Photo of Golden Retriever dog playing in the creek.

Royal Arch Trail Review

by Kris Phillips

It’s funny how making new friends can shake you out of a rut. When I first moved to Denver I was constantly exploring new-to-me trails. But lately I find myself hiking the same 3-4 over and over. Then I started hiking with a new friend, and she comes up with a new trail every time we get together.

When she suggested the Royal Arch Trail a few weeks ago I was all for it. Since we both have flexible schedules we decided to go on a cloudy Wednesday morning. I figured once we got moving the cool air would feel great, and make life a little easier on the dogs. Since neither of us had been there before we were going solely based on online reviews suggesting a moderate hike with an amazing view at the top.

Melissa & I met up at my place, since my truck has more room for the doggos, swung by Starbucks for some ready-made energy and Puppuccinos and headed on up to Boulder ready for an adventure. I had no idea the biggest challenge would be simply parking the truck?! But after circling the crowded Chautauqua Park trail head parking for about a half hour we lucked into a space. And the adventure was on!

Our trek started with a long walk up a roughly paved road. So if you go on a sunny day make sure to take booties for your dog. The gentle incline got our hearts pumping and felt like a nice warm-up for what was to come.

Following the trail maps and other hikers directions took us across a lovely meadow with a beautiful view of the Flatirons. Before long we were meandering through the woods, the trail is heavily shaded which was a relief for us and the dogs. As was the creek running along and across the trail.

It wasn’t long before we could feel the elevation gain, and our gently sloping trail gave way to flagstone steps. The trail gets progressively more difficult as you go. Floki, age 3, and Ryder, age 6, are both fit & active trail dogs in their hiking prime. But some of the larger steps required a bit of time to negotiate. And a few times we had to actually hoist the dogs up and over a big rock.

I would only recommend bringing your dog on this trail if they’re in prime condition, confident on difficult terrain, and good with close proximity to other dogs. The trail is heavily trafficked and narrow in spots.

The trail breaks out of the forest in spots to offer amazing views of the valley below before you continue the climb up the Royal Arch itself.

The view was absolutely AMAZING! and so worth the climb. Though when I tried to shimmy across a narrow ledge for a better spot to picnic, Floki decided he’d had enough adventure and wedged himself between two rocks. I couldn’t help but laugh as he drew attention of everyone else enjoying the views by throwing on the breaks and crying as if I might throw him off the cliff. At least until he saw a chipmunk scurry over the very same rocks I was asking him to go over, and nearly launched himself over the edge. You see chipmunks are Floki’s most favorite thing to chase in the whole world! They are also the reason he always wears a leash when out on the trail.











After some time taking in the breath-taking views, and of course catching our breath from the steep climb, we sat down on the rocks for a little snack. I HIGHLY recommend bringing a bite to eat if you make this hike, and of course tons of water too.

After some time spent relaxing in the shade we decided it was time to yield our spot to the continuous stream of hikers coming up behind us.

And the hike down was almost more taxing. The big, steep steps will definitely put your quads to work and push your knees. And our final leg back along the roughly paved road- we ended up carrying the dogs because despite our 60 degree morning the sun had that pavement nice and toasty by the time we got back.


For me, this is a bucket-list hike. The challenge and the view made me glad to have gone, but the crowd and congestion make it one I probably wont repeat often.

Some things to keep in mind-

  • Royal Arch trail is a great workout!
  • It’s a popular spot so expect lots of people, plan time to search for parking.
  • Bring more water than you think you’ll need, especially for your dog.
  • Bring a snack to refuel at the top.
  • At just 3.5 miles round-trip, it seems deceptively easy. But don’t be fooled, the Royal Arch hike is a challenge.
  • If you’re bringing your dog
    • Make sure he’s fit enough for the climb. Floki’s 3 and Ryder’s 6, both very active, and they were both beyond exhausted by the time we were done.
    • I recommend a harness, even if you don’t normally use one, it could come in handy if you have to help your dog over parts of the trail.
    • Consider whether you can hoist/carry your dog if needed.
    • Keep a short leash, I saw more than one unsuspecting hiker trip over someone else’s retractable leash.
    • If your dog struggles with any aggression, this trail is narrow and steep and may not always have space to pass at a safe distance.
    • Consider going early in the morning on a weekday. We were there on a Wednesday and it was still packed, I can only imagine what the weekend is like.

No matter what you do, enjoy the adventure!!!

Happy Trails & Happy Tails.

***Photos Courtesy Melissa Hamilton*** Thanks Melissa for great photos of our great adventure!


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