Flagstaff Cultural Resource Hikes
Trailhead: Realization Point or Flagstaff Summit
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Distance: 0 miles to 2.5 mile loop
Feel free to explore the area but, as always, please be respectful of our cultural resources and refrain from climbing on them, collecting any artifacts you may find or vandalizing the property.
Amenities: Two ADA accessible trails, picnic shelter and picnic tables, restrooms, amphitheatre and Nature Center.
How to find the trailhead:
Realization Point Trailheads (Tenderfoot, Chapman Drive, Rangeview, Ute): 3.4 miles up Flagstaff Road from Baseline. Parking is available on either side of Flagstaff Road.
History: The short drive up Flagstaff Road to these trailheads will not only take you into some of Boulder's richest history and natural scenery, but you'll learn about how we are linked to some of our nation's most poignant history, as well. You can easily make a day of it at Flagstaff and there's something here for everyone.
Please stay on trail! You'll be helping to keep yourself safe as some of the trails are steep and you'll be helping to conserve our resources, both cultural and natural.
Tenderfoot / Continental Divide / Chapman Drive: This hike is a nice way to combine natural history, geography and our nation's history - all in a short loop just under two miles long! From the Realization Point Trailhead, proceed north to the Regulation Board at the beginning of the Tenderfoot and Ute Trail. Proceed north on the Tenderfoot Trail and meander through a Ponderosa pine forest typical of this part of Colorado. A short walk will take you to the "Continental Divide Lookout." Follow the trail up to the lookout and take a moment to enjoy the view of the Continental Divide, which stretches all the way from the Seward Peninsula of Alaska to the southernmost tip of South America. The Divide, sometimes also called the "Great Divide," separates watersheds of the Pacific Ocean from those of the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans, the premise being that water falling on either side eventually travels to one ocean or body of water to another. Here you can look to your right (north) and imagine the line coming down from the mountains of Canada into our Rocky Mountains and continuing south to New Mexico and beyond.
After catching your breath and relaxing at the overlook, proceed back down the trail and instead of returning to the trailhead on the Tenderfoot Trail, take a right (south). The trail ascends steeply for a short time and will drop you onto an old gravel road. This is Chapman Drive. This road was constructed as part of the New Deal between the fall of 1933 and the spring of 1935.
CCC rock work under Chapman Drive
The New Deal was a series of relief and recovery programs initiated by President Franklin Roosevelt. It was designed to lift America out of the Great Depression of the 1930s by providing meaningful work and income for the nation's thousands of unemployed. The New Deal had its detractors and the effectiveness of the economic stimulation is still a matter of debate. However, the New Deal provided employment for countless Coloradans and left us with a rich legacy of historic structures. The Civilian Conservation Corps, or CCC, put thousands of young men to work on conservation and recreation building projects in local, state and national parks. There are many examples of CCC work in the area, including Denver Mountain Parks and Rocky Mountain National Park. Luckily, Boulder is home to some of the CCC's finest work!
In October 1933, Camp SP5C was sent to Boulder and set up camp at what is now 6th Street and Baseline Road. Their main purpose was the construction of the road down the west slope of Flagstaff Mountain. The road was named in honor of Oscar Chapman, then Assistant Secretary of the Interior. Mr. and Mrs. J.C. Doherty, owners of Blanchard's (now the Red Lion Inn) donated a right-of-way across their property in Boulder Canyon. The road was formally opened on March 29, 1935. The road is closed to vehicles. (Not all of Chapman Drive is owned by OSMP - please respect the private property and do not cross the gate that marks OSMP and private property lines.)
As you make your way up Chapman Drive, be sure to look for the stone embankments, walls, pilasters and the cattle guard as they line the 1.4 mile hike up the hill. You may also see construction debris in the woods near the trails. Continue to hike up the road and you will end up almost where you began in the Realization Point Trailhead parking area. You can call it a day or continue on to explore another CCC project, Green Mountain Lodge.
