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Boulder Chautauqua: Where History, Arts, and Recreation Find Harmony

Boulder Chautauqua Auditorium

The Colorado Chautauqua (aka Boulder Chautauqua or just Chautauqua), located just below the Boulder Flatirons, was started in 1898. It is the only Chautauqua west of the Mississippi River that has been in continuous operation since the zenith of the Chautauqua Movement in the 1920s. It is one of just a handful of such continuously operating Chautauquas remaining in the United States. The entire 40-acre Chautauqua site in Boulder was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2006.

Chautauqua is “the most American thing in America.” – President Theodore Roosevelt

Chautauqua was an adult education movement in the United States. It was en vogue in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Chautauqua assemblies expanded and spread throughout rural America until the mid-1920s. The Chautauqua brought entertainment and culture for the whole community, with speakers, teachers, musicians, entertainers, preachers, and specialists of the day. Former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt was quoted as saying that Chautauqua is “the most America thing in America.”

Chautauqua Association and Chautauqua Auditorium

The Colorado Chautauqua Association, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, presents a variety of lectures, silent films, and live musical performances on a year-round basis.   Summer is definitely the busiest of the seasons – especially at the Boulder Chautauqua Auditorium. The best show we’ve seen at The Chautauqua Auditorium was the incredible combo of Son Volt and Lucero. Lucero always tears the house down, and to be honest, they were probably too much for the facility. 🙂

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Boulder Chautauqua Historic Buildings

The Boulder Chautauqua also includes the Chautauqua Dining Hall. The Association leases 26 acres from the City of Boulder, including the historic Chautauqua buildings. All of the original buildings are still in full use and include:

  • 1898 Chautauqua Auditorium (listed on the National Register of Historic Places on March 21, 1978)
  • 1898 Dining Hall
  • 1900 Academic Hall (now the Administration Building)
  • 1911 Missions House
  • 1918 Community House
  • 1919 Columbine Lodge
  • 98 cottages, constructed between 1899 and 1954 (80 before 1915)


There are 98 cottages at Chautauqua. Some of the cottages are owner-occupied and some are rentals offered by the Colorado Chautauqua Association. The cabin rentals are affordable and offer breathtaking views of the Boulder Flatirons, foothills, and the city.

Chautauqua Park

Between the 26 acres of land managed by the Colorado Chautauqua Association and Baseline Road, you’ll find a 14-acre Boulder city park called Chautauqua Park. Both the park and the Association land are open to the public without an entry fee. Definitely bring your frisbee and a picnic and enjoy a couple hours in the park.

Chautauqua Trailhead

No trip to Chautauqua would be complete without enjoying a hike under or between the Boulder Flatirons.  Here is information about some of the area hikes – happy trails!

Chautauqua Trail (0.6 mi; 440 ft) goes up a drainage to end at a junction with Bluebell-Baird Trail.

Mesa Trail (6.9 mi; 410ft.) starts at the first turn at the top of Bluebell road (the emergency access road) that goes south from the trailhead. Long, sinuous, hilly and varied, it meanders south through forests and meadows beneath the Flatirons with connections to nearly all canyon trails along Boulder’s Front Range. Near its southern end the Mesa Trail branches off twice to the Shadow Canyon Trail, but the main Mesa Trail goes eastward to end at the South Mesa Trailhead.

Baseline Trail (0.4 mi; 60ft) follows Baseline Road west to end at its first turn on the way up Flagstaff Mountain. Bluebell-Baird (0.7 mi; 340 ft.) branches southeast off the Amphitheater Trail and climbs a ridge, then follows the ridge south past the Chautauqua and Bluebell Mesa Trails to end at the Bluebell Road just behind the Bluebell Shelter.

Royal Arch Trail  (0.8 mi; 880 ft.) starts near the Bluebell Shelter at the end of Bluebell Road leading south from the Trail Head. It goes into Bluebell Canyon, then climbs some switchbacks to gain a ridge. The trail drops into the drainage on the outer side of the ridge, climbs past the lovely Tangen Spring, then more steeply to end at Royal Arch.

Woods Quarry (0.3 mi; 230 ft.) starts about 0.4 miles up the Mesa Trail and ends in an abandoned quarry.

First-Second Flatiron Trail (1.1 mi; 960 ft. ) starts from the Bluebell-Baird Trail, goes south to two trail signs, then west to begin switching back and forth between the First and Second Flatirons. It ends at the saddle between the First Flatiron and Sunset Rock.

Second-Third Flatiron Trail (0.3 mi; 300 ft.) starts from the Bluebell-Baird Trail, goes south to two trail signs, then southwest to the base of the Second Flatiron, then east to end at the junction of the Flatiron Trail.

Third Flatiron Climbing Access Trail (0.5 mi; 650 ft.) starts on Bluebell Road near the Bluebell Shelter. Goes northwest, then southwest and climbs to the junction of the Second-Third Flatiron Trail. Continues up to a talus field and the junction of the Third Flatiron Descent Trail. Ends at the start of the Third Flatiron Standard East Face climbing route. Third Flatiron Descent Trail (0.2 mi; 480 ft.) starts in the saddle to the west of the summit of the Third Flatiron. Begins to descend north, then east, down through a talus field to end at the Third Flatiron Trail.

Josh T

Josh is a native son and big fan of pack burro racing. He thru-hiked the Colorado Trail, loves running and biking, and is passionate about sharing his favorite journeys and experiences with others. You can typically find Josh out exploring the less beaten paths under Colorado's sunny skies.

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