As you cruise west on Highway 36, you’ll know you’re close to Boulder by the view: Suddenly, a dramatic mountain range stretches out before you. Even if you’re in grumpy, standstill traffic (not unlikely if you’re on this busy road between Denver and Boulder), the view seems to transcend all the road rage and honking horns.
Boulder is located at the edge of the foothills, below the unusually shaped Flatiron Mountains. It’s just about a half hour from Denver, in good traffic. It’s about 45 minutes from the Denver International Airport, if you take toll roads. Otherwise, it’s generally closer to an hour — again, if traffic is light.
Whether you want to get to Boulder, go somewhere from Boulder or get around Boulder, you have plenty of options. Here’s a look at Boulder’s transportation. Pick the option that best fits your needs and budget.
You don’t necessarily need a car to visit Boulder. But it will make your schedule more flexible. Plus, you cannot get to some trailheads, to many ski towns or into the mountains (like Rocky Mountain National Park) without a car.
You can rent a car at the airport or in town. There are various, big-name car rental companies (such as Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Hertz) in Boulder city limits.
If you decide to drive, beware of rush hour traffic, especially on Interstate 25, Highway 36, The Diagonal, Arapahoe Avenue, Baseline and Broadway. Yup, that basically crosses Boulder in every direction. Boulder’s traffic can be really stressful and slow, and while it’s no Los Angeles gridlock, you’ll save time and stress by leaving earlier or later.
If you must drive to or from Boulder during rush hour, it’s worth it to take a toll lane (it can cost $13 to get between Denver and Boulder on the toll lane). There are no tolls in city limits. There are plenty of back roads, though, and if Siri is in a good mood, she might let you in on some ways around the crowds. Probably not, though.
Parking is another consideration if you rent a car. Many hotels offer on-site parking or valet, but if you want to visit downtown, spaces are severely limited and the closest ones are meters. You can find free, time-limited spots a few blocks away, but those are also limited. And the parking enforcement in Boulder is diligent; you will get a ticket if you stay past the time limit. Try the parking garage at 10th and Spruce, on the very top.
Outside of downtown and University Hill, parking isn’t too bad. You can find free, ample parking at the Twenty Ninth Street Mall.
If you are driving to the ski resorts in the winter, make sure you check the Colorado Road Condition Hotline (cotrip.org or call 511) first. This will provide road conditions and closures, which can happen suddenly, especially in winter.
Interstate 70 is the main highway you will take up the mountain to get to many popular, nearby ski towns. The traffic here is a nightmare, especially during peak hours (after work Friday, early Saturday, late Sunday). Schedule your drive around those hours. Head up early Friday or best of all, sometime during the week. I-70 can be crowded even during the summer.
As you’re heading down I-70 back to Boulder, you can either take U.S. 6 north to Colo. 93, or take I-70 into Denver and hop on U.S. 36. The first choice tends to be quicker, more scenic and have fewer chances of a traffic standstill.
Eliminate the hassle of parking and road rage and try Boulder’s public transportation system, which is called RTD (Regional Transportation District). This bus line was named the nation’s Best Public Transportation in 2008. It’s simple, convenient and inexpensive.
You can take the AB bus straight from the airport (about $13 per way), all over Boulder and to some nearby cities, like Longmont.
RTD’s SkyRide can also get you to the airport. The ride is just $9. SkyRide buses leave hourly every day and evening. The buses have designated storage space for luggage.
The downsides of the bus: It tends to be slower than a car, but you don’t have to do the driving.
If you’re visiting Boulder for a long haul or live here, the EcoPass and NECO Pass are annual bus passes that get you unlimited rides on most RTD routes, including to and from the airport.
Here are some of the main buses in Boulder:
* HOP: Travels to CU, downtown, University Hill, Twenty Ninth Street Mall
* SKIP: North and south Broadway
* BOLT: Between Longmont and downtown Boulder
Check out the RTD schedules for more info on stops, times and prices.
Bike is one of the best ways to get around Boulder, which has been named one of the top bike-friendly cities in the nation.
No need to travel with your bike from home, though. You can rent bikes at Boulder’s many bike shops, such as Colorado Multisport (road bikes, townie bikes, triathlon bikes). At some shops, like Colorado Multisport, you can try out a bike for a few days to see if you want to buy it.
Boulder also has a simple, inexpensive bike-sharing system called Bcycle. You’ll find 41 bike stations around town with 300 bikes that you can rent right on the spot. Look for the red bikes. Rent one and return it to another station. It’s only $8 per 24-hour period. Easy.
Shuttles and taxis can cost more than three times as much as the bus to transport you from Denver to Boulder. Yellow Cab is more expensive than Uber. It can cost almost seven times as much as taking the bus from Denver. Uber tends to be about half the price of a taxi.
On the CU Campus
If you have a car, CU has a variety of parking garages and spots, but you’re going to need the proper parking pass to use them or pay for your parking. Luckily, CU is centrally located and you can walk or bike to many destinations nearby.
CU students can use their College Pass on the local buses or take the Buff Bus between campuses.
Also ask about CU’s “vanpool” service and CU Commute’s carpool social media.
You can also schedule a ride on CU Nightride, which will take students, faculty and staff across campus or city limits.
Boulder is a very walkable city — nearly 10 percent of commuters walk to work — with great paths and trails and a popular walking mall. To stay safe while walking, make sure you walk across streets at designated crosswalks when the “crossing” symbol lights up.