CU Traditions: Hiking the Flatirons

Published: Feb. 29, 2016
 Flatiron mountains

Traditionally, both locals and visitors have treated the Flatirons as a visually stunning place to hike and climb. Many hidden hiking trails, both well-known and not-so-well-known lay nestled within the craggy range, the best of which can be taken all the way to the top of the first and second flatirons, where hikers are rewarded with stunning views of Boulder in the front and red rocks and evergreen forests behind.

If you make it to the top of the Flatirons, which requires a seasoned pair of high-altitude adjusted lungs, then you can feel free to string up a hammock and take a nap. But please, don’t feel like you have to take out your phone and Instagram it. In fact, just leave the cell phone at home.

The Flatirons have also attracted a group of climbers, admittedly less numerous than hikers, but no less psyched to be surrounded by Boulder’s most beautiful scenery. The Flatirons can be ascended with a rope or without, and they provide mostly mellow climbs for beginners, as well as a few tougher routes for seasoned folks. Don’t be surprised if you see a naked person climbing the flatirons in the summer; the "Climb the First Flatiron Naked" is a tradition that peaked in the 90s, but which a few devoted and quirky locals and natives are trying to bring back. Definitely don’t Instagram that if you come across it!

If you ascend the Flatirons, which I strongly encourage everyone to do as often as possible, then be sure to enjoy and respect the amazing landscape and leave it as you find it. And if you see the barefoot hikers, don’t ask them why they’re barefoot unless you want to be asked why you’re not.

The natural beauty of the Flatirons has long been revered, and has become a symbol of Boulder both on post cards and in people’s memories, as well as a symbol of CU itself. In 1949 a group of students climbed up and painted an enormous “CU” on the flatirons, which remained until the City of Boulder painted over it with vaguely Flatirons-colored paint in 1980. However, the letters can still be seen on clear days against the reddish backdrop, which is largely a point of pride for the student body.

By Sarah Ellsworth, IPHY major and Boulder native