Sights and Scenery
Boulder Star area on Flagstaff Mountain is closed
The Boulder Star area on Flagstaff Mountain IS CLOSED to prevent gatherings amid the COVID-19 pandemic and because of ecological and safety concerns in the area. Visitors entering the Boulder Star closure area on Flagstaff Mountain can face up to a $1,000 fine or 90 days in jail. Learn more. Follow these other important recreation guidelines:
- Stay home if you are sick or exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms.
- Only recreate with members of your own household.
- Always bring a face covering. Wear it when you can’t maintain 6 feet of physical distance.
- Keep the space in open space! Always stay at least 6 feet from non-household visitors.
- Visit OSMPTrails.org to see current trail closures, historical data that shows areas of high and low open space use and trails that are wider than 6 feet. See when trails are busiest through our Visitation Data Explorer.
- Protect first responders. Know your limits and don’t take unnecessary risks.
Before You Go....
Please familiarize yourself with all OSMP rules and regulations, and please study our 'Leave No Trace' Principles to keep the land looking as nice after you visit as before. Links to trail maps, trail & area closures, dog regulations, biking and more can be found under Trails and Recreation.
The Mountain Parks Region Trail Guide provides up-to-date trail maps for much of the mountain backdrop, from Mount Sanitas south to the South Mesa trailhead.
Please leave your valuables at home: We’ve recently seen an uptick of car break-ins at our trailheads. If you’re visiting open space, please leave your valuables at home. Do not leave anything of value in plain sight in your vehicles and please remember to always lock your car doors. Please call the non-emergency police line at 303-441-4444 to report any suspicious activity.
Open Space and Mountain Parks Master Plan
Open Space and Mountain Parks has kicked off a long-term effort to establish a community-supported plan that will guide the management of the community’s open space over the next decade and beyond. Learn more about the OSMP Master Plan.
Boulder Falls is located 11 miles west of Boulder, on the north side of Boulder Canyon Drive (SR 119) between Boulder and Nederland. It consists of five acres of mining claims that were given to the City of Boulder by Charles G. Buckingham, president and co-founder of Buckingham Brothers Bank (now Norwest Bank). Buckingham had held a U.S. Patent since 1881 on the American Mill site that included the Falls. He donated it to the City of Boulder for recreational purposes in 1914, hence "saving this beautiful spot from the encroachment of the great tungsten boom."
For many years, Boulder Falls (sometimes referred to as the "Yosemite of Boulder Canyon"), was the popular destination for picnic groups. Carryalls brought visitors up for a visit to the Falls, especially after the narrow gauge railroad washed out in the great flood of 1894. When the railroad was rebuilt four years later, stage and tourist travel was diverted and the popularity of Boulder Falls declined.
Chautauqua Meadow, located on the south side of Baseline Road just west of Ninth Street, is a major portal to Open Space and Mountain Parks. Chautauqua Meadow is accessible by car, although visitors are encouraged to walk, bicycle, bus, or car pool whenever possible, or take the FREE Park to Park shuttle from May 25 to Sept. 2 on weekends and holidays.
Visit the Park to Park webpage to find out more about the summer parking changes and the FREE shuttle to the Chautauqua Park.
At the Chautauqua Ranger Cottage, you will find park maps, brochures and information. Learn more about the Ranger Cottage.
Numerous trails originate from the Chautauqua area, and this is the best location for getting a good photograph of the famous Boulder "Flatirons."
Doudy Draw Trailhead
Doudy Draw is located 1.8 miles west of Highway 93 on Eldorado Springs Drive (Highway 170).
From the trailhead, there is access to several moderate trails: Doudy Draw, Community Ditch, Flatirons Vista Loop, Spring Brook Loop and Goshawk Ridge. This area was rich with mining and agriculture. In this dry landscape, irrigation is a necessity for providing water to hay fields and pasture land. The flow of South Boulder Creek was diverted by the construction of a series of ditches. Community Ditch, constructed in the early 1900s, was one of the last water diversion projects along the creek. All rules and regulations are strictly enforced.
At 6,850 feet, you will have a fabulous view of the plains and Boulder Valley to the east. Stop in at the Flagstaff Nature Center for excellent exhibits and a chance to speak with volunteer park interpreters (open weekends, Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend). Flagstaff Summit is rich in history. Most of the area, including some picnic sites, is accessible to wheelchair users. If you are hiking, take Flagstaff Trail to the summit. Driving slowly may save an animal's life!
Just beyond the Gregory Canyon trailhead access road, Baseline Road turns sharply north to become Flagstaff Road as it ascends Flagstaff Mountain. At approximately 3.4 miles, you will come to Realization Point, the junction of Flagstaff Road and Flagstaff Summit Road. (Flagstaff Summit Road is accessible to motor vehicles only between May 1 and Oct. 30). Please note that motor vehicles and bicycles are prohibited on Open Space and Mountain Parks except on maintained public roads and parking lots. Flagstaff Summit is a parking fee area.
