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Boulder is one of the leading spots for outdoor sports in North America. The city manages more than 40,000 acres of parklands, including more than 200 miles of hiking trails and bicycle paths. Several canyons lead down from the Rockies directly into Boulder, attracting mountaineers and rock climbers. Families enjoy picnicking and camping in the beautiful surroundings. It seems that everywhere you look, people of all ages are running, walking, biking, skiing, or engaged in other active sports.

The Boulder Parks and Recreation Department (tel. 303/413-7200; www.ci.boulder.co.us/parks-recreation) manages many of the outdoor facilities and schedules a variety of year-round activities for children as well as adults. Seasonal booklets on activities and city parks are available free from the chamber of commerce office and through the parks and recreation department's website . Although many of the programs last for several weeks or months, some are half- or full-day activities that visiting children can join, usually at a slightly higher price than that for city residents. The department sponsors hikes, fitness programs, ski trips, watersports, special holiday events, and performances in local parks, and even operates a skate park and a pottery lab. (TV trivia buffs, take note: Mork, of Mork and Mindy, first touched down on Planet Earth in Chautauqua Park, on the city’s south side, and the house used as their residence’s exterior is at 1619 Pine St. Take a photo from the sidewalk, but do not bother the current residents--they are native earthlings.)

One destination where you can enjoy several kinds of outdoor activities is Eldorado Canyon State Park. This mountain park, just 5 miles southwest of Boulder in Eldorado Springs, is a favorite of technical rock climbers, but the 850-foot-high canyon’s beauty makes it just as popular with hikers, picnickers, and others who want to get away from it all. The 1,448-acre park features 9 miles of hiking and horseback-riding trails, plus 7.5 miles of trails suitable for mountain bikes; fishing is permitted, but camping is not. An exhibit at the brand-new visitor center describes the history of the park; there’s also a bookstore and rotating displays covering topics from wildflowers to climbing. Admission is $6 to $7 per vehicle and $3 per pedestrian; the park is open daily from dawn to dusk. For further information, contact Eldorado Canyon State Park, Box B, Eldorado Springs, CO 80025 (tel. 303/494-3943; parks.state.co.us).

Ballooning

Float above the majestic Rocky Mountains in a hot-air balloon, watching as the early-morning light gradually brightens to full day. Flights often include champagne and an elaborate continental breakfast or brunch. Fair Winds Hot Air Balloon Flights (tel. 303/939-9323; www.hotairballoonridescolorado.com) flies 7 days a week year-round, weather permitting. Prices are $195 to $275 per person, and include a certificate, T-shirt, and photograph.

Bicycling

On some days, you see more bikes than cars in Boulder. Paths run along many of the city’s major arteries, and local racing and touring events are scheduled year-round. Bicyclists riding at night are required to have lights; perhaps because of the large number of bicyclists in Boulder, the local police actively enforce traffic regulations that apply to them. Generally, bicyclists must obey the same laws that apply to operators of motor vehicles.

For current information on biking events, maps of the city’s trails, tips on the best places to ride, and equipment sales and repairs, check with University Bicycles, 839 Pearl St., about 2 blocks west of the Pearl Street Mall (tel. 303/444-4196; www.ubikes.com), and Full Cycle, 1211 13th St., near the campus (tel. 303/440-7771; www.fullcyclebikes.com). Daily bike rentals cost $30 to $50 (or $50–$85 for a mountain bikes or performance models). 

Climbing & Bouldering

If you want to tackle the nearby mountains and cliffs with ropes and pitons, contact Neptune Mountaineering, 633-A S. Broadway (tel. 303/499-88866; www.neptunemountaineering.com), which sells clothing and technical equipment, and can also provide maps and advice on climbing and trail running. Other good information sources are Colorado Athletic Training School, 2800 30th St. (tel. 303/939-9699; www.catsgym.com), and Total Climbing, 2829 Mapleton Ave. (tel. 800/836-4008; www.totalclimbing.com). The latter is home to the Boulder Rock Club, featuring 10,000 square feet of indoor climbing surfaces, and offers guiding services.

Boulderers (those who climb without ropes) flock to the Spot, billed as the country’s largest bouldering gym, at 3240 Prairie Ave. (tel. 303/379-8806; www.thespotgym.com). Lessons and guide service are available, and there are a cafe and a yoga studio on-site.

