The Ultimate Boulder Bucket List: 8 Activities Not to Miss

Get Out and Move, dine, sleep, repeat

Boulder Co is known for its scenic beauty and outdoor recreation opportunities, making it a great destination for a weekend getaway or better yet the perfect place to call home. Here you’ll find healthy lifestyles combined with natural beauty. The majesty of Colorado Rockies, three hundred days of sunshine and a welcoming community. Whether you are visiting Colorado for the first time or planning your Stay-Cation weekend, this is the ultimate Boulder bucket list!

And don’t forget as you partake in all Boulder has to offer. We have a thriving arts scene backed up by a Foodie’s dream come true. It is one culinary hot spot after another here. And for those looking to get out and move, perhaps after an amazing meal, there are many wonderful outdoor options such as hiking and biking trails.

All in all, Boulder is an awesome place to call home.

boulder chautauqua concert hall
Two must do activities: hike the Boulder Flatirons and visit Chautauqua (dining hall pictured).

Let’s jump right into some of my favorite fun things to do. Just remember, this town is a mile high, we’re not at sea level Toto, so take it easy and be sure to drink plenty of water if you are here for a visit.

#1 Boulder Mountain Parks

Boulder is famous for its open space. The idea, started in the 1970’s, is simple. Boulder Co has purchased land all around the community creating gorgeous undeveloped areas to preserve the natural beauty of the area. And along the way, also create some wonderful park and recreation opportunities. Topping that list, Boulder Mountain Parks.

Comprised of over 45,000 acres of public lands in the foothills surrounding Boulder, you’ll discover all manner of recreational opportunities. There are top notch hiking trails. Bouldering and scrambling routes. Equestrian trails and mountain bike trails. Sometimes these two share the same trail, alternating days of use.

Nature Preservation is a Big Part of Open Space

And don’t forget the wildlife. Preserving all this land makes for some amazing wildlife viewing opportunities.

A few years back, one of my clients, Dan A., was part of a volunteer effort to protect baby bald eagles. His team used high quality telephoto cameras to keep tabs on nests. That team would then recommend trail closures to keep people from disturbing newborn eagles. Pretty cool.

Plan Your Boulder Hike Today

The mountain parks are a must-visit for anyone looking to experience the beauty of the Colorado Rockies. Year round there are hiking experiences to be had. Here are a few you are sure to enjoy. Got a favorite hike you think should be part of the ultimate Boulder bucket list? Let me know in the comments section below. Here are some of my favorites.

Boulder Falls

Boulder Falls, located just up Canyon can be a stunning sight. Summertime the Falls are flowing nicely, but during the winter months the waterfall often freezes over. This creates an impressive display of ice and snow. It’s a popular attraction all year round. Be sure to dress warmly and be cautious of ice in winter months.

Set your GPS to 33456 Boulder Canyon Dr, Boulder Co 80302. The Falls are located about eight miles drive up Canyon/Hwy 119 from the western edge of Boulder Co. You’ll know you are on your way as the canyon walls close in.

After a visit to The Falls, why not continue up to Nederland to enjoy a quaint mountain town or get some skiing at local Eldora Mountain or summertime enjoy the Carousel of Happiness.

Blogger Bob Gordon on Carousel of Happiness
Realtor/Blogger Bob Gordon on Carousel of Happiness, Nederland, CO

Pro Tip: just as you leave Boulder proper and start to drive up Canyon, you’ll see lots of cars parked along the roadway. This is a popular area with climbing aficionados. You may want to pull over and watch these athletes navigate the rocky walls!

Betasso Preserve Trail

I mentioned a moment ago that Boulder has an open space policy. One of the first purchases was back in 1976 when Boulder County acquired 712 acres of pristine mountain prairie and hills from Ernie Betasso.

His family had purchased the land using proceeds from their lucrative mining business. I wonder if the Betasso family ever imagined their land would one day be a part of the the most awesome Ultimate Boulder Bucket List!

Today it is part of the Boulder Mountain Parks system and a beloved trail of hikers, bike riders and even equestrians.