Fourth of July Trailhead and Buckingham Campground - closed effective Oct. 20, 2020
Fourth of July Trailhead and a small associated campground are located approximately 30 miles west of Boulder at an elevation of approximately 10,100 feet. There is no fee for camping, and sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Camping is limited to four consecutive days. Water is available from the creek; however, all water should be treated due to the possibility of the Giardia parasite. The only available facilities are nearby pit latrines. Ground fires and grills are prohibited. There are five picnic tables. All Open Space and Mountain Parks rules and regulations are strictly enforced within the campground. Glass is prohibited.
Please note: Buckingham Campground is located adjacent to the popular Indian Peaks Wilderness Area and Arapaho Pass Trailhead that is administered by the U.S. Forest Service. Forest Service regulations for the wilderness area differ from those of the City of Boulder. Dogs must be on a hand-held leash at all times in the wilderness. Please visit the Indian Peaks Wilderness website or contact the Forest Service at (303) 541-2500 for additional information on Forest Service lands and campgrounds in the Boulder area, as well as rules and regulations.
To reach the trailhead, follow SR 119 west through Nederland. Just past Nederland, head west on CR 130 through the town of Eldora. Shortly beyond Eldora, the pavement becomes a fairly rough dirt road. After approximately 0.7 mile, the road forks; follow the right fork approximately four miles to Buckingham Campground. The campground consists of ten primitive tent camping sites that fill quickly on weekends. Because the access road is not maintained, the campground is only accessible from approximately Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Mount Sanitas (pronounced San-itas) is located 0.5 miles west of 4th Street on Mapleton Avenue. From the trailhead, there is access to several moderate to difficult trails: Mount Sanitas, Sanitas Valley, East Ridge, Dakota Ridge, Goat Trails. Mount Sanitas was named for the old sanitarium (health spa) that is now the Mapleton Medical Center.
Mount Sanitas is a very popular trail for dog owners. Please remember to remove your dog's excrement, and pack extra pet pick-up bags. All Open Space and Mountain Parks rules and regulations are strictly enforced.
Panorama Point is located approximately 0.5 miles up Flagstaff Road, and gives you a magnificent panoramic view of the Boulder Valley. Hikers may access Panorama Point from spur trails off the Flagstaff Trail. Bring your camera! The area is accessible to wheelchair users. Panorama Point is a parking fee area.
The hike is steep--a real workout!--but the views are incredible. The trail starts near the Bluebell Shelter, and then goes up... and up, passing near the base of the Third Flatiron. Bears and mountain lions live in the area, so know what to do if you encounter one. Visit the Chautauqua Trailhead page for a trail map of the area.
Sawhill Ponds Wildlife reserve is owned by Colorado Parks and Wildlife and managed by the Open Space and Mountain Parks Department. It is located east of the Boulder city limits on the west side of 75th Street, 0.6 mile north of Valmont Road. There are opportunities for hiking, wildlife observation and nature study, picnicking, photography, and fishing. Several picnic tables are available adjacent to the main parking lot, along with benches and a boardwalk. There is no drinking water available. A pit latrine is located at the main parking lot. All Open Space and Mountain Parks rules and regulations are strictly enforced. Swimming and boats are prohibited.
The 18 ponds at Sawhill are the result of a gravel mining operation and reclamation project. Boulder Creek, now at the northwestern boundary of the ponds, traversed the entire area in the geologic past. This ancient floodplain laid down great quantities of sand and gravel, and these deposits were mined for several decades until the early 1970s. When the mining ceased, groundwater filled the pits resulting in a wetland area that provides marvelous habitat for many species of wildlife. The ponds are also stocked by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and warm water fishing is a popular activity.
Sombrero Marsh is an ancient and much abused natural wetland that is being restored. Sombrero Marsh is dry during most of the year. Spring rains, snow melt and rising ground water cause the marsh to fill gradually during the spring. By late summer, it is usually dry again. The Sombrero Marsh environmental education center is the result of a partnership between the Boulder Valley School District, Thorne Nature Experience and OSMP. It contains classrooms, viewing and assembly areas, and a laboratory for studying water and wetland soils. Thorne Nature Experience has developed science curricula to serve the district's schools. Students learn about the marsh outside as well as inside: a network of trails and boardwalks allows classes to visit the wildlife viewing blind and the restored portion of the marsh. The western portion of the wetland is a wildlife sanctuary off limits to the public.
South Mesa Trailhead
South Mesa is located 1.7 miles west of Highway 93 on Eldorado Springs Drive (Highway 170). From the trailhead, there is access to several moderate to difficult trails: Mesa Trail, Shadow Canyon, Towhee, Homestead, South Boulder Creek Trail and Big Bluestem Trail.
In the late 1800s, this area contained numerous cabins and homesites. The stone building located on the north side of South Boulder Creek is all that remains of the historic homesite known as the Doudy-Debaker-Dunn House. Andrew Doudy was the first settler in this area and built the original wooden portion of the house sometime around 1858. In 1869, John Debaker purchased the house and surrounding land for $500. John Debaker retired in 1901 and turned the property over to his daughter Emma and her husband John Dunn. The Dunn family raised dairy cattle and remained in the house until John's death in 1953. All park rules and regulations are strictly enforced.