The Flatiron Range (easily visible from downtown Boulder) and nearby Eldorado Canyon are two favorite destinations for expert rock scalers. The Third Flatiron is 1,400 feet high, taller than the Empire State Building, and has been climbed by people without using their hands, on roller skates, naked, and in a record 8 minutes (by separate climbers). For bouldering, Carter Lake (30 miles north on U.S. 36) and Boulder Canyon (west of the city on Canyon Blvd.) are two of the top spots.

Fishing

Favored fishing areas near Boulder include Boulder Reservoir, North 51st Street, northeast of the city off the Longmont Diagonal, where you can try your luck at walleye, catfish, largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie, and carp. The Boulder Parks and Recreation Department (tel. 303/441-3461) manages the reservoir. Other favorite fishing holes include Lagerman Reservoir, west of North 73rd Street off Pike Road, about 15 miles northeast of the city, where only nonmotorized boats can be used; Barker Reservoir, just east of Nederland on the Boulder Canyon Drive (Colo. 119), for bank fishing; and Walden Ponds Wildlife Habitat, about 6 miles east of downtown on North 75th Street. Fly-fishing is also popular in the area; guide service is available through Front Range Anglers (tel. 303/494-1375; www.frontrangeanglers.com), for $220 for two people for a half-day or $320 for a full day.

Glider Flying & Soaring

The atmospheric conditions generated by the peaks of the Front Range are ideal for year-round soaring and gliding. Mile High Gliding, 5534 Independence Rd. (tel. 303/527-1122; www.milehighgliding.com), offers rides and lessons on the north side of Boulder Municipal Airport, 2 miles northeast of downtown. Rides for one person range from $79 to $299 and last from 15 minutes to an hour or more; a 40-minute ride for two costs $219.

Golf

Local courses include the 18-hole Flatirons Golf Course (run by Boulder Parks and Recreation), 5706 E. Arapahoe Ave. (tel. 303/442-7851; www.flatironsgolf.com), and the 9-hole Haystack Mountain Golf Course, 5877 Niwot Rd. in Niwot, 5 miles north of Boulder (tel. 303/530-1400; www.golfhaystack.com). Nonresident greens fees range from $27 to $34 at Flatirons for 18 holes, and $10 to $15 for 9 at Haystack.

Hiking & Backpacking

There are plenty of opportunities in the Boulder area--the Boulder Mountain Parks system includes 4,625 acres bordering the city limits, including the Flatirons and Flagstaff Mountain. You can obtain a map with descriptions of more than 60 trails from the Boulder Convention and Visitors Bureau, 2440 Pearl St. (tel. 303/442-2911).

Numerous Roosevelt National Forest trail heads leave the Peak-to-Peak Scenic Byway (Colo. 72) west of Boulder. Check with the U.S. Forest Service, Boulder Ranger District, 2140 Yarmouth Ave. (tel. 303/541-2500), for hiking and backpacking information. During dry weather, check on possible fire and smoking restrictions before heading into the forest. The trail heads leading to Long, Mitchell, and Brainard lakes are among the most popular, as is the 2-mile hike to Isabel Glacier.

About 70 miles west of Boulder, on the Continental Divide, is the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area (tel. 303/541-2500). More than half of the area is fragile alpine tundra; a $5 permit is required for camping from June 1 to September 15. North of Boulder, via Estes Park, is Rocky Mountain National Park (tel. 970/586-1206), one of the state’s prime destinations for hikers and those seeking beautiful mountain scenery. The 2.5-mile Mills Lake Trail, one of my favorites, is here. Another good hike is the 6-mile Mesa Trail, which departs from the Bluebell Shelter in Chautauqua Park.

Running

Boulder is one of the country's true running meccas. The Boulder Creek Path  is one of the most popular routes for runners in Boulder. A good resource for the traveling runner is Boulder Road Runners (www.boulderroadrunners.org). They organize group runs in the area and can provide information. The Bolder Boulder (tel. 303/444-RACE [7223]; www.bolderboulder.com), held every Memorial Day, attracts about 50,000 runners who circle its 10km (6.3-mile) course. The Boulder Running Company, 2775 Pearl St. (tel. 303/786-9255; www.boulderrunningcompany.com), sells a wide variety of running shoes and gear, going as far as analyzing customers’ strides on a treadmill to find the perfect shoe.

