This Is A “Must-Do” Hike: Royal Arch Trail

Why Isn’t This Half-Day Hike In Boulder On Your “Must-Do List”: Royal Arch Trail

Royal Arch Trail

Photo Compliments of M A Lurig

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.

Picnic Facilities

Facilities are located in the park and at the Bluebell Shelter.

Bike Regulations

Bicycles are not allowed on the trails in the Chautauqua area.

Dog Regulations

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.

Quick Facts

  • 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

Photo Search

Google – Royal Arch Trail Photos

Flickr – Royal Arch Trail Photos

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  1. Sounds like a great hike!

  2. Boulder’s slightly over a mile high, so a hiker gets winded more easily there than close to sea level.
    Steve Schwartzman recently posted..New Zealand: Last morning in the countryMy Profile

  3. Well how’s this for serendipity Charlie – I’m headed to Boulder for the first time later this month. Will definitely check this one out!!
    Tina Schell recently posted..Half and Half – Weekly Photo ChallengeMy Profile

  4. Charlie this looks like a fabulous hike. The rock formation is fascinating. Should we find ourselves in Colorado this would be a great addition to the itinerary.

  5. This looks beautiful! I have been to and painted the Rainbow Arch in Utah (Bryce Canon) – no climbng though:)
    Jesh StG recently posted..LEANINGMy Profile

  6. This looks like an amazing hike. I don’t know if we will ever be able to do it but the virtual trip was a treat! Thank you. 🙂

  7. I would love that hike. Great to see new places and rock formations.
    Donna recently posted..Tinkering with Turf GrassMy Profile

  8. Oh, I think I would love this, Charlie!
    I love the rock formations, and the views are just beautiful.

  9. ledrakenoir says:

    Sounds like a tempting and inspiring hike. 🙂

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