Perfection in Boulder

The Colorado town has it all: gorgeous trails, great restaurants, and very happy residents

Lisa Taggart


Local attorney Adam Chase, an editor at Running Times, says a rugged kind of sportiness is in the air in Boulder. "Most kids grow up playing baseball, football, and basketball. Growing up here, after school I'd go rock climbing," he explains. "We went bike racing and skiing. Our heroes were different than most people's heroes."

Long known as a sporty spot, Boulder has more recently become a destination for top-tier dining. It only makes sense that these high-achievers would eventually demand greatness from their meals. Frasca, opened in 2004 by Bobby Stuckey (who also serves as Frasca's sommelier) and chef Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson - both alums of the French Laundry restaurant in the Napa Valley - has received national acclaim. The foodie buzz has spread around town too, highlighting restaurants such as the Kitchen and Radda, both casual spots with an organic focus plus bars that are popular with locals. And all this fancy dining is offered in a town of only 100,000 people.

After our stellar meal, Jim and I are anxious to get out and be sporty. The next morning, we hike across Chautauqua Meadow, climbing amid white and yellow wildflowers. Soon we've got the spring of pine needles underfoot and a forest overhead. We emerge on a ridgetop, the vertical crags of the Flatirons dramatic and golden. We're huffing and puffing, but as we rest on a rock, hikers and runners and dog walkers of all ages pass us without breaking a sweat.

"I think there are some people who are intimidated by Boulder," says race director Barry Siff, who moved to the area in the mid-1990s and got hooked on adventure racing, which involves multiday, multisport treks. "But there are lots of beginners here too. And this community is so supportive. A lot of people hold these athletes in a sense of awe, but it inspires them to do something more. It's just a really healthy place."

We're inspired to continue onward and upward. Near the top of Flagstaff Mountain, we look out at the orderly lines of early-1900s cottages and brick bungalows in the city below; beyond them are reservoirs and red-rock towers. A progression of mountain peaks marks the way west.

We pause for another moment, but then press on, determined to reach the peak. We're energized by the mountain air - maybe by the pine scent, the fall sunshine, the deep breathing needed at altitude, or just by Boulder's special charge: the high-vibrating energy of this inspiring place.

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