A trail in Eldorado State Park. Courtesy photo

The Best Boulder Parks to Enjoy on Weekends


Sunshine. Cool grass. Blue skies. This is how Boulder does weekends.

When the workweek is over, the parks come to life. It’s easy to find some open space in Boulder; the city itself has more than 60 different parks.

Whether you’re in town for a weekend getaway, you’re a local looking for some outdoor time or you want to experience Boulder like a local, here are a few of our favorite parks to enjoy on the weekends. Pick your purpose and get busy relaxing.

Ultimate Guide to Boulder’s Neighborhoods

This article is part of a larger series. To see all the articles in this Ultimate Guide, click here.

If you want to:

Picnic at Chautauqua
A picnic at Chautauqua park. Photo by Werner R. Slocum.

Be where the action is: Chautauqua Park

Chautauqua Park is Boulder’s crown jewel of open space. This century-plus-old park spreads out at the base of the Flatiron Mountains and connects with some of the city’s best (and most popular) hiking trails. The park is always packed, especially on weekends. In fact, it can be so hard (read: impossible) to find parking that you’re best off riding your bike in — that is, if your legs can handle the super steep incline to get here.

Not up for the burn? Take an RTD bus to get here. Repeat after us: Don’t try to park at Chautauqua over the weekend.

There’s a reason why so many people flock here. There’s so much to do at this park, from hiking more than 40 miles of trails, to yoga in the park, to people strumming guitars and reading stories and meditating on the grass. Go rock climbing, have a picnic, look for wildflowers and wildlife and in the winter go sledding and cross-country skiing.

You will find concerts at the nearby venue and can even stay in cottages right on the property, making this park way more than just a park. It’s a destination within a destination.

Boulder County Farmers Market. Photo by Tyler Percy

Make a Day Out of It: Central Park

Central Park in the heart of downtown Boulder especially shines on the weekends in the summer, because it’s also in the heart of the popular Boulder Farmers Market. Head to the market on a Saturday morning for a healthy, local lunch that you can eat in Central Park under the shade of the massive trees, either on the grass or on a picnic table. People-watch and relax in the park. If you’re lucky, there could be live music or a performance in the bandshell.

Boulder Creek is right here, too, so take your park-sitting to the creek banks and dip your toes in, if the water’s not too high. You can even go tubing, weather permitting. The library, Pearl Street Mall, tons of great shops and restaurants and even some of Boulder’s finest places to stay are a short walk away. Central Park is an easy home base for all of your weekend adventures.

Have a Picnic: Wonderland Lake Park

While Central Park is definitely a fun picnic destination on the weekends, if you want a slightly more peaceful picnic in the park, head to Wonderland Lake Park in north Boulder, a much quieter part of town. Pack a picnic basket and bring it here to enjoy on the picnic tables. The nearby playground makes this ideal for family get-togethers; the adults can eat and chat while the kids go wild on the toys.

After your picnic, venture out and explore the various trails that can even lead you to a fishing pond. A walk around the water is the perfect dessert.

On Fowler Trail there are several spots to stop and take in the views.

Get in the Mountains: Eldorado Canyon State Park

While there are plenty of parks that connect with access to the foothills, if you want to get deeper into the mountains, head up to the Eldorado Canyon State Park, not too far from Boulder. This park is popular among hikers and especially climbers. It also offers fishing — and the closest hot springs to Boulder. After a day on the mountain, it’s refreshing to unwind in the natural hot springs or even splash around on the diving board and slides. This park has it all: water, peaks, valleys, scenery, calm and excitement.

Yep, that’s right. There is a launch site for paragliding right above Foothills Community Park for those thrill seekers out there. Photo by Tyler Percy

Plan a Family Reunion: Foothills Community Park

While Boulder has many amazing parks for families, if you have to pick just one to center a family excursion around, pick Foothills Community Park. This north Boulder park offers so much. Of course, there’s the expected playground, but there’s also a rock climbing wall, a paragliding launch site, great views and little picnic shelters that are perfect for a family reunion or party. Hop under the shelter for some shade and enjoy the slower, quieter pace in north Boulder.

Entertain the Kids: Scott Carpenter Park

While Foothills park is the place to party, the place to get rowdy is Scott Carpenter Park. First, it has one of Boulder’s best pools. Second, the playground is extraordinary (it looks like a space shuttle). There’s also a nearby bike path and quick access to Boulder Creek and Pearl Street, plus a ton of open grass for kids to run around on.

The free, public Boulder Skatepark, with a street-style course, is also connected to the Scott Carpenter Park. It’s open from dawn to dusk and is unsupervised, but it’s a favorite destination, especially for the older kids who also have plenty of energy they need to burn.

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