EXPLORE | BOULDER COLORADO

Boulder is very unique. I think what I love the most about Boulder is that it is always sunny. Bright sunny clear days truly make people happier, kinder, and just better. Because it is almost always sunny in Boulder, the people are almost always positive. You can see it while hiking, getting coffee, shopping downtown, or traveling around the area. Everyone is positive. So, I just spent a normal day doing normal things, relaxing and exploring some hiking from the Chautauqua Trailhead, great coffee at Boxcar Coffee roasters, and great tacos at T/aco. I even had time for a drive up to Estes Park and a late night drink at The Bitter Bar when I got back to Boulder. All in all, I maxed out the daylight, enjoying Boulder from morning until after sunrise. It’s truly a great place.

BEST HIKES IN BOULDER:

Hiking from the Chautauqua Trailhead

When it is a new morning in Boulder you never have to guess what to do because you can always go outside for a hike to begin your day. The first thing I did on the first morning I was in Boulder was to try out one of the town’s most popular hikes at Chautauqua Trailhead. I parked on Baseline Road, just up from the Chautauqua neighborhood, which is a beautiful neighborhood on a hill above town. From the trailhead, I looked up the trail and saw the Flatirons in morning light. Someday I will get up early and walk up the trail right at sunrise. As it was, I did a little exploring. I walked up the Baseline Trail because it seemed like that was where everyone else was walking, but it was more pedestrian than I wanted. I came back down to the trailhead and took the Mesa Trail south. This trail leads to each Flatiron rock face, and it leads to all of the trails along the Front Range south of Boulder. You actually start the hike on Bluebell Road, and it meets the Mesa Trail section in about a half-mile. When I found the beginning of the Mesa Trail, there weren’t too many people, so I jogged for a mile up and mile back along the foothills. Then I walked back to my car, enjoying the view toward downtown Boulder. Chautauqua Trailhead was a good place to start my day—I think if I lived here I would probably come up here to hike every morning. 

Chautauqua Trail welcome sign
Staying hydrated on the Chautauqua Trail
Taking a picture of Chautauqua Trail welcome sign from the trail
T/aco open sign in Boulder Colorado

BEST RESTAURANTS IN BOULDER:

T/aco Urban Taqueria

After my hike and run, I quickly needed food. The best taco restaurant in Boulder is T/aco Urban Taqueria. I was right there right when they opened at 1100AM. This place gets really busy, so I took no chances and neither should you. 

I am currently in training to beat this record.

After I ordered, I sat right outside overlooking the sidewalk, drinking a glass of ice water, barely surviving the rising anticipation of hunger for perfectly created tacos. I was trying to think about what to do next during my day, but all I was thinking about was steak. Then I was carefully reviewing the menu. My mind was wandering. I should have ordered more tacos.

I wanted a few different tastes so I ordered a few different tacos. I ordered one Cojita Taco with grilled cotija cheese, guacamole, tomato, fresh salsa verde, cilantro, and I added steak to it. I tried a Pork Belly taco, made with braised pork belly, guajillo salsa, pickled onion, fresh cotija and cilantro. I also tried the Shrimp Taco, which had tequila-marinated shrimp, guacamole, pico de gallo, cotija, salsa fresca, and cilantro. Then I indulged, and I went back to order three more tacos—all steak!

There are many reasons this taco joint is the best. Their ingredients are fresh, high-quality, and interesting. They make adventurous tacos with seared ahi tuna, grilled barbacoa beef, grilled red snapper, braised duck, chipotle-marinated chicken, carnitas with pineapple, and veggie taco with spaghetti squash and poblano peppers. They also have an extensive, creative, motivating menu of margaritas. But today my focus is on tacos—I’d like to try these different flavors, which is a great excuse to return, maybe in a few hours.

T/aco Urban Tacqueria

1175 Walnut Street
Boulder, Colorado 80302
tacocolorado.com
303-443-9468

BEST PLACES TO SHOP IN BOULDER

Patagonia Boulder

Pearl Street Malls, the central shopping area of Boulder, has a pretty dynamic Patagonia store. I had a gift card for $20 bucks at Patagonia that I had been meaning to spend. What do you buy with $20 at Patagonia? A hat? Socks? T-shirt? In any case, I was determined to spend it.

I wanted something cool, something that was an adventure, or something that presented a learning opportunity, so my goals were a little lofty for $20. As I wandered the store for something epic, I found the food section, where there was a display of Patagonia Provisions, their new products of soup, jerky, snacks, and protein. They have mussels and salmon—who knew Patagonia sells their own line of responsibly sourced seafood? This was the discovery I was looking for.

I bought two packages salmon, one in Wild Pink Salmon in Black Pepper and one Wild Sockeye Salmon in Original. The packaging and marketing enticed me—it had colorful descriptions of salmon. For example, the packaging described how the salmon was caught in reefs off Lummi Island in Washington State, which is where I live. I’m very interested in knowing the source of food, so this story was interesting to me.

