Distance: 3 miles round trip
Elevation: 5,680 to 6,950 ft
Elevation gain: 1,270 ft
Critters: Snack stealing ground squirrels
Come spring, we head to Boulder and all the trails that ascend along the flatirons. There is no better training than a steep trail. Royal Arch may be short, but it packs a punch. We typically make it to the arch in 50 minutes or less and gratefully suck wind while admiring the expansive views of the plains and nearby flatirons. You can't see the arch from the road, nor can you see it from NCAR although it seems very close when viewed from the rocks surrounding the arch.
The trail itself starts out at Chautauqua and ascends along a flat road to the official trailhead. The Royal Arch Trail quickly becomes a narrow and rocky as it switchbacks up the hillside deep in the shade of the rocks, pines, and thick riparian foliage. Most of the trail is large stone steps that are a challenge for short-legged folks and will make you wish you had spent more time on the StairMaster.
Three quarters of the way up is a false summit. There are impressive views of the plains here and a nice log to sit and rest on. The trail descends sharply for 150 ft or so before angling upwards again. After more steps, more logs, and more lactic acid build-up, one will finally see the arch. It is actually quite large, and the rocks on the other side provide raptor-like perches for the downing of trail munchies.
Try this trail to get you motivated for summer peak bagging and avoid weekends if possible. There is not much room at the top and CU co-eds can pack the trail on nice weekend days. We go after work when the days starting getting longer. Don't forget to bring hiking poles, which can provide stability on the return trip and help prevent quad burn out.