March 11, 2015
Royal Arch Trail
Location: SW of Boulder in Chautauqua Park
Round-trip: 3.2 miles
David and I arrived to Chautauqua Park in the late morning on Wednesday. The parking gods looked upon us as we snagged the last parking spot in the lot. We planned on hiking to the Royal Arch which I have wanted to do for a while now. It hadn’t snowed for a week and temperatures were unseasonably warm, so it looked like it might be a somewhat muddy trek as we surveyed the trail options.
We started out on Chautauqua Trail and trounced through the mud to a snowy path that ascended through the evergreen forest. After about half a mile we reached a trail intersection and began climbing toward the 3rd flatiron. The steep path weaved around snow-covered boulders. Soon we found the frozen-over compressed snow to be quite slick. We were wishing we had our hiking boots instead of trail runners, but happy to some of the few who came equipped with hiking poles.
As we pressed our poles down into the snow, others clinged to tree limbs. While we stopped plenty of times for photos, the one step forward, slide two-steps back process caused the 3.2 mile roundtrip hike with 1,400 feet of elevation to take much longer than we anticipated. Finally we reached the pass, where we were happy to see a mileage marker…a quarter of a mile to the arch!
Here we climbed down through a rocky chute, descended along the path briefly and then climbed up a small waterfall. Soon we arrived at the magnificent arch and spectacular views for our picnic lunch. After soaking in the sun beneath Colorado’s clear sky, we headed back down. This time I strapped on my micro-spikes. I thought they would be too large to use on my trail shoes, but thankfully, though slightly loose, they worked wonders. I should have strapped them on for the ascent as well, though the descent was harder, so I was happy to make life easier.
David is not a micro-spike owner, but after this hike may be a proud new owner. He followed a few fellow hikers lead and basically skied down the trail on his tennis shoes with only a few expected wipeouts. I managed to stay on my feet all the way down Royal Arch Trail and Blue Mesa Trail only to fall in the MUD about 100 yards from the car! Figures. Overall, it was a gorgeous hike and despite the slick conditions was worth the extra effort and extended time it took to reach the top. Fun day! ETB
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