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Kimberly Gomes / Sunset Publishing

As a California native, true fall color is hard to come by. Last October while the Bay Area lingered in Indian Summer, I ventured from Boulder, Colorado to Moab, Utah to explore a few slices of the unseen. Over the next six posts, I’ll break down my travel experience, offering a 7-day guide for fall-happy nature lovers and solo road-trippers.

The Flat Irons, Boulder

Colorado doesn’t waste anytime. Within minutes of driving to Boulder, I was instantly wooed. Before long I strapped on my hiking boots and ventured to my first destination: Chautauqua Park, affectionately known as The Flat Irons.

Many locals recommend this as a must-see for its breath-taking beauty. The approximate 2.6-mile, out-and-back hike winds up steep grades, a cascade of boulders, and two of the infamous Flat Irons (#1 and #2).

Kimberly Gomes / Sunset Publishing

Per usual, I accidentally wandered off the designated trail. My recommendation for solo hikers: pay close attention the trail markers. It’s also good to know there’s an outcrop after the first Flat Iron, which I and other newbies momentarily mistook as the second landmark. This spot requires minor boulder climbing, but don’t be shy. Keep on trucking and snap a photo of the view before you go. As you reach the top, you’ll find comfort in plenty of shady nooks ideal for refueling, while enjoying an expansive view of the Colorado Rocky Mountains.

Some regard the Flat Irons trail as a moderate hike taking approximately 2 hours. Although, this relatively active Californian took about 4 hours, which includes a couple detours and an extended lounging session at the top.

Kimberly Gomes / Sunset Publishing

Trail tips:

  • Start early and bring a hat, plenty of water, and sunscreen. This trail gets pretty toasty and crowded as the day progresses.
  • Print or screenshot this map.
  • Route: Park in the parking lot or neighboring streets off Bluebell Road. Take Chautauqua to Bluebell Mesa Trail. Upon reaching the fork, go left, following the signs to the first and second Flatirons trail. Continue on this trail as you reach the second fork.
Red Rocks trail

While descending Chautauqua, I noticed a tower of gorgeous red rocks in the distance. This castle-like cluster is known as Red Rocks Trail. Perfect for a sunset stroll, the 0.5 mile, out-and-back path offers a peaceful scene to snap photos and soak up the Boulder’s abundant natural beauty.

Kimberly Gomes / Sunset Publishing

Trail Tips:

  • Check out this map.
  • Park in lot off Pearl St.
  • Route: Starting at Settlers Park take Red Rock Trail to formation.

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