Monday Morning Moment: Boulder Flatirons and Chautauqua Park, Boulder, CO

boulder flatirons from chautauqua park
Boulder Flatirons from Chautauqua Park – Sept. 2018

Good morning. Southwest of the city of Boulder, CO, the Flatirons of the Rocky Mountains sit perched high above the surrounding area, on the eastern flank of Green Mountain. It’s a breathtaking sight, just minutes from downtown Boulder and less than an hour from Denver. We’re traveling there in today’s Monday Morning Moment.

The Boulder Flatirons and Green Mountain: Rocky Mountain High

The Flatirons are a section of the larger Green Mountain, an 8,148-foot peak of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. About 70 million years ago, the uplift of these mountains came at an angle due to the various faults in the area, creating their characteristic slanted look. Green Mountain is worth exploring in its own right, with several hikes of varying skill levels to the peak.

Flatiron – What’s In A Name?

When you look at the Flatirons, the reason for the choice of name should be quickly apparent. But the mountains have gone through a series of other names in the history of western settlement in the area. Around 1900, there’s evidence they were called the Chautauqua Slabs after the use of the land around them. In 1906, they were known as the Crags – descriptive but not particularly memorable. The current Flatiron name has two potential roots – either the obvious resemblance to the bottom of a traditional iron or the resemblance to the then-newly constructed Flatiron Building in New York City.

Exploring The Boulder Flatirons – Open Space & Mountain Parks (OSMP)

Boulder, like much of Colorado, is blessed with incredible natural environments surrounding the city itself. Boulder maintains most of this land through the city’s Open Space and Mountain Parks Department. The department oversees 45,000 acres and 155 miles of trails, including the area surrounding the Flatirons. Boulder’s history of land preservation dates back all the way to the late 19th century, when the city purchased the land that’s now known as Chautauqua Park in 1898.

Map of Boulder OSMP Trails Near The Flatirons – via OSMP

Multiple trails maintained by OSMP weave in and around the Flatirons and are your best bets to get up close and personal with this incredible landscape.

What is a Chautauqua?

While exploring the area around the Boulder Flatirons, it’s impossible not to come across the word Chautauqua. It’s the name of a neighborhood, a park, a trail, and more. So what exactly does it mean?

The Chautauqua concept actually hails from far away from Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, in New York state. The Iroquois word can be translated as “a bag tied in the middle” or “two moccasins tied together,” and initially referred to a lake near the location of the first institution that developed the concept in the mid-1800s. What started as a way to professionalize religious education for Sunday school teachers blossomed into a broader movement that helped develop the concept of modern instruction and expose adults to continuing education. As a result, Chautauquas began to spread throughout the country, including to Colorado.

Directions To The Boulder Flatirons

Address: 900 Baseline Road Boulder, CO 80302

By Car: The Flatirons and the Chautauqua Park area near them are located along the western edge of Boulder. From Denver, head north on Interstate 25. Take exit 217A to US Route 36 West, also known as the Denver-Boulder Turnpike. Once you arrive in Boulder, you can best access the area via Baseline Road. Take a left onto Kinnikinnick Road, where you’ll find parking surrounding the park and near the Ranger Cottage. From downtown Boulder or the University of Colorado-Boulder, the area is only a few minutes drive to the south and west.

By Transit: During the summer, Boulder offers the wonderfully convenient Park to Park Shuttle service. It’s one of several Boulder hiker shuttles provided at low or no cost to encourage tourism in the area and give residents car-free access to local parks. This free shuttle runs every 15 minutes and has stops throughout downtown Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall area. From there, it heads to Chautauqua before continuing to the CU-Boulder campus, where it turns around and repeats the route.

As parking near Chautauqua can sometimes be difficult on weekends during good weather season, this can be an invaluable resource.

By Foot: If you’re already in Boulder and feel like heading over on foot, you’ll find the park’s location fairly convenient. Even from the most extreme northern and southern edges of Boulder, you’re only about 4 miles or so, and it’s only about a mile and a half from popular spots downtown or near CU-Boulder.

See you on the road,

Nick

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