Skiing

Friendly Eldora Mountain Resort, P.O. Box 1697, Nederland, CO 80466 (tel. 303/440-8700; www.eldora.com), is just 21 miles west of downtown Boulder. It’s about a 40-minute drive on Colo. 119 through Nederland. RTD buses leave Boulder for Eldora four times daily during ski season. For downhill skiers and snowboarders, Eldora has 53 trails, rated 30% novice, 50% intermediate, and 20% expert terrain on 680 acres. It has snowmaking on 320 acres and a terrain park with a 600-foot superpipe. The area has two quad lifts, two triple and four double chairlifts, four surface lifts, and a vertical rise of 1,500 feet. Lift tickets (2009–10 rates) were $65 for adults, $38 for seniors 65 to 74, $39 children 6 to 15, and just $8 for those 5 and under and 75 and over. There are also discount packages that include lessons and rental equipment for both skiers and snowboarders, as well as lodging packages with numerous properties in Boulder. Snowshoeing is also gaining popularity in the area. The season runs from mid-November to mid-April, snow permitting.

For cross-country skiers, Eldora has 25 miles of groomed and backcountry trails, and an overnight hut available by reservation. About 15% of the trails are rated easy, 50% intermediate, and 35% difficult. The trail fee is $19, $12 for children 6 to 15 and seniors 65 to 74, and $3 for those 5 and under and 75 and over.

You can rent all your ski, snowboard, and snowshoeing equipment at the ski-rental center, and Nordic equipment at the Eldora Nordic Center. A free base-area shuttle runs throughout the day from the lodge to the Little Hawk area and the Nordic Center.

In Boulder, you can rent or buy telemark and alpine touring equipment from Eldora Mountain Sports, 2775 Canyon Blvd. (tel. 303/447-2017).

Swimming

Five public pools are located within the city. Indoor pools, all open daily year-round, are at the newly renovated North Boulder Recreation Center, 3170 N. Broadway (tel. 303/413-7260); the East Boulder Community Center, 5660 Sioux Dr. (tel. 303/441-4400); and the South Boulder Recreation Center, 1360 Gillaspie Dr. (tel. 303/441-3448). The two outdoor pools (both open daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day) are Scott Carpenter Pool, 5050 30th St. (tel. 303/441-3427), and Spruce Pool, 2102 Spruce St. (tel. 303/441-3426). Swimming fees for outdoor municipal pools are $6 adults, $4 seniors, $3.50 teens, $3 children 3 to 12, and free for children 2 and under. Indoor pool fees are slightly higher.

Tennis

There are more than 30 public courts in the city. The North and South Boulder Recreation centers each have four lighted courts and accept reservations ($8 an hour). The North Boulder Recreation Center also has two platform tennis courts. Play is free if you arrive and there’s no one using the courts, or with a reservation. For locations of other public tennis courts, contact the Boulder Parks and Recreation Department (tel. 303/413-7200).

WATERSPORTS--For both motorboating and human-powered boating, sailboard instruction, or swimming at a sandy beach, head for the square-mile Boulder Reservoir (tel. 303/441-3461), on North 51st Street off the Longmont Diagonal northeast of the city. Human-powered boats and canoes (no personal watercraft) can be rented at the boathouse (tel. 303/441-3468). Rates start at $8 per hour, with sailboards at $20 per hour. There’s also a boat ramp and other facilities.

Tubing is huge on Boulder Creek on hot summer days. You'll see Bermuda-shorts- and bikini-clad students heading down to cool off. Join them with the help of the Whitewater Tubing Company, 1717 15th St.(tel. 720/379-6055; www.whitewatertubing.com), offering tube rentals ($11–$21 daily).

Organized Tours

Hop on one of Banjo Billy's Bus Tours for a decidedly Boulder kind of tour. Pedestrians should contact the pros at Boulder Walking Tours (tel. 720/243-1376; www.boulderwalkingtours.com) if you would like a guide who's knowledgeable of the city's history and geography.

Especially for Kids

On the Boulder Creek Path, the underwater fish observatory behind the Millennium Harvest House fascinates youngsters. They can feed the huge trout swimming behind a glass barrier on the creek (machines cough up handfuls of fish food for quarters).

Likewise, the Pearl Street Mall is a terrific spot for kids, featuring giant beaver and snail sculptures to frolic with, massive faux boulders to climb, and a pop-jet fountain to cool off in on hot summer days, not to mention such kid-friendly shops as Into the Wind and the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.

On the north end of town, at Gateway Park Fun Center, 4800 N. 28th St. (tel. 303/442-4386; www.gatewayfunpark.com), you'll find go-karts, a human maze, batting cages, miniature golf, and more.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.