7 of Boulder’s best winter hikes

Where to experience the charms of winter hiking

Even with the lack of snow, winter will be landing in Boulder, and everywhere, next week during the solstice. With that, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite winter hikes, those that the Boulder’s glorious winter sun keeps dry enough to venture, and some which may require microspikes. Here are BLDRfly’s best kept winter hikes.

Lion’s Lair
Moderate, 4.1-mile out and back

This wonderful, gently sloping back route to Mount Sanitas’ peak is perhaps Boulder’s most glorious, easily accessible winter trail, with Lion’s Lair’s trailhead just over a mile up Sunshine Canyon. However, you will need microspikes as there are many shady spots that ice over and, once snow does come, remain a part of the trail.

Caribou Ranch 
Easy, 5.1-mile lollipop

Just above Nederland, Caribou Ranch gives you an accessible near-alpine experience without the drive and, often, without the crowds. There’s also an old homestead to explore there.

Anne U. White Trail
Moderate, 3.2-mile out-and-back

Tracking along Four Mile Canyon Creek in a slight drainage among the foothills just north of Boulder, the Anne U. White trail is a hidden winter gem. The trail courses gently upward and crosses the creek over one dozen times, but your feet won’t get wet thanks to well-placed stepping stones. You’ll definitely need microspikes, though, as most of the unexposed, narrow-drainage trail is shaded, so ice and snow remain.

Red Rocks
Easy, 1-mile loop

As with most hiking destinations in Boulder, parking for the Red Rocks Trail can be hard to come by when the weather’s warm. Take advantage of the slower winter season, and hike up to these sandstone formations at The Peoples’ Crossing, formally Settlers Park, which are even prettier surrounded by a fresh snow covering. If the sun is shining, warm up by leaning against the rocks, which hold morning and afternoon heat nicely.

Marshall Mesa
Easy, 2.9-mile loop

An exposed hike like this one at Marshall Mesa can get quickly challenging when the summer sun beats down. Forget about whether or not you packed enough sunscreen, and head to this trailhead with the first sign of snow. This easy hike provides a full view of surrounding prairies, the foothills and the snow-capped Rocky Mountains. Hikers can head East on the Marshall Valley Trail or South on the Coal Seam Trail, both which connect to the Marshall Mesa Trail to create an easy loop.

First and second Flatirons
Moderate, 1.3 miles one-way

You’ve not experienced Boulder winter until you’ve seen a light dusting of snow up-close on the Flatiron ridges. This classic hike for locals starts at Chautauqua Trail, veering right to follow trail signs leading to the first and second Flatiron.

Mesa Trail/Woods Quarry
Easy, 2.6-mile loop

The easiest route to access Mesa Trail in cold weather starts at the Chautauqua Ranger Cottage and Bluebell Road, which tends to hold less ice than windy, backcountry trails in the winter. After hiking the Mesa Trail for under a mile, you’ll reach an intersection with a deserted cabin. Follow the trail toward it to find the quarry, where the University of Colorado collected red sandstone to start building the Boulder campus in the 1800s. Because sandstone captures so much of the sun’s rays, Woods Quarry shines in the winter, emitting enough heat to keep you warm.

Header image of Lion’s Lair in winter. Credit: Paul Hagey