Over 7000 ft above sea level with amazing views of the Continental Divide, the hike to the First and Second Flatirons is one of the better hikes I’ve done in Colorado since I arrived in Denver three weeks ago. The 2.6-mile roundtrip hike climbs up the mountains behind Boulder, wraps around the second flatiron, and takes you right up to the base of the first flatiron. From the top, you could see the endless layers of the Rocky Mountains, the distinct features of the other flatirons, and Boulder down below. It is also a fun trail to hike through different terrains and viewpoints.
The Flatiron trail starts at the Chautauqua Trailhead in Chautauqua Park, about a mile from downtown Boulder and only a 45-minute drive from Denver. There’s a large parking lot and there’s no fee between Labor Day and Memorial Day.
From Chautauqua Trailhead, there’s a network of trails that takes you through the mountains. The hike to the first and second flatirons is a 2.6-mile roundtrip out-and-back trail with 1400 ft of elevation gain. The trailhead starts at 5710 ft and the trail ascends up to 7132 ft, so for people not acclimated to the altitude, like me, it could mean some heavy huffin’ and pufffin’.
The trail begins on a paved path and immediately starts to climb. It cuts through the open meadows, which when I went in April was covered in snow, and I could see the three flatirons in the distance. I was excited to hike towards them but honestly, it was a bit daunting to see how high up they were.
The paved path ends quickly as the trail enters the woods and the landscape changes completely. We hiked through wooded areas with occasional openings of the views below and passed by a few rivers and creeks. There are a few turns along the way and they are all very clearly marked.
There was a section we had to climb up giant boulders, but there were well established footholds, and it was safe and easy to get past it.
The last part of the hike consists of narrow switchbacks as the trail ascends up the ridge towards the first flatiron. As soon as it plateaued, we saw the perfect view of the second flatiron, which was my favorite view of the entire hike. It was an unobstructed view of the flatiron with the Colorado mountains in the back, and the layer of snow and the flurries made it even better.
From here, the trail wraps around and takes you to the base of the first flatiron. You could see the expansive Rocky Mountains in the distance where the mountain range blends in with the clouds. The trail ends here and you could scramble along the rocks, but we decided to turn around here since the rocks were covered in snow and the views earlier were way nicer.
I thought the hike up the first and second flatirons was really fun because of the different terrains and it also had terrific views of the mountains and of Boulder. The altitude and steep elevation gain weren’t too big of an issue for us, especially since the entire trip is less than 3 miles. I would be down to hike it again in the summer and see what the flatirons look like without snow.