Best Sunset and Sunrise Hikes Around Boulder and Rocky Mountain National Park
Colorado is a special place to be, that goes without saying. But the Front Range truly lights up in the early morning and early evening. Especially in the spring and early summer, hikers and sightseers are treated to the sight of the dry Boulder valley, with the peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park and the Indian Peaks Wilderness rising majestically snow-covered in the background. The best trails in Boulder and Rocky Mountain National Park are the ones that take you to high points above the city, or overlooking breathtaking mountain views, shimmering alpine lakes, and golden colors cascading across the landscape. These are some of our favorite sunrise and sunset hikes in Boulder and Rocky Mountain National Park.
Boulder Hikes and Guided Boulder Hiking Tours
Hiking Royal Arch Boulder
Royal Arch stands proudly high above the city of Boulder. A magnificent sandstone monolith that frames the city with the eastern plains below and the Flatirons rising behind us, Royal Arch is the perfect spot for watching the sunrise over the City of Denver in the distance and then watching the sun set behind the Flatirons. The trail to Royal Arch starts in the meadows of Chautauqua Park and then ascends through steps and switchbacks to reach the trails flanked with the Flatirons. We’ll then climb to the arch itself, which stands magnificently alone, and then step under the arch to the rocky outcrops on the other side. From here we’ll get to see the City of Denver and Denver International Airport plus the city of Boulder, and the Flatirons behind us. With its east facing view, it’s spectacular for sunrise, but just as gorgeous for sunset.
Hiking Mt. Sanitas Boulder
This east facing summit, much like Royal Arch is an excellent spot for watching the sunrise, with a gorgeous view overlooking Boulder and Denver, plus the Flatirons alongside the city. The trail starts in the meadow, just minutes outside of Downtown Boulder and steadily climbs up a rocky staircase with a view over Downtown Boulder to the east. The summit of Mt. Sanitas is one of the finest in Boulder, with a breathtaking view overlooking Boulder and the Indian Peaks plus Rocky Mountain National Park in the back. This is a great trail for seeing the sunrise from the plains or the sunset behind the Flatirons, as it has a great vantage point for either. Sanitas is challenging, but short and accessible. It’s one of our favorite early morning or after work hikes.
Hiking Bear Peak Boulder
When you look at Bear Peak from Boulder, it appears to be a perfectly pointed summit among the Boulder skyline. The top of Bear Peak itself is a magnificent 360-degree view, one of the highest in Boulder, which gives a perfect uninterrupted view of Denver, Boulder, the mountains to the west, and on clear days, looking all the way to Pikes Peak and Colorado Springs. The trail to the top of Bear Peak is tough. One of the hardest in Boulder, but the reward is a short rocky scramble to one of the most elusively perfect views in the city. For those who are looking to really push their physical strength and get one of the best views in the city, it doesn’t get better than Bear Peak.
Hiking The Mesa Trail Boulder
Wandering out from South Boulder, The Mesa Trail traverses the hilly grasslands just under the Flatirons, with easy trails that lead out to a skyline view on one side, and looking out towards the plains with Denver, Golden, and Denver International Airport lining the other side. The Mesa Trail, including Flatirons Vista Trail is a great way to see the sunrise from the eastern horizon and then watch it slowly fall over the west behind the Flatirons, giving us a cascade of golden color over the landscape as it’s setting. The trail is easy and hilly, with very little elevation gain, which is great for kids, families, and large groups. This is a great way to focus more on the landscape then the physicality.
Hiking Flagstaff Mountain
One of the prime sunrise and sunset viewing areas in Boulder, Flagstaff Mountain has a drivable road to the summit and a short hike to the true top of the peak, Flagstaff is one of the most accessible high points in Boulder, with a gorgeous sunrise or sunset view overlooking Boulder and the Rocky Mountains in the background. What makes Flagstaff so easy is it’s short hike to the top, which is perfect for families, children, and large groups. With the sunset behind us, it also illuminates the city below in a way that is hard to see from anywhere else. Flagstaff Mountain is one of our favorite go to peaks for quick sunrise or sunset adventures.
Rocky Mountain National Park Hikes and Guided Hiking Tours
Hiking Deer Mountain RMNP
Set just above the lower valley, Deer Mountain is not as long as many of the parks trails, however it gives a spectacular view overlooking the Continental Divide, with the entire park illuminating in the early morning or evening. This is a great trail either in the summer or the winter which follows several switchbacks through a wooded forest and finishing on a spectacular rocky overlook with the Continental Divide laid out in front of us. It’s not as hard as some of the other trails in Rocky Mountain National Park and it’s great for children and families. This is one of our favorite sunrise hikes in the park.
Hiking Emerald Lake RMNP
The ultraclassic of Rocky Mountain National Park, Emerald Lake starts at the Bear Lake trailhead and traverses three lakes to end in a spectacular glacial cirque under Hallett and Flattop Peaks. In the early morning and evening the sun filters through the forest and the peaks, allowing for a spectacular illuminated forest and shimmering water, which makes for perfect photo opportunities. On the way there, we’ll also get to see Dream Lake and Nymph Lake, both which are flanked by an unforgettable granite backdrop. When you’re thinking about any great hike in Rocky Mountain National Park, Emerald Lake is the undisputed classic.
Hiking Sprague Lake RMNP
With an incredible view of the mountains including Hallett, Flattop, and Taylor Peaks, Sprague Lake is one of the best sunrise views in the park. The trail is less than a mile and one of the easier options in the park, where hikers will come to the sprawling lake, with the Continental Divide rising spectacularly in the background. After reaching the lake, hikers may extend their tour by walking around the length, giving them a 360-degree view from the lakebed. This is a great hike to do early in the morning or early evening as the short length and easy hiking makes for the perfect option for families or groups. You won’t forget the view of the mountains rising behind Sprague Lake.
Colorado Wilderness Rides And Guides is a custom and private tour operator across Boulder and Rocky Mountain National Park. Sunset and sunrise is a special time to explore Colorado. Check out some of our tours here and call 720 242 9828 to book your adventure today!