Cultural Resources Chautauqua Historic Loop
This fun hike provides a different way to see one of OSMP's most popular venues. The hike starts at the Chautauqua Ranger Cottage, but you'll cover more than 100 years of Boulder history when you follow these trails...
Trailhead: The hike starts at the Chautauqua Ranger Cottage, which is located at our Chautauqua Trailhead, 900 Baseline Road.
Distance: The entire loop is about 3.5 miles.
Difficulty: All of the hikes at Chautauqua start by climbing up, up, up! There is a moderate climb to Woods Quarry but most of the trail after that point is easy downhill or gentle rolling up and down.
Amenities: The Chautauqua Ranger Cottage has public restrooms outdoors on the east side of the building. There is a vending machine with cold soft drinks next to the front door. The cottage is open to the public between 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends. It features a small wildlife exhibit and a helpful, knowledgeable staff. When the cottage is open, dog guardians will find a dog dish with fresh water for thirsty four-legged hikers.
Know before you go: This is one of OSMP's most popular areas, so if you enjoy hiking in solitude you'd best try another area. Also, some of the places on the trail get very hot in the summer -- your best bet is to hike early in the morning -- be sure to bring lots of water and sunscreen!
Getting there: Visit the Park to Park webpage to find out more about the summer parking changes and the FREE shuttle to the Chautauqua Park.
History: We start by learning about the Chautauqua National Landmark District, then learn about quarrying sandstone in Boulder, community involvement, the old Chautauqua Ski area and the Civilian Conservation Corps.
Let's start hiking! We start the hike at the Chautauqua Ranger Cottage. From the cottage, turn right up Kinnikinnic Road heading south. You will be walking on a paved road next to some of Chautauqua's most beautiful cottages. The "Chautauqua" concept was developed in the 1800s as an adult educational movement which featured arts, culture, sciences, concerts and public affairs. Teddy Roosevelt called it "..typical of America at its best." This Boulder Chautauqua was made possible in 1898 when the forward-thinking residents of Boulder voted to buy this land. It opened on July 4, 1898 with the auditorium (which stands today) and a number of tents (see the photo at the top of this page). Soon, though, permanent cottages were built and people from the cottages roamed the hills around you. Days were spent outdoors....evenings were spent at concerts and educational lectures.
The Boulder Chautauqua is now a National Historic Landmark District. It is one of only three Chautauquas left in the entire country. It is the only Chautauqua which opens its grounds to the public as well as the only one open year round. The Chautauqua Association offers summer programs and cottages for lease.
Near the top of Kinnikinnic Road just a few steps beyond the "Dead End" sign, you will see on your right a staircase and a statue of a gentlemen and two children on a bench. Climb the stairs and hop on Bluebell Road -- go left (uphill) and follow Bluebell Road until you reach the Mesa Trail intersection.
Turn left (south) onto the Mesa Trail. Follow the Mesa Trail 0.4 miles to an intersection with an OSMP kiosk. Look to the trails to the right (west) of the kiosk -- there is a way-finding sign which points you in the direction of Woods Quarry. You will take a right (west) to follow the trail and you'll be going uphill another 0.3 miles to Woods Quarry.
The last part of this trail is a bit of a climb, but soon you will see the quarry on your right as you climb out of the trees. This spot affords an excellent view of architect I. M. Pei's National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) as well as the front range, including the City of Denver to the east. Here, you can catch your breath and enjoy the view while seated at one of the "modern" stone benches put together by some industrious visitors.
By the early 1880s, sandstone flags (tabular sandstone blocks) began to replace the existing wooden sidewalks in Boulder and Denver. The Woods-Bergheim Quarry began operation sometime in the late 1890s by owners Jonas Bergheim and Frank Wood to help meet that need. Many sidewalks and buildings in Boulder were built with sandstone from this very spot. However, the trip up and down to the quarry was steep -- it was difficult to get the flags safely to Boulder. Woods proposed a tramway that would safely transport stone to the bottom of the hill, but competition from quarries with easier access (like those in Lyons and Mount Sanitas) reduced the demand for Woods-Bergheim flags and the quarry eventually closed. The City of Boulder purchased the quarry in 1920 in order to prevent additional development and preserve the mountains for recreational use.
