Royal Arch is a stunning rock formation located 1.2 miles from downtown Boulder. Along the hike, you’ll get to enjoy the beautiful Flatirons and large pine forests. This is an extremely popular hike due to the proximity to both Boulder and Denver, the intermediate ascent, and the gorgeous arch that parallels those in Arches National Park. Here is everything you need to know for a successful hike to the Royal Arch!
Distance –3.2 miles round trip (5.15 km)
Height – 6,915 feet (2,107.69 m)
Elevation gain – 1,417 feet (431.90 m)
Duration – 2 – 3 hours (book time)
Difficulty – Intermediate
Seasons – Year-round (caution and experience needed in winter – see below)
Trailhead Location – Chautauqua Park Trailhead – (directions below)
To hike to the Royal Arch, hikers should park at Chautauqua Park, where there are several different trails one can take. We recommend taking the Bluebell Hiking Trail, as it is the most direct to Royal Arch. However, one could start on the Chautauqua Trail, Meadow Trail, or Baseline Trail (shown in trail map #2), which would increase the hike mileage. You also have the option of adding on the 1st and 2nd Flatirons to this hike, creating a loop that would be approximately 5 miles.
Recommended Trail: Bluebell Hiking-Trail (Most Direct): 3.2 Miles Round-Trip | 1,205 ft net elevation gain (1,417 ft total elevation gain)
After arriving to Chautauqua Park, walk to the start of the Bluebell Trail (0.1-0.3 miles) along the gradually inclining Bluebell Trail for 0.6 miles, where you will find the Bluebell shelter. From there, continue on the Royal Arch Trail for 0.7 miles where you will pass Sentinel Pass and continue down the trail.
Hiking in winter
This hike is commonly listed as a great Boulder winter hike. However, like any winter hikes, hikers have to be precautious and prepared for the different terrain and weather you may find on your trek. In the winter months, conditions to reach the Royal Arch can vary from not snowy whatsoever to icy and slushy, so checking trip reports and the local weather before attempting this hike is crucial. We recommend carrying a pair of microspikes for additional traction, especially if there are reports of snow and ice on the trails.
Current Weather Conditions
Here is a detailed weather forecast for the next 4 days:
Eldorado Springs, CO
Directions & Parking
Metered parking is required for specific spots at and around Chautauqua Park on certain days (weekends, some holiday weekends). Boulder also offers a free shuttle from May 23rd to September 7th, where hikers can park at satellite parking locations and take the shuttle to Chautauqua Park.
Note: Because of COVID-19, these shuttles will continue to run but will only allow 10 passengers in at a time with face coverings required for all passengers at all times. Hiker’s dogs, strollers, and hiking gear will still be allowed on the shuttle. More information about the safety measures for COVID-19 related to the shuttle can be found here.
Vicky Bandera is an ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology: Exercise Science and a minor in Nutrition, and is currently working on her Masters of Kinesiology at Colorado State University. You can find more info, and get outdoors and health advice by following her on Instagram @viqeeinthewoods