Why Isn’t This Half-Day Hike In Boulder On Your “Must-Do List”: Royal Arch Trail
What Makes Royal Arch Trail In Boulder, CO So Popular
The views are nothing less than spectacular: the trail itself is a really nice half-day workout that is easily accessible to both Boulder, and Denver residents.
The Royal Arch Trail
The most direct route to Royal Arch begins at the Chautauqua Park Ranger Station and climbs Bluebell Road to connect with the Royal Arch Trail. Bluebell Road rises steadily (not aggressively) over Chautauqua Park past the Mesa Trail junction (.6 miles : 6,005 feet) and Bluebell Shelter to the Royal Arch Trail (.7 miles : 6,095 feet).
The Royal Arch Trail narrows through mixed pine to a connection for Flatiron #2 and #3, and bends south up a steep, narrow gulch (.9 miles : 6,188 feet). The trail steepens significantly as it bends away from the upper-gulch up to Sentinel Pass (1.35 miles: 6,768 feet), a rocky notch at the top of Bluebell Canyon. Enjoy close-up cross-sections of the Flatiron rocks from this point.
The trail drops from Sentinel pass about 100 feet and resumes a strenuous, twisting climb over the steady trickle of Tangen Spring to the base of Royal Arch (1.6 miles: 6,915 feet). Enjoy your walk under Royal Arch to a set of outcrops with spectacular views across the foothills, eastern plains, and downtown Denver (on a clear day).
Royal Arch is one of the more popular destinations from the Chataqua Trailhead. It is a relatively short hike at 1.5 miles each way, but they are pretty steep miles! So I marked this as a strenuous hike. The destination is a rock arch with great side views of the flatirons and of Boulder.
A Little Geology
Royal Arch (6,915 feet above sea level) is located along a rugged fold in the Boulder Flatirons. These rocks are remnants of the Fountain Formation, mineral-rich sand that was eroded from the ancestral Rocky Mountain uplift that took place over 300 million years ago. Royal Arch is a fragment of the exposed Fountain Formation sculpted by water, wind and mechanical erosion into the 20 foot span that exists today.
Additional Chataqua Park Information
How To Reach Chataqua Park And Royal Arch Trailhead
From the intersection of CO 93 (Broadway) and Baseline, drive west up Baseline Rd. for 1.1 miles and turn left into the parking area for Chautauqua Mountain Park. You will need to arrive early to park in the lot. Parking on the street is an option.
Chautauqua Ranger Cottage
At the Ranger Cottage, you will find park maps, brochures and information. It is staffed according to the following schedule:
May to September
9 AM to 4 PM Weekdays
8 AM to 6 PM Weekends
9 AM – 4 PM Weekdays
8 AM – 5 PM Weekends
November to April
9 AM to 4 PM Daily
Restrooms are located at Chautauqua Ranger Cottage, on the east side of front porch, and at the top of Bluebell Road. This trail is very popular trail and there are no on-trail facilities so plan appropriately.
Facilities are located in the park and at the Bluebell Shelter.
Bicycles are not allowed on the trails in the Chautauqua area.
All dogs must be leashed in the Trailhead Leash Area. Beyond the trailhead, dog control requirements vary from trail to trail, so carefully watch for dog regulation signs at trailheads and trail intersections. On most OSMP trails in this area, dogs must be on a hand-held leash at all times unless they meet the voice and sight control standard and display a City of Boulder Voice and Sight tag. Dog excrement removal is required by law. A dog station is available to aid in the collection of dog excrement.
Black bears and mountain lions inhabit this area so caution and supervision of children is advised. Many other wildlife species are common including birds of prey, mule deer, and coyotes.
- Round-Trip Length: 3.2 miles (duration is about 2 to 3 hours)
- Start-End Elevation: 5,710 feet to 6,915 feet (6,915 feet max elevation)
- Elevation Change: Net elevation gain (1,417 feet total elevation gain for the entire trip)
- Trail Type: This is a “out and back” hike
- Skill Level: Moderate to Strenuous
- Dogs Allowed: Yes
- Bikes Allowed: No
- Horses Allowed: No
- Seasons: All Seasons
Google – Royal Arch Trail Photos
Flickr – Royal Arch Trail Photos