Betasso Preserve is a nature preserve located just a few miles outside of Boulder. It features a 1.5-mile loop trail that takes you through fields, forests, and wetlands. Along the way, you can see a variety of wildlife and enjoy mountain views. Be sure to keep your eyes on the trail; I recall taking a big fall the last time I was up there and didn’t watch where I was going.

Mountain bikers are not allowed on Wednesdays or Thursdays. These days are recommended for equestrians! Hikers can go anytime, any day. Keep in mind some of the trail is single track, so if a cyclist is heading downhill, be on the lookout!

caribou ranch homestead property
Caribou Ranch homestead property.

Caribou Ranch

This is one of my favorite mountain hikes. It’s up past Nederland, nestled in the shadow of the Continental Divide. Back in the Seventies, there was a famous recording studio on nearby land. All sorts of world class acts came to record their music at that studio.

From the parking lot area, it’s a quick hike through a lightly forested area to the main trail. It’s a loop that basically encircles a big open prairie. There is an old Homestead near the prairie. You’ll find a handful of informational signs scattered about telling the story of the area.

There are also old mines just off the trail. Sharp eyed hikers will spot signs quickly. There is also a semi-persevered mining operation that provides a glimpse into the region’s rich mining history.

The trail has excellent parking, restroom facilities and a couple of picnic tables. Be sure to use the bear-proof trash cans after your snack.

This is the High Country and wildlife can show up. Last time we hiked, we heard Elk bugling in the distance!

Mount Sanitas

Located right in the city of Boulder, this is an awesome place to hike. Two options greet visitors. Head up a staircase of logs and rocks for a hardcore cardio workout or stroll up the valley with giant prairie walls to either side.

stair like climb on mount sanitas boulder co
The more vertical path on Mount Sanitas has a very stair like section at the beginning of the trail. Easily one of the must do hikes on my Ultimate Boulder Bucket List. Read about even more great hikes.

#2 Mountain Climbing Up and Then Rappelling Down A Peak

Perhaps hiking sounds a bit too easy. This is Colorado, these are the Rocky Mountains. They deserve to be climbed.

There is an active climbing community in Boulder Colorado. Climbing a mountain with technical gear can be a physically and mentally demanding. Why not try this sport with a guide?

Summit Ascents International offers guided rock climbing tours in Boulder Co. Trip Advisor ranks this as a great adventure in Boulder Colorado. Or, if you are experienced, go for it yourself.

You don’t necessarily need all the ropes, harnesses, carabiners, and other specialized equipment if you are simply scrambling up the rocks on the ridge opposite Mt Sanitas (on the other side of Sunshine Canyon Dr.). However, if you are ascending a true mountain climb be sure to have all the equipment and ideally a partner! One such trail that might appeal:

The Slab Located Up Above Shannahan Ridge

Shannahan Ridge is a neat neighborhood on the south side of Boulder. Eh, the Realtor in me, sorry, can’t help myself. Let’s get back to the beginner-friendly Slab.

Boulder Colorado Spring 2013
footbridge crossing the Boulder Creek on a snowy winter’s day

The Slab at Flatirons Vista Trailhead

This is a south-facing rock formation. It offers a variety of easy to moderate routes that are suitable for beginners. The Slab is known for its excellent views of the surrounding mountains and valleys, as well as its sunny exposure, making it a popular destination for rock climbers and hikers alike.

Routes vary from easy scramble-style climbs to more challenging pitches, but the majority of the routes are well-protected with bolts and anchors, making them suitable for beginners.

This is a technical climbing route though. It is important for beginner climbers to be well-informed about the basics! Every summer I read about someone getting in over their head in the Boulder Daily Camera. Don’t be that someone. Proper equipment and gear, includes a helmet, harness, and climbing shoes.

More advanced routes abound, from nearby canyon drive (Hwy 119) just beyond Eben G Fine Park or other in Eldorado canyon state park. For myself, I’ve been content to watch the hardcore climbers and get to an indoor climbing wall.

