Moving to Boulder, Colorado was the dream goal for me and my husband for the past two years. We researched locations in the U.S. that had the most number of trails close to the city where we would move to. Boulder had one of the the highest number of trails closest to the city. Other places we were looking at included Portland, Seattle, and Salt Lake City. The number of trails closest to our home was important to us. When we lived in Arlington, Virginia, we had to drive at least an hour and a half to get to the nearest trails in Shenandoah National Park. When we were in Jersey City, New Jersey, we were in a similar situation. Tired of all that driving, we wanted to be within 30 minutes of many trails.
Wanting to move and being able to move are two different things. A bit over a year ago I received a wonderful opportunity to take a job in NYC and develop my career. The same week, my husband also received a job offer for a company based in Boulder. Since my husband works in IT, he arranged to do his work remotely from our apartment in New Jersey, while I worked in NYC. I was a little disappointed we would not be heading to Colorado yet, but it was the right decision to further my career and get us more financially stable.
Since my husband was visiting Boulder every couple months for business trips, back in September I decided to tag along for a 4-night, 5-day trip.
A friend of mine from DC had moved to Boulder a few years back, so I contacted her the night we arrived and she invited me for her morning hike the next day. You read that right – she goes for a 3-mile hike every morning at Chautauqua Park, which is the park next to Boulder that features the famous Flatirons. Of course, I said yes!
I arrived decked out in my hiking gear – boots, hiking clothes, backpack, water bottles, and camera. My friend looked at me and chuckled. Hiking is so common and casual there, all that gear is not normal for a quick hike. She pointed out I was missing one thing, though, to combat the UV rays experienced at high elevations: a baseball cap. After borrowing one from her, we headed out with her dogs for our hike.
The entrance to the park features a beautiful grassy meadow that connects with miles of trails, including to the Flatirons, the Royal Arch, and Flagstaff Mountain (see this map of the trails in the park). Although the paths were heavily trafficked, there are so many different paths that you can split from the crowd.
We split off to crest Flagstaff Mountain and wind down the hill again. The desert mountain terrain with plentiful evergreen trees was different to what my husband and I were used to seeing on the East coast. The air was fresh, and even a simple view looking back to the Flatirons was beautiful. This was my first taste of hiking in Boulder, and I was hooked!
Estes Park & Lily Lake
On a previous business trip to Boulder, my husband took a short road trip to Estes Park, a town surrounded by Rocky Mountain National Park, which is about 35 miles from Boulder, or a 50 minute drive. He wanted to show it to me, so we rented a Zip Car at 6 AM in order to be back in time for him to get to work at 9 AM. When I first set my eyes on the Rockies, my breath was taken away at the scale of them. My jaw slackened and I whispered “Wow.” It reminded me of when I first saw the Grand Canyon — the mountains’ tall rocky cliffs a testament to the power and grandeur of nature. The pictures we took of the town nestled below the towering Rockies did not do it justice at all.
After a quick drive through the town, we took a different route back to Boulder, driving through the winding roads of the mountains. Along the way we spotted some elk walking nonchalantly by the road. We even heard their bugles.
We had just about enough time for a quick stop, so we parked at Lily Lake to take some pictures. My husband took this amazing panorama photo of the lake, with the sun just starting to hit the mountain peaks. Even though it was still September (and not winter yet), up at this high elevation (8,923 ft) it was 32 degrees Fahrenheit at 7 AM. We were not expecting it to be so chilly. To keep ourselves warm, we jumped up and down and warmed our hands with our breaths as we walked around taking pictures. Although we only spent a short time there, we definitely got a taste of what a magical location it was.
Red Rocks – Mt. Sanitas – Sunshine Canyon / Lion’s Lair Loop Trail
Later that day I went on my first ever solo hike, and it was such a treat. I took an Uber from the hotel and started at Red Rocks, steadily climbing to connect with the Boulder Skyline Traverse trail. Here I had to stop climbing and rest often, due to the effects of elevation. That wasn’t a problem, though. It was a good chance to observe the scenery and take plenty of pictures of the trail!
The description of the Mt. Sanitas – Sunshine Canyon – Lion’s Lair Loop on Hiking Project recommends doing the loop clockwise, but I went counter-clockwise because I wanted to hit the summit and views before it got too busy at lunchtime. Locals going for walks with their dogs or runs also went in the same direction as I did.
View from Mt. Sanitas
After about a mile or so of hiking up, there is a breathtaking view of Boulder from high above. Being 6,580 ft high, I could see far to the South and North. I sat on some rocks to eat some lunch while basking in the warm sun and brisk breeze. A few people came and went, but it was a peaceful place and a peaceful moment to enjoy.
It took a few minutes to find the start of the Lion’s Lair trail. Once I hit this trail, there was obviously less foot traffic than the main trail to the summit. The only sounds I could hear were my boots crunching on the ocher dusty trail. Making progress downhill, the scenery changed. At one point I crested a hill and saw the mountain range behind and the Rocky Mountains in the distance and said out loud, “Oh, wow, that’s beautiful!” even though no one was there to hear me. My heart swelled with joyful anticipation that this place would be our future home.
Getting to Sunshine Canyon trail required a series of steep switchbacks down Lion’s Lair trail, and then crossing a road. This part of the trail had the least dramatic views, but was still peaceful and enjoyable. Hitting afternoon already, the sun was streaming through the trees at an angle.
After reaching the trailhead, I walked back through town and back to the hotel, happy from the pleasant hike.
The vacation came to an end quickly, but in those four days I experienced many adventures. The fresh air and exercise made me feel more myself than I had in ages. It was clear to me and my husband more than ever that Boulder would be our future home. A place where we could explore nature close to the city, and where we could raise a family.
My husband’s company was asking for some time for him to move to working in the office. After circumstances aligned, we were able to move in early February 2019. From my experience so far in the last three weeks since moving to Boulder, it is one of the best decisions we have made. We are loving living here every day and I look forward to sharing our hiking and other adventures with you.