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 this summer.

Ease into it

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. 

It's also important to check information and regulations before heading out. For information about the Boulder area, you can download the Trails App and visiting or

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.

  • Adventure Planning Center
    The Adventure Planning Center (APC) has resources and staff available to help you plan your next big trip. Whether you're interested in hiking, rafting, climbing, backpacking or camping, the APC is a great place to get started. They can provide great recommendations and help you prepare for your trip. Stop by the first floor of the Rec Center near the Outdoor Program office to get started.
  • 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.
  • Wilderness Medicine
    Attend a Wilderness First Responder class to receive a certification that provides you with the tools to make critical medical and evacuation decisions in remote settings. This course is handy for those who may be hiking, climbing, camping or backpacking in remote or backcountry areas.

More Health & Wellness Articles