Gear Up for Ultimate Boulder bucket list Activities

Boulder, Colorado has several outdoor gear retailers that offer a wide selection of mountaineering equipment. Some popular options include:

  1. Neptune Mountaineering: This outdoor gear shop specializes in mountaineering. It’s located next door to Southern Sun & Pub (hey, you can shop for hiking gear and fulfill your brewery tour all in one outing!).
  2. Patagonia Boulder: This outdoor clothing and gear retailer. In Boulder since 2008. What sets this shop apart? They offer a number of adventure outings. Wednesdays and Saturdays they offer group running for the Boulder Co community.
  3. REI Boulder: who hasn’t heard of this iconic one-stop shop. The Boulder store is beautiful. Just walking through you’ll think of a million fun things to do. Great selection of outdoor hiking shoes. I happily picked up some beloved hiking boots there just this year. The flagship store for REI is in Denver. If you are seeking another adventure, it’s worth checking out!

Thrilling Indoor Boulder Rock Climbing Spots

Boulder is home to some of the best indoor climbing facilities in Colorado.

  • The Spot Bouldering Gym, basically located behind Target, this gym offers fifteen thousand square feet of climbing and workout spaces. Claim to fame: their routes are modeled after the most famous spots in the world.
  • Movement Climbing + Fitness, locations all over the US. Offering yoga in addition to rock climbing.

Being Boulder, you are going to find professional staff ready to ensure you have a fun, safe and exciting adventure. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced enthusiast, you’ll find something to love! Our town is home to a vibrant climbing community and the truth is, it’s not always the perfect weather to be climbing outdoors in Boulder County.

#3 Visit Pearl Street Mall

Pedestrian only. Right there, doesn’t that sound charming? The Mall is the heart and soul of Downtown Boulder Co. Since its inception, it has gone through a number of design changes. At one point it was filled with grassy areas for simply hanging out. Best of all, creek path is just a handful of steps away. So, you can first go for a world class walk before hitting the shopping and dining.

tebo train boulder 2013 fountains
Summer fun on the Pearl Street Mall, make it a part of your ultimate Boulder bucket list.

Then there was the time when every block had a busker performing on every corner. My favorite back in the day was the zip code guy. He could describe your part of the country simply based upon your five-digit zip. Another fellow had a trained paraquet that would leap through a burning ring of fire. I’m not making this stuff up.

The Mall and surrounding downtown Boulder is known for its vibrant and eclectic mix of shops, restaurants, art galleries, and cultural attractions.

Artisan Coffee Shops Abound

Downtown there are numerous coffee shop options. Heck, simply on Pearl Street you are going to discover countless great options. A couple of favorites include Boxcar and Ozo. I took coffee as a housewarming gift to friends in New York last year. They were so impressed, they ordered Boxcar coffee beans on a recurring basis. I have an older blog post focused on my ultimate Boulder bucket list of Coffee Houses.

Ozo Coffee Downtown Boulder exterior
Outside Ozo Coffee Downtown Boulder Co
Justin Hartman, pictured on left, is demonstarting the art of coffee at ozo coffee downtown boulder
Inside Ozo Coffee; Barista Justin H., left preparing a coffee.

Notable Downtown Boulder Things To Do

Other notable landmarks in the historic downtown area include the Boulder Theater, the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art (maybe for the penultimate wedding!), and Museum of Boulder. The area is surrounded by the stunning natural beauty of the Rockies, making it a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, tourists, and local residents alike.

Foodies Delight In Boulder

Incredible, award winning dining abounds on and off the Pearl Street mall. Make reservations way in advance for Frasca. My parents made a special visit just to try this James Beard winning spot.

Boulder’s Sister City

Near the location of the farmer’s market and contemporary art museum is beloved Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse. This structure was built in a former Soviet bloc country, then crated up and shipped to our city. There is a heck of a backstory to this one-of-a-kind gem. Just visiting to see the intricate interior handywork likely makes this a solid runner up for my ultimate Boulder bucket list of must do activities.

japango sushi boulder colorado
Japango Sushi, Boulder Colorado
sushi bar
Sitting at the sushi bar, Boulder Japango.

