This trail starts off with a steady uphill climb on nice, paved trail straight out of the trailhead, but plunges into the trees before too long and provides an up-close look at the 2nd and 3rd Flatirons. The switchbacked descent from the base of the flatirons eventually mellows out as you loop back around to the mesa. There are a lot of trails in the area, and this run makes sure you repeat as little ground as possible.
The Chautauqua Trail
parking fills up quickly on weekends, and charges by the hour from Memorial Day to Labor Day. If the trailhead parking lot is full, metered parking (again, in effect during the summer) is available on Baseline Road.
During the winter, many of the steeper sections of the trail ice over and microspikes should be considered mandatory.
This loop encapsulates multiple different trails all accessible from the Chautauqua Trail
. Start by heading up the wide, paved Chautauqua Trail
and continue following it as it turns right and passes over a small bridge. At the intersection with the Bluebell-Baird Trail
and Flatirons Loop Trail
, head to the left and uphill.
Before long, the 1st/2nd Flatiron trail joins in from the right - you continue going straight and will cross a short talus field. After the talus field, you'll arrive at the base of the 2nd Flatiron... you might see climbers starting their ascent from the trail here!
Not long after passing the 2nd Flatiron, you'll start losing elevation and will pass the 3rd Flatiron Climber's Access trail on the trail. Continue downhill until you reach an intersection with the Royal Arch Trail
and turn left. When you reach the small shelter (no facilities) at the intersection with Bluebell Road
, turn left and go up a few wood steps to join the Bluebell-Baird Trail
Cross the small clearing on the Bluebell-Baird Trail
and then turn right onto the Bluebell Mesa
trail, shortly after re-entering the trees. When the Bluebell Spur
trail joins from the right, you'll swing to the left and pop out of the trees, giving you a great view of the whole Chautauqua. At the end of the Bluebell Mesa
trail, turn right back onto the Chautauqua Trail
and follow it to the trailhead.