Person standing on a trail in a backpack.

One of the perks of living in Boulder is its close proximity to some of the best spots for hiking, biking and other outdoor activities. If you’re planning a hike at one of the nearby areas, it’s important to be prepared in advance. Many visit the outdoors for peace and solitude so remember to be courteous and respectful.

Here are some tips to help you have a safe and successful hike:

Protect our herd and our community

Know before you go and get important trail information and regulations for the Boulder area by downloading the Trails App and visiting and

  • Bring a face covering. They’re required in all public spaces when you can’t maintain at least 6 feet of distance, including outdoor spaces.
  • Practice physical distancing at all times. This includes trailheads and the trails themselves. 
  • Be aware of your limits and avoid unnecessary risks. 
  • Keep your group small - no more than 10 people.
  • Be courteous. People visit trails and open spaces for solitude as well as emotional and physical benefits. Everyone deserves respect and courtesy while recreating outdoors.

Start easy

Opt for a trail that matches your fitness level, so you can familiarize yourself with the area and terrain first. We recommend Lion’s Lair Trail for those who are new to hiking. If you have more hiking experience, we recommend checking out AllTrails for additional hiking options. While Colorado is best known for its 14ers and breathtaking backcountry, it’s important to start easy and work your way up more difficult hikes. 

Bring plenty of water and snacks

It’s important to stay hydrated during physical activities, especially at high altitude. This is because elevation can cause you to become dehydrated more quickly. Be sure to fill up your water bottles or Camelbacks before heading out. Here is a good rule of thumb to follow: Drink at least one liter (32 oz.) of water every two hours while hiking. Keep in mind that you may need more on hot days. If you’re bringing a dog with you on the trail, be sure to pack extra water for them as well!

In addition to staying hydrated, it’s a good idea to pack some snacks for the trail. Consider snacks that have a mix of protein and carbohydrates to help keep your energy up for the duration of the hike. This includes things like peanut butter crackers, jerky, trail mix and fruit snacks. You’ll thank us later.

Leave no trace

Stay on the designated trail and pick up all trash and dog waste. Summer and fall in Colorado are high-risk times for wildfires. Pay close attention to fire restrictions and bans (including bans on smoking cigarettes and marijuana) which are in place in the Boulder area and throughout the state. Be sure to follow all rules and regulations which are critical in protecting visitors, wildlife and our beautiful parks and trails.  

Use sunscreen

Did you know that you’re more likely to get sunburnt at higher elevations? That’s because there is less atmosphere to protect you against the UV rays. Remember to wear sunscreen whenever you go on a hike, even short ones. We recommend using an SPF 30+ and reapplying every 1-2 hours. Hats and sunglasses can provide additional protection from the sun.

Dress for success

Colorado weather can change in an instant, so it’s important to be prepared for inclement weather. Be sure to check the forecast and start early in the day. We recommend dressing in layers, so you can cool down when it’s hot and bundle up in case of unexpected showers. Synthetic options are best, as it doesn’t hold moisture as much as cotton clothing. Pack a rain jacket for unexpected rain and always bring a first aid kit in case of injuries (blisters, twisted ankle, etc.). It’s also important to wear appropriate shoes that fit you properly, provide adequate support and have tread for good traction on the trails.

Use the buddy system

If you’re going out on a hike, take a friend (or a few)! Accidents are more common than you may think, so it’s good to have someone around to call for help or provide assistance, especially on less frequented trails. Bringing a first aid kit can also help in case of an accident. If you do decide to go it alone, tell someone where you’re going and how long you expect to be out. Have a plan in place in case they don’t hear from you. That way if something does happen, that person will be able to send for help.


New to hiking? Check out opportunities through the Outdoor Program below to get involved and learn about the outdoors. The City of Boulder and Boulder County also have a number of opportunities to get involved including educational nature programs and volunteer opportunities.

  • Wilderness Workshops
    The Outdoor Program hosts free Wilderness Workshops throughout the semester. They cover everything from state parks, planning the perfect trip, navigating the backcountry and backpacking recipes.
  • Introduction to Backpacking
    Enjoy a 2-day and 1-night excursion to Rocky Mountain National Park to backpack along Battle Mountain! During this trip, you will learn how to pack a pack, set up camp, navigate using a map and compass, cook, plan a menu and more! No experience necessary.
  • Inclusive Rec: Women in the Outdoors (Virtual)
    Are you an avid outdoorswoman? Just a little outdoor-curious? Looking for new adventure partners? Join us remotely from anywhere for an evening of fun and connection! We’ll be guiding you through some fun virtual activities to build connections and get the conversation going. Share and learn tips for your favorite way to get outside, find new friends to plan adventures with, and meet like-minded ladies! This free program is open to all women-identifying and non-binary folks, but space is limited so sign up today!
  • Outdoor Equipment Rentals
    The Outdoor Program provides equipment rentals for a variety of outdoor activities, including hiking, camping, climbing, water sports and more. Students with a valid Buff OneCard can rent equipment. Rates and rental periods are available online.

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