Do you like sushi? I’m a big fan. There are some great options on and off the Pearl Street Mall. The ambiance inside Japango is chic and upscale. Check out the jellyfish aquariums. Over on Spruce, enjoy custom house rolls at Sushi Zanmai. This is a local favorite with all sorts of options including a very lively sushi bar. Next door is Izakaya Amu, another client of mine, Miho, once worked there. That spot offers a unique take on getting your preferred Sake (rice wine). I’m not even coming close to naming all the great Asian spots in town.

Bob Gordon realtor out to lunch
Lunch with a client at Carelli’s Boulder in December 2013.
Fettucine Carbonara at Carelli's Boulder
Fettucine Carbonara at Carelli’s Boulder

Are you a fan of pizza and Italian? Abo’s is known for its New York style thin crust pizza, available by the slice. Several locations. Carelli’s on Baseline near the CU Williams Village area is one of the best upscale Italian eateries in town. Pro Tip: Order the Pasta Carbonara, it’s out of this world delicious. Save room for dessert and dress to impress when dining in!

I could go on and on, but these days sites like Trip Advisor and search engines will tell you all about whatever your favorite type of dining experience is around Boulder. For a unique meal on a Saturday morning or Wednesday evening, try the farmers market.

#4 Dine and Shop at Boulder Farmers Market

You’ll actually find wonderful farmers markets in every town around the county. But the preeminent experience is visiting downtown’s Boulder Farmers Market on a Saturday morning. Julie and I made this a near weekly activity this past Fall. The market is located just north of the Pearl Street Mall at about 1900 13th Street.

Farm fresh produce abounds, but if I’m truly honest, my favorite stall is Etai’s with their decadent Pecan rolls. I’ve been hooked on these for years, ever since visiting their sister shop Udi’s in Denver Stapleton!

beets at farmers market
Farm fresh produce at the Boulder farmers market

We also stocked up on fresh Palisades peaches and jams, local produce including some of the best salad mixes and fresh carrots imaginable. One artisan offered insanely delicious fresh cheese and dairy products. We tried spicy salsas, exotic mushrooms (well, I did, none for my wife), and gluten free desserts.

You’ll discover this market offers something for just about everyone. And again, it is located right next to the beloved Boulder creek path, so locally you can walk or ride to the market without ever having to cross a busy street.

#5 Visit Beloved Chautauqua Park

Why not pack a picnic meal after visiting the Boulder Farmers market?

The History of Chautauqua Park

Boulder’s Chautauqua Park was founded in 1898. It is one of many such parks in the United States. The Chautauqua movement, which originated in the late 19th century, was a national network of adult education centers that provided educational and cultural programs to rural communities.

Many of these parks were established across the country, often in scenic locations near lakes or mountains. Today, a good number of these parks continue to operate as cultural and recreational centers, offering a variety of activities, including music, theater, dance, and more. Boulder’s Chautauqua Park is no exception.

Ranger Station and More

Ours is located at the base of the Flatirons, iconic rock formations that offer stunning views of the city and surrounding mountains. There is a dining hall restaurant, indoor theater that provides programming bringing original music acts to the community, a ranger cottage and some of the best hiking in town.

chautuqua colorado hiking trail
Looking from near the base of Chautauqua up the hiking trail.

There is also a great Colorado Boulder hike that ascends Flagstaff Mountain, crisscrossing the winding road that ascends to the top and points west. This one is ideal for intermediate hikers seeking a little more adventure.

You’ll find a big open parklike area in the center of the park. It’s a great place to lay out a blanket and read a book. Or toss a disc with a friend. Or simply relax with friends or your beloved pet.

2nd flatiron trail, boulder co
Looking down a rockfall area along the 2nd Flatiron trail above Chautauqua.

Stretching up into the Foothills are several Boulder area trails. Nothing too daunting. One trail doubles as a fire road, so it is blacktop and hard packed dirt. Another broad trail ascends to the tree line. That one is usually dotted with tourists and hiking enthusiasts. I love that there are so many great hiking options right in Boulder, without the need to make the drive up to Estes Park to visit Rocky Mountain national park.

