One of my favorite regions to hike is anywhere near the transition between the great Central Plains and the Rocky Mountains. The region offers opportunity to explore several ecosystems and to enjoy grand panoramic views of the mountains and a seemingly endless prairie, with relatively little effort due to the flatness of the plains.
Flatirons Vista Trail offers a hike that's custom-tailored to the above description. It's just south of the college city of Boulder, Colorado (where my youngest son is currently a postgrad in physics), immediately off Highway 93, and is a loop trail that offers great views of Boulder's famous Flatirons. There's lots of parking (for a fee for non-residents, so bring small bills with you). The trail is quite popular and used by hikers, joggers, bikers and even a few folks on horseback.
We started heading west on the northern leg of the loop, through prairie, adjoining a pond to the south. Even in early September there were still lots of wildflowers along the trail, as you can see in the photos at the bottom of this post. The trail enters a stand of ponderosa pines which isn't dense and offers great views of the Flatirons to the northeast for much of this leg of your hike. The upper loop ends with the junction to the Doudy Draw Trail, and it's from here that you have the best views of your hike, including of a beautiful valley, the foothills of the Rockies and, of course, the Flatirons. This is a great place to stop for a rest or snack. If you wanted to do a longer hike, you could head west along the Doudy Draw Trail, but we continued on the Flatirons Vista Loop. The trail heads south along some electricity poles before leaving the power lines and heading east back to the trail head. Along the southern leg of the loop there were lots of beavertail cacti.
Surprisingly, you lose sight of the city of Boulder while hiking this trail. It's really quite a beautiful nature walk. There were lots of birds and wildflowers to see, and I imagine in the spring it would be a wonderful place to enjoy a meadow of wildflowers. And at the right time of day, I'm sure you've a good chance to see some wildlife (though we didn't spot any).
Some of the specifics of this hike:
- Hike Distance: 3.3 Miles
- Rating: Easy
- Duration: 1.5 - 2 hrs (longer if you rest or take lots of photos)
- Elevation Gain: 300 ft (Min/Max: 5,871 to 6,199 ft)