The Royal Arch is a flatiron whose insides have been blasted away through millions of years of Fountain Formations, leaving a 30-foot-high hole. I have heard folks call this trail the “Boulder StairMaster”, a short but great workout to get your heart and lungs talking, it definitely beats going to the gym. This popular trail arrives at a stunning geological feature.
Elevation Gain: 1,205 feet
Start to End Elevation: 5,710’ to 6,915’
Rating: Moderate to Strenuous
Round trip distance: 3.6 mile out and back
Nearest Landmark: Boulder
Hiking Time: 1.5 to 3 hours
Season: Year round
Popular: Hikers, Trail Runners, Leashed- Dogs, No Horses, No Bikers
How to Get There: In Boulder, go west on Baseline Road till you get to the Chautauqua Park area on your left which is near 9th Street. On weekends, this is a very popular place, so the parking area near the ranger cottage can fill up very fast. You can also park on Baseline Road in certain sections.
Trailhead GPS: Chautauqua Park Trailhead: N 39.998803, W 105.282999
The Hike: Start at the Chautauqua Trailhead near the ranger cottage and head up into the Chautauqua meadows. As you begin to get closer to the First Flatiron, turn left at the Bluebell Mesa trail. At the next signpost, continue on Bluebell Mesa Trail and go through a forest. When you come to a T junction with the Bluebell-Baird trail, go left and travel through a meadow to the Bluebell Shelter.
Just past the shelter, you will find the Royal Arch Trailhead. The trail crosses a wooden bridge and then through the forest to the banks of the Bluebell Creek. After crossing the Bluebell Creek, the trail starts a steep ascent. You will be able to see the south side of the Third Flatiron to your right. After a good workout, you will arrive at a rocky notch called Sentinel Pass.
Catch your breath and then continue steeply down the other side of the ridge for about 100 feet, where the trail levels out a bit, then starts ascending again. Further on, you will see the welcome sight of the Royal Arch in its full height. Walk under the Royal Arch and see sweeping views of the eastern plains and downtown Denver on a clear day. Directly below you is the pointed summit of the small flatiron called “The Regency.” On the hilltop below, you will see salmon-colored buildings; this is the National Center for Atmospheric Research (or NCAR). Behind the Royal Arch are the Fourth and Fifth Flatirons and many smaller crags popular with climbers.