Explore Boulder Creek Path #6

Seeking beautiful scenery or a view of residential homes? Consider taking advantage of the extensive network of concrete trails routinely referred to as the Boulder Creek Path. IMHO, this is quite simply one of the best Boulder attractions. When I lived in Wellman Creek, my favorite pastime was to lace up my Rollerblades and skate to Eben G Fine park.

It was always a good deal faster following the creek downhill back home. Seeking a perfect place to call home here in Boulder Co? Give me a call/text or email. I look forward to helping you find your perfect place to call home.

What To Expect On The Boulder Creek Path

  • Pathway running along the creek. It is predominantly concrete and wide enough to accommodate foot and bike traffic in both directions. In some spots the trail splits into parallel tracks.
  • Surrounded by tall trees and green plants. The nature of the pathway is big ole trees, plenty of greenery, flowers blooming in the Spring and early Summer, crunchy leaves afoot in the Spring. You can wander off the trail just about anywhere to explore the creek itself.
  • Bridges crossing over the creek! Parts of the trail meander back and forth across these foot bridges. It’s always fun to watch intrepid young people tubing down the creek in the late Spring/early Summer.
  • Wildlife such as ducks, birds, squirrels, and rabbits abound. You may also see a heron, coyote or even a city fox. Raptors and birds of prey circle above. There are fish and even a children’s fishing pond near the justice center.
Boulder flash flood of creek path under roadway
In 2013 severe flooding submerged the beloved path; pictured – path below 28th Street.

The path is about seven and a half miles long. There are a number of other paths in Boulder Co that connect to this one. You can really bike/skate/walk or run quite a distance. For those seeking flat, well-lit walks, this is a great alternative to local hiking trails.

If you are staying downtown at the St Julien hotel, you can walk a block to the south and get right on the trail. We borrowed a couple of inner tubes for a fun snapshot on the day of our wedding at The St Julien.

For those calling Colorado Boulder home, living along a bike trail can be an awesome experience. You can easily install a gate right onto the trail, providing endless opportunity to get out and exercise or dump your car and commute to work in a healthier manner.

Runner Up: Salt Pond In East Boulder

Sombrero Marsh is a one of a kind Alkali marsh right here in Boulder. You can likely guess, I had a client that worked there! So what makes this such a unique place to visit in Boulder? An alkali marsh is a type of wetland that is characterized by its high salinity levels and alkaline (basic) pH. It typically occurs in areas where water with high levels of salts and minerals accumulates and does not drain away.

Alkali marshes are important habitats for a variety of wildlife, including waterfowl, shorebirds, and various species of insects. These marshes also play important roles in water purification and carbon sequestration, helping to remove pollutants from the water and storing carbon in the soil.

This is a fragile ecosystem that is protected in Boulder and includes a popular learning center known as the Thorne Nature center.

Runner Up: Boulder Reservoir

Back in the day, the Res hosted KCBO’s Kinetics. An outlandish race across land and sea. Boulderites constructed crazy craft, the best of which were pedal powered. I actually entered in this race once, with team Dunkin Go Nuts. We won first place – for costumes. We came in dead last in the race itself. I learned firsthand I’m not an engineer!

The Res is a great spot for water activities in Boulder County.

Take A Craft Brewery Tour # 7

Boulder is home to some incredible breweries. Some of these have gone national. The Walnut Brewery was rebranded as Rock Bottom Brewery. This chain has seventeen locations in the United States. Bottom line, Boulder Co knows beer brewing. So where to start?

There are several companies that offer craft brewery tours in town. Boulder is home to a thriving craft brewery scene, with many local breweries offering unique and flavorful beers.

Some of the companies that offer brewery tours in the area include Boulder Beer Tour, Colorado Brewery Bus, and Rocky Mountain Brewery Tours, among others. These tours typically visit several local breweries and give you the opportunity to sample the various beers, learn about the brewing process, and meet the brewers.

Combine a Bachelor Party with a Brewery Tour

My son told me about this one. They also added cycling in, getting from one brewery to another by bicycle. It worked fairly well until the very end; he admitted some members of the grooms outing had trouble keeping their bikes heading in the right direction.

