The Magnificent Flatirons of Boulder, Colorado

The Mighty Flatirons

Five angular rock formations form a distinctive backdrop for the quirky town of Boulder. Originally called the Chautauqua Slabs or the Crags, the Flatirons were ultimately named by pioneer women who thought the uplifted peaks resembled the flat, metal irons used to press their clothes. The rugged beauty attracts hikers and photographers while geologists take great interest in the conglomerate sandstone. They say the arrangement was forced upwards and tilted about 45 million years ago. It’s a Mecca for rock climbers as some of the world’s best have refined their skills on the rocky outcrops.

Upon entering the park, a lush green meadow was dotted with pink and yellow wildflowers. Backlit by the evening sun, the peaks were a dark violet. We approached the First Flatiron via the steep Chautauqua Trail and began climbing the east face. The hard rock was warm and sticky which provided excellent traction. Curious chipmunks watched as we strained to reach the natural ledges and handholds. It took tremendous effort to get part way up but as the darkness descended so did we.

I revisited the place a couple of days later. This time the Flatirons appeared golden yellow in the morning light. I followed the Bluebell Road Trail because it parallels the mountain range and I was able to study the shark’s tooth profile from a better perspective. As for wildlife, I watched a mule deer bound across the grassy hillside and noisy magpies dodged my camera everytime I aimed it at them. I ascended into the forest, navigated a maze of shady loops and returned to the open meadow.

When I got back to the busy trailhead, a couple from Wisconsin was asking a ranger for instructions on how to get to the Royal Arch. She pointed them in the right direction and offered some good advice for hiking in the Rocky Mountains; pace yourself and take plenty of water.

Wildflowers dotted the meadow

The peaks have been uplifted and tilted

We climbed part way up the First Flatiron

Noisy magpies dodged my camera

There are five angular rock formations

It's a Mecca for rock climbers

The peaks resemble flat, metal irons

The Flatirons are a distinctive backdrop for Boulder


  1. Replies
    1. It's a great workout just to reach the base of the Flatirons. We only climbed part-way up and I was sweating like crazy. It was fun, I like doing that kind of stuff.


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