April 2002: Chautauqua Park


Boulder, Colorado

On the outwash plain of Boulder Creek a small settlement sprung up in 1858 for no other reason then, according to founder Captain Thomas A. Aikens, "the mountains look right for gold." The tiny mining camp limped along for the better part of twenty years and was rescued from oblivion only by the founding of the University of Colorado in 1876.
Today Boulder is a receational mecca where the town has preserved and protected over 37,000 acres of Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP). One hundred and twenty miles of trails are used by walkers, hikers, bicyclists, horseback riders and dog walkers. It has been said that Boulder has more bicycles per capita of any city in the world. And probably as many dogs.
Dogs are welcome in most, but not all parts of the OSMP, and in many places are allowed off leash if sight and voice control can be demonstrated. A detailed Dog Regulations Map delineates exactly what dog restrictions are in force throughout the different areas of the OSMP. Dogs are not permitted on rock climbs.
One place dogs are not allowed in Boulder is on the downtown outdoor mall on Pearl Street.

All told, there are 28 trailheads in the OSMP; 27 of them are open to dogs. Most allow dogs under voice and sight control. One of the most popular dog walking spots is Chautauqua Park on Baseline Road, at the base of the Flatiron Mountains on the western edge of town. Chautauqua was founded in 1898 as part of a movement to bring culture to rural areas. The Ranger Cottage here is a starting point for several area circle hikes, including easy walks through the foothills along the Chautauqua, Bluebell-Baird, and Mesa trails. Dogs are not permitted on the McClintock Trail. Beyond the Flatirons, Boulder's trademark mountain formation, is the Gregory Canyon Trail, a steady climb through ponderosa pine and Douglas fir on a former route used by gold miners. Past the Green Mountain Lodge, the Ranger Trail leads to the 8144-foot summit of Green Mountain and sweeping views of the Front Range. From the Gregory Canyon Trail, a short detour leads to Realization Point and the summit of Flagstaff Mountain, 1,600 feet above Boulder.
Another OSMP trailhead with a wide variety of hiking opportunities with the dog is Mesa Trail South Trailhead, 1.7 miles west of Highway 93 on Eldorado Springs Drive. The southern region of the Mesa Trail here lies in an overlapping band of diverse plant communities as the Great Plains blend into the forested mountains. 

The city of Boulder Parks and Recreation Department operates three dog parks inside the city. The largest is a 3.5-acre, fenced dog park in an undeveloped park called Valmont near the airport, .25 miles east of the intersection of Airport and Valmont Roads. Outfitted with drinking spigots for dogs, the park at Valmont is lighted for night play. In East Boulder Community Park at 5660 Sioux Drive is a 1.5-acre fenced dog park with access to a portion of a pond. Both dog parks feature four-foot high chain link fencing, double entrance gates, benches, tables and trashcans. A third dog park is an off-leash area near the creek in Howard Heuston Park, off 4th Street. This dog exercise area is unfenced.

National Center for Atmospheric Research (1850 Table Mesa Drive, Boulder). The National Center for Atmospheric Research was established in 1960 to further understanding of climate change, ozone depletion, solar physics, lightning and aviation weather hazards. Housed in an I.M. Pei-designed building, the center features more than a dozen interactive exhibits. Outside is the Walter Orr Roberts Nature and Weather Trail and a maze of hiking trails into Boulder's Flatirons. One of the more difficult trails in Boulder, the Fern Canyon/BearCanyon hike, is accessible here. The trail climbs 1,700 feet to Bear Peak but is cool and shady. Ferns lap up mositure from the rocks and thrive in the canyon's delightful crevices. 

Boulder is located northwest of Denver, reached via US 36 off I-25. The visitor center is in the Chamber of Commerce off Pearl Street mall downtown but better hiking information is available at the Ranger Cottage in Chatauqua Park.