I also have to admit that the packaging inside the box was very complex tinfoil that sealed the salmon in olive oil, which was remarkable. It tasted great. It was fresh and flavorful. I instantly saw how I would bring a few of these packages in any backpack on any trip. The salmon will stay fresh, flavorful, and tasty in its advanced packaging—and salmon is probably the very best animal protein for your body, in my humble opinion.

This is one of my philosophies: Always be open-minded to the unknown. I walked into a clothing store looking to get rid of a gift card, and I walked out with a new source of sustainable, healthy, practical food for my hiking adventures.  

Patagonia Boulder

1630 Pearl Street
Boulder, Colorado 80302
720-677-5010
https://www.patagonia.com/boulder
Patagonia Provisions
https://www.patagoniaprovisions.com

BEST COFFEE SHOP IN BOULDER

Boxcar Coffee Roasters

Then I went to Boxcar Coffee on Pearl Street. In their bakery they make beautiful creations like croissants, scones, brownies, caramel pecan buns, chocolate chip cookies, and frittatas. If you want something amazing, try the canele, on their menu it says, “A very special pastry originating from the Bordeaux region of France with a custardy center and caramelized crust; flavored with rum and vanilla.” Or, try the Kouign Amanns, a classic Croissant dough coated with sugar and baked with a dark chocolate center, topped with simple syrup and flaky sea salt. Yet, what I loved most of all as their fresh homemade donuts, either the donut holes with cinnamon and cardamom spices with an early gray glaze, or, a cake donut made from lemon cake and lavender glaze. Yes, they have donuts!

Then I went to Boxcar Coffee on Pearl Street. In their bakery they make beautiful creations like croissants, scones, brownies, caramel pecan buns, chocolate chip cookies, and frittatas. If you want something amazing, try the canele, on their menu it says, “A very special pastry originating from the Bordeaux region of France with a custardy center and caramelized crust; flavored with rum and vanilla.” Or, try the Kouign Amanns, a classic Croissant dough coated with sugar and baked with a dark chocolate center, topped with simple syrup and flaky sea salt. Yet, what I loved most of all as their fresh homemade donuts, either the donut holes with cinnamon and cardamom spices with an early gray glaze, or, a cake donut made from lemon cake and lavender glaze. Yes, they have donuts!

Boxcar Coffee

1825 Pearl Street
Boulder, Colorado 
720-456-7962
https://www.boxcarcoffeeroasters.com

BEST THINGS TO DO IN BOULDER:

Afternoon Drive to Estes Park

It doesn’t take very long to drive from Boulder to Estes Park because it’s really not that far—only 37 miles from town to town. The directions are simple: From the center of Boulder you can take Broadway north to Highway 36W. About 15 miles north of Boulder, there is a stoplight at an intersection at the base of mountains, and you just angle left and west to up into the mountains, continuing on Highway 36W. All the signs are easy to follow. Just follow signs for Estes Park.

Don’t forget to enjoy the drive up the curvy roads as you climb thousands of feet into the Front Range. The road is steep and wild, as it follows the natural curves of St. Vrain Creek off to the left. When I was there the water captured my attention. I made a mental note to stop by the creek to relax on the way back down. 

BEST THING TO DO IN ESTES PARK:

The Stanley Hotel

I went to Estes Park for the first time. When I arrived in town, I saw a bike path along a lake that looked appealing in the sun, so I went for a run. It was Lake Estes and it had a little park and the bike path traveled from town along the highway to a golf course and some vacation homes. It was a very beautiful introduction to how the area of Estes Park is set in a bowl valley below high mountain peaks. Immediately, you feel the altitude’s light elevation, thin air, and bright hot sun.

I went to Estes Park for the first time. When I arrived in town, I saw a bike path along a lake that looked appealing in the sun, so I went for a run. It was Lake Estes and it had a little park and the bike path traveled from town along the highway to a golf course and some vacation homes. It was a very beautiful introduction to how the area of Estes Park is set in a bowl valley below high mountain peaks. Immediately, you feel the altitude’s light elevation, thin air, and bright hot sun.

I also went over to the Stanly Hotel. The front entrance and main hotel is very picturesque, especially set in front of the mountains. I walked around for a while. I explored a few of the hotel’s restaurants, including Cascades, The Patio, The Whiskey Bar, and Colorado Cherry Co., which is the hotel’s coffee shop. The hotel is very beautiful, and they lead historic tours, host weddings, and provide meeting spaces for groups who want to enjoy the beautiful architecture and design. The hotel also has cultural connections to feature films, including The Shining. The hotel also partners with companies that lead adventures like ice climbing in winter and mountain biking in summer. After walking around the hotel for an hour, I easily saw how it would be an elegant basecamp for expeditions into the mountains, with a great room and great services awaiting you back at the hotel in the evening. From the windows of the hotel, there is a great sense of adventure, and the mountains were calling to me, especially Longs Peak, which was towering to the north.