Some tours also include snacks and transportation, making it a convenient and fun way to explore the local craft beer scene. I’ve personally escorted some of my college buddies on craft beer tours. It’s a great way to show off part of our great community.

Only have time for one or two local craft beers? Check out Avery. Avery Brewing Company is a craft brewery located in Boulder, Colorado that is known for its innovative and diverse selection of beers.

sombrero marsh #bouldercolorado
Sombrero Marsh, #BoulderColorado. Note the beautiful homes in the far distance. Backing to Open Space is highly desirable in Boulder.

A Closer Look: Avery Brewing Company

Here are some factors that set Avery Brewing Company apart:

  • Unique beer styles: this beer brewing company is known for its experimentation and willingness to push the boundaries of traditional beer styles. Plus they offer a wide variety of beers, from classic styles like IPAs and stouts, to more unique offerings like barrel-aged sours and imperial beers.
  • High-quality ingredients: This should be no surprise. Boulder is a town built on natural foods industry and a commitment to sustainable agriculture and healthy eating. The brewery is a natural extension of that environment. And has resulted in a dedicated following among craft beer fans.
  • Sustainability practices: Avery Brewing Company has a commitment to sustainability and uses environmentally friendly practices in its brewing process. This includes using renewable energy sources and recycling materials whenever possible.
  • Experiences and events: Avery Brewing Company offers a variety of experiences and events for beer lovers, including taproom tours, beer tastings, and special release parties. These experiences provide a unique opportunity to connect with the brewery, its beers, and other fans of craft beer.

These are just a few examples of what sets Avery Brewing Company apart and has made it a beloved and respected brewery in the craft beer community.

Visit the University of Colorado Boulder campus #8

Colorado Boulder lore has it that the city founders were offered a choice. They could have the state prison or a university. At the time, prisons were big money. But the leaders of our iconic community selected the university. What a choice it has been for Boulder Co.

Gate Entry at Potts Field on a Fall day
Potts Field

University of Colorado Museum of Natural History

The museum showcases the natural history of the region. This includes the geology, paleontology and biodiversity of the region.

Colorado Shakespeare Festival

Offering both indoor and outdoor shows in the summertime, this is definitely a must-do item for any ultimate Boulder bucket list. We like to go as a double date, Julie and me plus her sister Jenny and brother-in-law Kelly. Any seat you select is great.

Summertime you’ll see big banners hanging along Broadway reminding drivers not to honk or make excessive noise due to the Colorado Shakespeare festival. Festival goers can picnic on the CU Boulder campus before a show. If you are grabbing dinner beforehand in town, allot extra time. Doors close at showtime! Don’t get locked out.

august 18 2021 at boulder colorado shakespeare festival night time show
Enjoy a night under the stars at CU Boulder’s Colorado Shakespeare Festival

Take A CU Boulder Campus Tour

Ideal for Juniors seeking college experience. Why not get a guided tour of the campus? See the world class science center, listen in to interesting lectures, see the latest art exhibits crafted by talented students.

There is a great cafeteria to check out. And the student Union has a fantastic bookstore with lodes of CU themed merchandise. Now that Coach Prime (Deion Sanders) is the head coach of the football program, it’s a good time to score your Buffalos gear!

cu boulder alec parkin working with bob gordon realtor
CU Boulder college intern Alec Parkin; consider hiring an intern from CU, they are the best.

While not your typical thing to do, if your business allows, I highly suggest hiring a University of Colorado at Boulder student as an intern. I’ve had great success utilizing college students within my real estate business. I’ve also hired three students from my Alma mater, Ohio Wesleyan University.

About Bob Gordon

The author of this blog is Bob Gordon Realtor, Boulder Co. I chose all the suggestions for my Ultimate Boulder Bucket List and I’ve tried all of them except for technical outdoor rock climbing. Still, I have a favorite spot for scrambling up the rocks just across from the mt Sanitas trailhead. When I’m not dining around town or going for a hike, my focus is on real estate and assisting clients just like you. I’ve been licensed since 1995 and have owned a variety of homes since 1998. Give me a call or text or email to get to work with your real estate needs today.

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