During my last post in this series on Boulder travel, I gave you an overview of all of my favorite places to eat, places to drink, and things to do in Boulder Colorado.
Today I’m diving in deeper, taking all of the guesswork out of your trip planning, and giving you a complete itinerary for an entire weekend of things to do in Boulder.
I fell in love with Boulder when I was visiting Rocky Mountain National Park in 2018 on a backpacking trip. I stopped in town for lunch on my way back to the airport. And it stayed in my mind ever since.
I came back to visit for a weekend in November of 2019 and it was just as magical as the first time. I asked my boss if I could transfer the second I landed back in Chicago, moved a month later, and never looked back.
Boulder is one of the most active and most beautiful cities in America, and there is an endless amount of activities to try in the summer. Whether you’re hiking, paddle boarding, climbing, mountain biking, off-roading, or camping, I can guarantee that you’ll have a great time.
Just get ready to be outside all weekend!
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For your first day and meal in Boulder, I highly recommend you check out my absolute favorite breakfast place in town, The Buff. Try a White Buffalo paired with an omelet or skillet!
After you’re well-fueled from breakfast, it’s time to check out the iconic foothills: the Flatirons.
You can find my favorite hikes here in my 5 Best Hikes In Boulder Guide, but I think the best ones to do as a visitor are going to be in Chautauqua Park – The Flatirons Loop or Royal Arch Trail.
Royal Arch is a shorter hike (4 miles) with beautiful views of Boulder and, as I’m sure you can guess by the name, a rock archway at the summit. This hike should only take 2-3 hours to complete and is pretty moderate but on the more difficult side as it is pretty steep (almost 1500 feet of elevation gain) so bring lots of water and take breaks as needed. The view from the top will be worth it, I promise.
The First and Second Flatirons Loop is also a moderate trail but definitely closer to the easier side. It can be quite rocky but does not require anything technical, other than spikes in the winter time. It is a 2.5 mile loop that takes you to the two most popular Flatirons. It’s a great trail to do if you’ve never explored the area before. It should also take you roughly 2-3 hours to complete.
Related Post: Hiking The Blue Lakes Trail in Telluride Colorado
Pearl Street Mall is one of the most iconic sights in Boulder, and is full of bars, restaurants, and shops to explore.
Once you’re done hiking, shower and get ready to spend the afternoon shopping and tasting some of the best food and drinks in Boulder.
You can find a list of shops and restaurants at the Pearl Street Mall/Downtown Boulder website here, but the following is a list of some of the most notable and popular places to visit.
Bartaco, Dushanbe Tea House, Hapa Sushi and Sake Bar, Pizzeria Locale, Rosetta Hall, SALT, and T/aco.
If you like sweets you MUST check out Boulder Baked or Gelato Boy for ice cream, cookies, and other baked goods.
Tahona Tequila Bistro, Bitter Bar, Illegal Pete’s, The Post Brewing Co, Press Play, Sundown Saloon (“The Downer” as you’ll hear it referred to), or Rosetta Hall.
One thing I love about Boulder is that there is an endless amount of local businesses, so make sure you check those out and give them your support!
Have a great night out but make sure you sleep well though, because tomorrow is a jam-packed day of activity and adventure!
Related Post: Guide To Breckenridge
Now that you got exploring the city out of the way, it’s time to spend day 2 in my favorite way – entirely in the mountains!
First thing’s first though, you must get in the most important (and best) meal of the day. Boulderites love their brunch and unfortunately most breakfast places don’t allow reservations, so make sure you get up early to grab your table.
Try out some local favorites by grabbing a crepe from Foolish Craig’s Cafe, a pancake flight from Snooze, or some avocado toast from Alpine Modern Cafe.
You have quite a few options for how to spend your morning, but no matter what activity you choose to spend your day doing today, just make sure that you’re being active outside.
You can rent a kayak or paddleboard and spend your day on either the Boulder Reservoir or Gross Reservoir.
Try your hand at rock climbing at either Chautauqua Park or Eldorado Canyon.
Grab your mountain bike and check out some of Boulder’s 300 miles of biking trails!
There are plenty more hiking trails to check out in Boulder than just the Flatirons, so if you want to go for another hike my recommendations to you are going to be either Mount Sanitas or Bear Peak.
Mount Sanitas is a shorter hike if you just do the peak but it is STEEP so don’t let the 2.6 mile round trip fool you. I’d recommend doing the Mount Sanitas and Sanitas Valley Loop. It adds less than a mile to the hike in total and provides gorgeous views.
Bear Peak is a longer hike (will take approximately 5-6 hours to complete) but it is without a doubt the most beautiful hike in Boulder, especially from the summit. It is one of the more challenging hikes, so make sure your cardiovascular endurance is up to par if you’re going to try out this trail.
There are quite a few ways to reach the summit, but no matter which route you pick, the hike is going to be between 8 and 10 miles long and roughly 2800 feet of elevation gain. The hard part is the last mile or so to the summit, because that’s where most of that elevation gain comes from.
Just watch your step and take breaks to breathe as needed and you’ll be just fine.
If you have a 4×4 vehicle and enjoy off-roading, you must check out Switzerland Trail! Switzerland Trail is a 20 mile easy off-roading trail with beautiful views that will take 2-2.5 hours to complete. My friends and I come up here at least twice a week to watch the sunset or go camping. I even found a secret little treehouse up here recently!
Driving Switzerland Trail would be a perfect way to spend the afternoon, especially because finishing the trail leads you to FREE campsites, which is where you’ll be spending the evening.
Related Post: 10 Best Free Campsites in Colorado
You can’t visit Boulder in the summer and NOT camp at least for one night. The absolute BEST place to camp in Boulder is going to be on Sugarloaf Mountain.
The campsites are at the beginning/end of Switzerland Trail, so if you don’t have a 4 wheel drive vehicle you can still make it up the mountain to the campsites.
These campsites are first come first served, but there are so many that you’re not going to have to worry about reserving one early. I’ve rolled up to the campsite at 11pm during peak camping season before with no issues.
Directions: The way you reach the campsites is by taking Canyon Road all the way up to Sugarloaf Mountain Road, and taking that all the way up to a dirt road marked as Switzerland Trail. From there you’ll be in a clearing with a few pull-offs, one leads to Switzerland Trail and the rest lead to campsites. There is a map of the area at the trailhead if you get lost!
After you wake up and watch the sunset, head down the canyon and explore the Boulder Falls. I’m sure your legs and lungs need a break at this point, so don’t worry, this is more of a nature walk than a hike.
There is an actual trail that is about half a mile long round trip, and plenty of spots to sit at the bottom of the falls and just take in the views.
Lastly, you can’t leave town without trying some local beer! The most popular options are going to be Avery Brewing Co or Upslope Brewery. Both have some great IPAs! You could also check out Post Brewing Co, Four Noses Brewery, or The Rayback Collective.
The Rayback Collective is personally my favorite spot in Boulder to hang out.
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