Chapman Drive Trail reopens connecting Flagstaff & Boulder Canyon

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Views of the Indian Peaks from Chapman Drive Boulder.

Views of the Indian Peaks from Chapman Drive

Chapman Drive Trail, aka Flagstaff Summit Road, which connects Boulder Canyon Drive at the Red Lion Inn to Flagstaff Road via the north-west side of Flagstaff Mountain will now be open thanks to several initiatives that are now complete.

In December, Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks removed old rotting pipes from the cattle guard and reconstructed the switchback about a mile down from Realization point which had collapsed in two places. The city recently purchased the Schnell property in order to complete the plans to finish the Chapman Drive Trail and finally the bridge connecting Boulder Canyon Drive to the Red Lion Inn was rebuilt after it was destroyed two and a half years ago due to heavy floods.

The bridge will officially open Jan 7, 2013 and the trail will be open to hikers, runners, and equestrians but will not allow dogs. Bikes are reportedly allowed to travel uphill initially according to the Trail Around Boulder Facebook page but there may be refinements to these rules after they trail has opened.

This connector trail was often used by the CU Cross Country team as their Wednesday workout as noted in the book “Running with the Buffaloes” as the team would climb the Flagstaff MountainTrail then drop back down into Boulder Canyon and back to the Boulder Creek Path to complete a 13 mile loop.

The 2.6 mile trail starts just above the Realization Point Trailhead on Flagstaff Road at 6,780 feet, connects with the Tenderfoot Trail about a mile down and finishes in Boulder Canyon at the Red Lion Inn (elevation 5,850′) ~.5 miles up the road from the terminus of the Boulder Creek Path at Four Mile Canyon. About a 930 foot ascent if you are climbing from the canyon.

The 2.6 mile long road was constructed between the fall of 1933 and spring of 1935 as part of Roosevelt’s New Deal in an effort to lift America out of the great depression. 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 north 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. It is no longer accessible to motor 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.)

On your travels, be sure to look for the stone embankments, walls, pilasters and the cattle guard that lines the trail. The switchback was repaired and rebuilt to resemble the original work done by the Civilian Conservation Corps. An historic preservation masonry specialist was consulted on the project where the original walls were mechanically stabilized and the mortar repaired while newly built walls resembled the style of the original rock work.

Chapman Drive Switchback - December 2012

Switchback on Chapman Drive Photo courtesy of


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