The Stanley Hotel

333 East Wonderview Avenue
Estes Park, Colorado 80517
https://www.stanleyhotel.com
970-577-4000 

BEST CAMPING STOVE:

MSR Windburner

On the way back down the canyon road, I remembered my thought to stop somewhere next to St. Vrain Creek and have some coffee in the sun on the bank of the creek. I made some of the Stella Espresso I bought at Boxcar Coffee. I had it ground coarse for a French Press so I could make fresh coffee with creek water and my lightweight hiking stove. Whenever possible, I bring my stove while traveling, whether it is for a road trip, day hike, or backpacking. I use the MSR Windburner. It only weighs 15 ounces, not counting the small propane canister. I use the 4 ounce canisters because I can store one of them inside the pot while traveling. The stove boils a liter of water in less than 6 minutes. I purchased the Windburner three years ago at REI and I have used it frequently without ever having any problem. It costs about $150, though you can easily find them for less by using your REI 20% Member Coupon. This little stove is one of my most essential possessions.

Here’s why: There is nothing like drinking hot coffee while sitting next to running mountain water. You can just sit and contemplate the world. The sound of mountain water always clears out my mind. You can think through thoughts. I can get rid of the negative thoughts and focus on positive thoughts. For me, it’s a form of meditation, introspection, therapy. What I love about sitting next to running water is that it is powerful for me—just as it is powerful for anyone and everyone. Nature. Water. Thought. As I sip my coffee from Boxcar, the warmth, caffeine, and water change my entire perspective while travel through many different ideas, exploring them from different angles, which can only happen during a moment of happiness like this. I need to find more of these moments.

BEST BAR IN BOULDER:

The Bitter Bar

When I got back to town, I met some friends at a bar in Boulder. The Bitter Bar, a place with the longest happy hour in Boulder. They serve great cocktails, though I love the setting and ambiance of the place more than anything. They have a great bartop that makes it easy to talk with people you don’t know, or you can find some tables, inside or outside on the patio, to carve out your niche in the world. I could sit here for hours. It’s a great place, where you can make the art of relaxing into an adventure.

We didn’t know where we were going to dinner, and that was fine with me because I was in a mood to just relax, continuing that positive vibe from my earlier adventures. This is the strength of Boulder—it has great energy. It comes from the constant presence of nature, a presence that is very real and evident and all around you all day long. Nature empowers people to feel good. Also, like I said, it is always sunny in Boulder, so the Vitamin D and warmth and sunshine help everyone feel positive on a daily basis. The positive feeling repeats, day to day, and this provides a natural high. You can see it in the people. All around us at the Bitter Bar, people were talking loudly, leaning in to listen to each other, smiling, and enjoying their evening because they enjoyed their entire day. Their smiles and their body language demonstrated their happiness. 

The Bitter Bar 

835 Walnut Street
Boulder, Colorado 80302
https://www.thebitterbar.com

FUNNEST BAR IN BOULDER:

Bohemian Biergarten

This bar is so much fun. The name is awesome, the venue is awesome, the bar is simply awesome. Its a large venue. In the front area are long tables to sit and talk to friends or randoms all while drinking large steins of excellent german beers. 

There is a large open area in the back where they bring in epic local live music bands. During some week  nights they bring in large tables and do games with the audience. Such as the legendary beer stein hold. 

Bohemian Biergarten is a great place if you have a large group or even if it just two people. I found that the people that go there are very fun and talkative and I have always had an unbelievable time at this bar. It is a MUST if you are in Boulder. If its the summer go to Pearl Street post game and hammer home some of the street hot dogs.

This place can get really packed so go a little early and to a recon before it gets to busy. 

BOHEMIAN BIERGARTEN

2017 13th St,
Boulder, CO 80302
www.bohemianbiergarten.com/

BEST THINGS TO DO IN BOULDER

Overall, Boulder is a great place to visit and it is a great place to live, one of those rare places that is both comfortable and exciting. With great people, young demographics, and mid to upscale characteristics, it’s easy to meet new people, find a social scene, and find a good income. And you cannot discount the notion that it’s one of the great college towns in America—with many thousands of students from University of Colorado-Boulder infusing daily life with excitement, passion, and intelligence. In almost every way, it’s the vibrant people on hiking trails, in shops and restaurants, and at coffee shops and bars, that make Boulder endlessly fascinating. Boulder has positive people, daily sunshine, and eternal nature—that’s a powerful mix. 

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EXPLORE: JACKSON-HOLE

Jackson-Hole, Wyoming, is one of the best towns in America. It's a unique place that feels like a real-life Narnia with tons of beauty to explore. Hiking, running, biking, skiing, world-class food, and one of the best coffee shops/bakeries in the world. Here is what you need to know before you travel to Jackson-Hole.

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