Boulder offers stranded students hope for block break

If you’re anything like me, the upcoming block break has come as a huge surprise. As your friends embark on various adventures into the wilderness, you’re left wondering what the heck to do with yourself and the rest of the stragglers left on campus.

Whether you’re on campus for work, lack of funds, or simply poor planning (my biggest fault), you can still come out of the block break with enviable stories to counter everyone else’s.

Royal Arch, located in Chautauqua Park in Boulder, Colo., provides a great day trip for those unable to leave campus for the entirety of the block break or even for a fun weekend excursion. A little more than an hour and a half away from campus, the park is located on the edge of Boulder at the foot of the Flatirons.

A very popular spot, I would recommend making the trip on a weekday to avoid crowds, or do your best to start the trek earlier on in the day.

The 3.5-mile trail leads the unwary to believe the hike is a quick out-and-back; however, the 1,400-foot elevation gain will suggest otherwise. Starting at the Chautauqua Park Trailhead, you’ll make your way out of the sprawling meadow, winding your way into the park. Not far in, you’ll find yourself at a junction for the Bluebell Mesa Trail, leading to Bluebell Canyon and the Royal Arch Trail.

On our excursion, we managed to convince ourselves that we had taken the wrong turn at some point, leading us to explore the smaller trails that snake their way up into the Flatirons. We entertained ourselves by scaling the huge boulders piled one on top of the other, taking in amazing views over the park and of Boulder itself. Of course, after considerable backtracking and pestering fellow hikers, we found our way and continued on.

The trail dips down into the Bluebell Canyon, where, after crossing a stream, you’ll be met with an endless staircase to lead you to the Arch itself. Though it’s nothing nearly as excruciating as the Incline, you’ll still find yourself in need of a few breaks as your quads start to burn.

The creek that runs alongside the trail will quickly fall away as you make the ascent towards the Arch. Trees line the edges of the trail, and will provide you with quick glimpses over the city. Don’t be fooled when you reach the “top” of the stairs and steep trail; after descending for a bit, you’ll be met with another set of grueling steps.

As you make your way, you’ll find yourself climbing up piles of rocks lined with foliage and water trickling down, and finally be in sight of the long-awaited Arch. However difficult the last bit is, that first sight will get you to power through the rest of the hike.

You’ll finally find yourself at the bottom of one last set of stone stairs with the Arch stretching out above you. Personally, I like to take the sighting of the end goal as an excuse to run the last bit and truly push myself, but at this point that last set of stairs was a bit too much.

Nevertheless, once finally completing the climb, you’ll find the incredible stone archway spanning above your head along with breathtaking views. At this point you can sit and relax on the stones underneath the arch, take in the views, let your feet dangle over the edge of the cliff, and obviously snap a few pictures to document your feat.

Making your way down will be significantly easier on your lungs, but not necessarily the knees as you navigate the same staircases. You’ll be able to choose between various trails to get you back to the trailhead.

Once returning to the meadow at the trailhead, take some time to explore Boulder and reward yourself with a root beer float before making your way back to campus, because even though it was worth it, that was pretty damn hard.

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