To continue your hike, backtrack on the quarry trail to the spot where it goes back into the trees. You will see a trail on your left that goes uphill and one on your right, which goes downhill. Take the trail on the right (downhill) the short distance down to the intersection of the Mesa Trail. There is a tiny stone building near the intersection. This is the Roosa Cabin, which is actually on a small privately owned parcel which was part of an old Boulder family homestead. We don't know exactly how old it is, but it was occupied as a residence at least for a short time in the 1970s. Many Boulderites know it as the Boy Scout cabin, but there are no records of the Boy Scouts ever having used it. Others speculate that it was a warming hut for workers on the quarry or even a place to store dynamite. (These theories are largely unsubstantiated -- if you know anything about the cabin, please get in touch with us at OSMP!)
From the Roosa Cabin, take the trail to your left (north) which will lead you to the Mesa Trail. This is the same trail you hiked on your way up to the quarry. Where this trail dead-ends at Bluebell Road, take a left (west and uphill) and follow the road about 100 yards to the Bluebell Shelter.
The Bluebell Shelter was originally built by the Lions Club in 1923 as a gathering place for outdoor lovers. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) filled in the walls prior to 1935 to provide additional protection from the elements. The masonry was recently repaired by professional historic preservation masons, and AmeriCorps volunteers weeded, landscaped and painted the trim. (The preservation work was made possible by funds made available from the Colorado Lottery! Thanks Colorado!)
The Bluebell Shelter is one of the structures that is available for rental for special occasions. Otherwise, the Shelter is open to all who wish to rest and enjoy the shade during their hike.
Continue the hike by crossing Bluebell Road behind (west of) the Shelter and climbing the stairs built into the side of the mountain. Follow this trail as it veers to the right uphill for a short distance to the Bluebell Baird Trail -- you'll see signs directing you to the trail on your left.
Follow this trail as it takes you through more of our beautiful ponderosa forest. About a half-mile from Bluebell Shelter, you will see the Ski Jump Trail sign to your right. Chautauqua was home to the bustling Mesa Ski area off and on from 1949 to 1963. It had one tow operated by an engine from a World War II Dodge truck and several ski jumps. The ski area struggled with lack of snow and vandalism, and closed for good in 1963. You can take the Mesa Ski Jump trail down the hill but the better view of the ski hill will be from the Baseline Trail looking up. To reach the Baseline Trail, continue on the Bluebell-Baird trail about a half mile. You'll be hiking in Baird Park, which was donated to the City of Boulder in 1908 by Dr. William J. Baird. At the intersection of trails, which could lead you to Gregory Canyon or Baseline Trail, turn right (east) onto Baseline Trail. You will hike down to the trail which parallels Baseline Road. While hiking downhill, look up toward the Flatirons and see if you can find the exact location where this photo was taken in the 1950s:
When you think you've found that spot look around you....this is also the location of the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) camp. The CCC was part of the New Deal put together by the Roosevelt administration to help employ young men during the Great Depression. Each battalion had about 70 men between the ages of 18 and 23. They made $30 a month -- $25 of which was sent directly to their families at home. At one point, there were seven major buildings, four of which were barracks for the workers. While the corps were here between 1933 and 1935, they built Chapman Drive, Green Mountain Lodge, the Halfway House and restroom, and improved Flagstaff Road and Bluebell Shelter. The last buildings at this camp were probably moved in 1948 to make room for the Mesa Ski Slope.
To finish your hike, follow the Baseline Trail as it takes you back to the Ranger Cottage where this three-mile, 100 year trek began!