Tucked away in the shadow of the foothills is Royal Arch, Boulder’s au natural homage to the epic stone formations one state away in Utah’s Arches National Park. Nestled between pine forests and larger rock formations, Royal Arch isn't visible until you are nearly in front of it. The sandstone structure stands about 20 feet off the ground and offers impressive views to the south and east -- not to mention the grandeur of the arch itself. The hike to Royal Arch is 3.2 miles round trip but gains over 1,400 vertical feet in that short distance.
What Makes It Great
The hike to Royal Arch begins at Chautauqua Park which means that before setting a single foot on the trail, hikers are treated to impressive views of the towering Flatirons. After hiking a short access road (foot traffic only), enter the woods and great ready for a steep, steady climb through the pine-scented forests and undulating hills en route to the arch. Much of this trail was destroyed in the 2013 floods but as of August 2014, has been repaired and will be easy to follow; there are plenty of signs along the way.
Dogs are welcome on the trail. Pups with City of Boulder off-leash tags are allowed off-leash, otherwise canine companions must be on a hand-held leash. It is advised to leash up all dogs at the arch itself, since there are some steep cliffs and rock bands that could entice dare-devils.
After working up a final steep hill, the glory of Royal Arch comes into view. There’s plenty of room to sit and soak in the views, both in the shade and in the sun. While it’s possible to scramble atop the arch itself, the City of Boulder prefers people stay off the easily eroded sandstone in hopes of preserving it for future generations.
Who is Going to Love It
Hikers that like steep, rewarding adventures will appreciate the effort to reach Royal Arch. And because the bulk of the trail is dog-friendly and dog-safe, it’s a nice shady place to take Fido in the sunny summer. Natural arches are always impressive to see in person and this one is no different. While it’s not the tallest nor the widest, it’s a unique Boulder feature that adds to the diversity of features in the foothills. While the trail gains a lot of elevation, that shouldn’t intimidate casual hikers -- nearly every rest spot has great views.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From the intersection of Highway 93 (AKA Broadway) and Baseline turn west on Baseline and go up the hill one mile to Chautauqua Park. Parking is limited in the park, especially on busy weekends, so you may need to park on the street. Parking is allowed along most of the road but there are a few places where parking is not allowed; these sections are well marked with signs. Dogs are allowed on leash and off-leash with the aforementioned City of Boulder off-leash tags. From the main parking area, follow the Bluebell Road 0.7 miles to the Royal Arch Trail. Continue on the Royal Arch Trail 1.6 miles to the arch, which sits at an elevation of 6,915 ft. above sea level. Return the way you came.