colorado craft breweries.

Although there is always more to do, I recommend planning for 4-5 days for your first trip to Boulder. You can always come back and do more on your next trip!

A red VW bus for Boulder Convention and Visitor Bureau
There is so much to see and do in Boulder, but 4-5 days is sufficient to experience the highlights

When is the best time to visit Boulder?

With 300 days of sunshine, Colorado is pleasant year-round. I recommend visiting in summer or early fall for ideal temperatures and weather.

Summertime is wildflower season in Colorado. In the fall, you can enjoy driving through the Colorado foliage and hiking among the golden aspen trees. Trails are often muddy in the spring, but there are fewer crowds this time of year.

If you enjoy snow, the layer of white snow on the Boulder Flatirons is a magical sight. You will need to bring traction devices and warm layers for hikes, though, and some roads and trailheads may be inaccessible.

Chautauqua Park in the winter in Boulder, Colorado
If you visit during winter, you’ll want to come prepared with proper hiking snow gear

What if I only have one day to explore Boulder?

If you only have one day, here are the top things to do in Boulder, Colorado:

  • Hike among the Flatirons at Chautauqua Park
  • Explore the shops at Pearl Street Mall
  • Visit a Boulder brewery or catch live music at a Boulder music venue
Woman hiking on a trail with a dog in Boulder, Colorado
If you only have a day in Boulder, don’t miss the trails at Chautauqua Park
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Have you been to Boulder? What would you add to this Boulder, Colorado itinerary? Leave us your tips and suggestions in the comments below!

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