You can find Green Mountain Lodge by crossing (be careful to look both ways!) Flagstaff Road and following the trail as it veers to the right (west). The trail will take you on a .3 mile walk to the lodge. The lodge was built in 1934. It is constructed of a variety of imported materials. The roof truss structure was constructed from West coast heartwood pinned with oak dowels. Paving flags for the patio terrace and the interior floor were brought from the quarries of Lyons. The stones that form the walls are local. The shingles are in shades of 12 colors and sizes and are arranged on the roof and grade from antique green on the eves through grey and burgundy to light red on the ridge crest. The building holds about 50 people and was built with the intent that community members could enjoy it free of charge. Green Mountain Lodge was closed due to maintenance issues for many years, but has recently been rehabilitated and is ready for public use .
From here, head back up the hill to the Realization Point Trailhead and either call it a day or continue up to Flagstaff Summit District. You can reach the summit by either driving the .5 miles up to the parking areas or hiking up the Ute or Rangeview Trails, which leave from the same trailhead as the Tenderfoot Trail.
If you drive up to the 7,283 foot Summit, about halfway up the 0.5 drive, watch to your left (northwest) for Morse Well. The Morse Well was originally built in 1929, but the wall behind it and was built and the well reinforced by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1935.
The first structure you will see is called the Flagstaff Stone Shelter. This was built in 1933 by the Boulder Lions Club with funds donated by the Lions club. The shelter is available for use by public. The structure just to the right (south) of the Stone Shelter is one of OSMP's most popular attractions, the Sunrise Amphitheatre, which can also be reserved for use by the public. Just to the west of the amphitheatre is the Flagstaff Memorial.
The memorial was erected in 1932 to replace a wooden pole which had been cut down by vandals in 1930. The amphitheatre was built between September 1933 and March 1934 by the CCC. The amphitheatre was constructed in a "natural amphitheatre" which had been cleared of debris by local residents during the spring of 1933 as part of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) work relief program. Today, the Flagstaff Summit is often subject to spring snow storms - things were no different in 1934! Two elaborate celebrations were planned but had to be canceled due to snow.
In 2005, the OSMP Department repaired damage to the amphitheatre and built wheelchair access just to south of the amphitheatre. Grant funds from the Colorado Historical Society State Historic Fund Grant program were used in the renovation.
There are several other sites and hikes at the Flagstaff Summit that aren't historic but are very worth your while to investigate. First is the Flagstaff Summit Nature Center, built in 1981. The Nature Center is open during the summer and fall months and is staffed entirely by volunteers. There are interactive exhibits, stuffed mounts and volunteers are always happy to answer your questions!
The Sensory Trail is located near the northernmost parking area near Artist's Point. The wheelchair accessible trail is designed for people with vision impairment and sighted visitors using blindfolds. The trail helps visitors use senses other than sight to learn about the environment. You will find another short wheelchair accessible hike by following the Ute Trail, 0.2 miles to an overlook of the Continental Divide. This portion of the trail was retrofit for wheelchair accessibility in 2006 during a volunteer project with OSMP and Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado.
If you drove up to the summit, as you leave, be sure to look to your right (northwest) for the Morse Well. The Morse Well was originally built in 1929, but the wall behind it and was built and the well reinforced by the CCC in 1935. The pump was destroyed by vandals so the well is no longer operational.
Picnic at original Panorama Point shelter, circa 1920
And just in case you haven't had enough history in your explorations today, you can stop at the Halfway House, also known as the Panorama Park Halfway House. The first Panorama Park structure was constructed by the Boulder Lions Club in 1919, and was the first public picnic shelter constructed in the Mountain Park.
However, "improvements" made to Flagstaff Road by the CCC in 1934 and 1935 were controversial and many people believed the park shelter had been spoiled because the new road passed very close in front of it. The CCC constructed the larger, more enclosed Halfway House in 1935. It includes a patio, picnic area and restrooms just down the hill, which were also built by the CCC. The Halfway House is available for public to use.
To reserve the Sunrise Amphitheatre, Stone Shelter, Halfway House or any other facility on OSMP, please visit our Shelter and Facility Rentals page or call 303-441-3440.
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Last Updated on Thursday, 09 August 2012 14:32