Before we set out on a hike, we’re learning to read reviews from places like ProTrails, and that we need to take into consideration that our definition of “moderate” is different from a local’s definition of “moderate”.
Reviewers were not kidding when they said don’t let the 1.5 mile one way distance fool you – it’s the 1200’ elevation gain that will get ya. “The trail drops from Sentinel pass about 100’ and resumes a demanding, twisting climb over the steady trickle of Tangen Spring to the base of Royal Arch.” When reading words like demanding and twisting in a trail description some may consider sitting on the front porch with a cold iced tea as a better option to spend a Saturday.
The Royal Arch is part of the same sandstone formation that makes up Red Rocks Park Amphitheater. Sediments deposited from inland oceans compressed this layer into sandstone, and the mineral-rich sand eroded from the ancestral Rocky Mountain lifted 300 million years ago. Over time the Royal Arch was sculpted by the elements into the 20’ span that exists today.
Royal Arch Trail begins at the Ranger Station in Chautauqua Park in the Flatirons area. It starts out along open grassy meadows of the lower foothills, innocent enough. After a quick drop into a gulch the trail climbs steadily and around switchbacks through forests to the sandstone arch. At times we were walking over boulders where I was literally climbing hand to foot, where Jim fared a little better since his leg “wingspan” is a little longer than mine. Going down wasn’t much easier, it was just down. Many times as we’ve been out and about we like to see the silver sneakers crowd out and being active, too. I happened to notice there were not a lot of them on this trail. Smart local silver sneakers.
The reward is definitely worth the effort, though, as the view not only of the arch but from the arch is spectacular, especially with the City of Boulder as a backdrop. As we stopped for breathers on our hike down we enjoyed the view to the Third Flatiron, a popular ascent for many Boulder climbers.
When we reached our car (and cranked up the AC) we breathed a heavy sigh of satisfaction at having reach new heights in our hiking (yes…intended.)
Hiking the Flatirons