Description: On the final steep ascent to Royal Arch on a beautiful Saturday in mid-March, I found myself making excuses for lots of photo-op breaks.  No one will think I’m just plain tired if I’m taking pictures, right?  While resting, and getting passed by the crowds of hikers on their way down the rocky summit, I was again happily reminded how much a family activity hiking is in this great town.  The trail was packed, with parents and children coming down from the arch.  I’m talking kids 5 years old or perhaps even younger hiking, scrambling, jumping and running along the trail.  And this is a trail that is at times very technical and gets an upper intermediate to difficult rating from local hikers.  But, without doubt the Best Hiker award this day went to a tabby cat on leash that was happily hopping down boulders on the descent.  
If you are a local hiker or a visitor to Boulder who is healthy and active, comfortable on very rocky terrain, and looking for a challenging hike, Royal Arch is hard to beat. But, it’s not for everyone.  I met and talked with several groups who were contemplating turning around, or had already made the decision to do so, while resting at the false summit of Sentinel Pass. But, if you do make it to the top and scramble through the eye of the arch, you will be rewarded with what is without question the most dramatic views to be found of Boulder Valley.

Challenge Level: A Difficult, 3.9 Miles, 1500' Elevation, 2-4 Hours.  The last time I hiked Royal Arch was before the September 2013 flood that damaged so many Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) trails, and closing access to Royal Arch for almost 14 months.  Today the trail is still as tough as ever, but better designed to withstand future mood swings of mother nature.  There are several access trails that will deliver you to the Royal Arch trailhead.  The route I took avoids the popular, but somewhat blah, Bluebell Rd access.  However, if you want to save yourself six-tenths of a mile and 100' or so of elevation gain on this hike, by all means use Bluebell Rd.  I just chose to take what I think is a much more scenic entrance and exit to this classic trail.  Regardless of how you get to the trailhead, be prepared for some steep, rocky ascents as you rise more than 950' over the final 1.1 mile ascent to Royal Arch.  

Driving Directions: Chautauqua Park, Boulder, CO.  Head south from Canyon Rd on either Broadway or 9th St.  Turn west on Baseline Rd. and drive until you see the entrance for Chautauqua Park on the left just past 9th St.  Google Map directions here...

Parking and Trailhead: Chautauqua Park can be very crowded.  If there is no parking within the park itself, parking is available on Baseline Rd. The trailhead is just behind the Ranger's Cottage.  Visit the cottage if you have the chance.  The Rangers there are friendly and have great advice for your visit to Chautauqua and Boulder's OSMP.

Trail Guide: This hike starts out on the wide boulevard of the Chautauqua Trail, which was rerouted and resurfaced in 2017, and runs fairly steeply uphill toward the base of the first three flatirons.  Take your time and enjoy the views here as the initial grade can be a bit of a shock to the system and there's a lot more steep hiking ahead.  

Map Resources:  Boulder Open Space Map

Après Hike: Just on the fringe of NE Boulder is the small community of Gunbarrel.  Really just a few neighborhoods wrapped around the Boulder Country Club, it nevertheless has its share of craft breweries including Avery, Asher, Finkel & Garf, Vindication, and now Gunbarrel Brewing.  Jamie Fox, who has been brewing winning beers for over 16 years, and his wife Marie, hit the ground running with GBC in 2017 and are already making a big splash with their wide variety of beers.  Last time I stopped by they had over 20 taps pouring their own beers, all unique and all great.  Okay, I didn't try them all, but the ones I did were fantastic!  Their taproom is located at 7088 Winchester Circle, Boulder, CO  80301.

Picnicking: Plenty of tables at the Ranger Cottage and on the green in front of the Chautauqua dining hall!

Restrooms: Yes, at the Ranger Cottage and Dining Hall.

Dog Friendly: Yes.

Cell Sevice: Yes.