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Length: 3.8 miles (lollipop loop)
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Why we love it: One of the area’s lesser-known trailheads, Front Range offers easy access to stunning wildflowers come summer and golden aspens in the fall—all without the Indian Peaks crowds.
When to go: Mid-June through mid-October
Pre-hike fuel: Snag a lavender latte and a wood-fired bagel sandwich from WoodGrain Bagel and Deli in Boulder for some much-needed protein before you head up the canyon.
Post-hike buzz: On your way back through Boulder, stop at Rincon Argentino for upscale empanadas or Efrain’s for a no-frills Mexican feast of flautitas, chimichangas, and hefty burritos. If you have room for dessert, don’t miss the sopaipillas.
The Front Range Trailhead may be one of the most under-the-radar starting lines in the Nederland area, but its gorgeous fall foliage and deep-woods solitude make it well worth a visit. On weekdays, yours will often be the only car in the parking lot. On weekends, you’ll likely share it with a mountain biker or two—but they won’t be headed where you’re going. While neighboring trails offer gentle, swooping switchbacks, your objective, the Boy Scout Loop, is just rough enough to discourage two-wheeled traffic. That pretty much guarantees you’ll have it—and its postcard-perfect views—all to yourself.
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Park at the Front Range Trailhead off Magnolia Road and set off, heading north, through open pine forest. Keep right at the first three intersections to trace the loop counterclockwise, stitching together sunny meadows and aspen groves along the way. In the summer, the meadows are dotted with purple tansy aster and Indian paintbrush, and in the fall, the aspens flicker golden in the afternoon sunlight. (Fall foliage tends to peak during the first two weeks of October, though the peak will vary depending on the season’s rainfall.)
After about 1.3 miles, the trail ducks back into pine trees and you’ll descend a steep downhill before climbing back up toward treeline—giving the aspens one last encore. About 2.8 miles in, you’ll hit another intersection. This time, veer left to head south back toward your vehicle.
Getting there: From Denver, take U.S. 36 west to Boulder, then turn left onto CO-119 to enter Boulder Canyon. Once in the canyon, reset the odometer when you pass the first bridge on your left. After four miles, you’ll take a left onto Magnolia Road. Follow steep switchbacks for about 8.3 miles to the Front Range Trailhead, which will appear on your right shortly after a pull-off (look for the informational kiosk). While much of Magnolia Road is unpaved, it’s usually well-maintained and low-clearance vehicles should be able to handle it just fine.