Everything About Boulder, Colorado


The history of Boulder, Colorado begins with the first inhabitants – Native American tribes including the Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Ute peoples. The area was claimed as part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 and became U.S. territory as part of the Kansas and Nebraska territories in 1854.

Gold was discovered in the Boulder area in 1858, bringing the first wave of European settlers. The Boulder City Town Company was formed that same year and plots of land were sold to establish the town of Boulder. By 1870, the population of Boulder was around 3,000 people.

Boulder was incorporated in 1871 and became the county seat of Boulder County. The University of Colorado was established in Boulder in 1876. Boulder continued to grow as a city through the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Key events in Boulder’s more recent history include:

  • 1961 – NCAR (National Center for Atmospheric Research) established in Boulder
  • 1967 – Boulder imposes height restrictions for buildings in the city
  • 1976 – Pearl Street Mall pedestrian area established
  • 1989 – Boulder enacts the “Blue Line” restricting water services in order to limit growth
  • 2013 – Devastating floods hit Boulder County

Today, Boulder is known as a progressive city with a focus on environmentalism, outdoor recreation, and high-tech industry. The population is over 100,000 residents.


Boulder is located at the base of the Rocky Mountains around 25 miles northwest of the Colorado capital, Denver. The downtown area of Boulder sits at an elevation of 5,430 feet above sea level.

The city is situated along Boulder Creek and lies where the rolling plains of Colorado meet the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. To the west of the city rise the mountains of the Rocky Mountain National Park. The iconic Flatirons rock formations are located just west of downtown Boulder.

Boulder covers an area of 25.7 square miles. It has a unique elongated shape owing to its location along the Boulder Creek canyon.


The geology of the Boulder area is characterized by the meeting of the Great Plains with the Rocky Mountains. The plains consist of shale and sandstone geological layers from the Cretaceous Period. The Flatirons rock formations located west of Boulder were formed from a vertical thrust fault causing older primitive rock layers to be pushed onto top of younger Cretaceous rock.

The Flatirons are composed of Fountain Formation sandstone and limestone laid down during the Pennsylvanian Period around 300 million years ago. Erosion of the tilted Flatirons sandstone has created the iconic jagged rock formations visible today.

Boulder Creek flows through the lightly metamorphosed gneiss, schist, and phyllite that make up the mountainous terrain west of the city. These meta-sedimentary rocks are approximately 1.8 billion years old.


Some of the main neighborhoods and areas in Boulder include:

  • Downtown – This area along Pearl Street and Broadway is the heart of Boulder with shops, restaurants, and businesses. The Boulder County Courthouse and Central Park are located here.
  • University Hill – “The Hill” is home to the main campus of the University of Colorado Boulder. Many restaurants and college bars are located here to serve the student population.
  • Twenty Ninth Street – A commercial district with shopping, dining, and entertainment options.
  • Pearl Street Mall – A busy pedestrian zone home to shops, restaurants, street performers and the historic Boulder County Courthouse.
  • North Boulder – A residential neighborhood dotted with parks and small commercial areas.
  • Gunbarrel – A suburban community northeast of Boulder with residential areas, stores, and restaurants.
  • South Boulder – A neighborhood featuring parks, shops, South Boulder Recreation Center and views of the Flatirons.


Boulder has a semi-arid climate with generally mild, dry weather year-round. Under the Köppen climate classification system, Boulder has a ‘BSk’ climate – typically cold winters with occasional snow and very warm summers.

High temperatures in Boulder average 65°F in spring, 83°F in summer, 68°F in fall, and 44°F in winter. Low temps range from 36°F in spring to 59°F in summer.

Snowfall primarily occurs between November and April. Annual snowfall averages over 80 inches, but can vary significantly from year to year. Precipitation is low, averaging just 20 inches per year.Rain is most common in May.

The weather is sunny much of the year, with Boulder receiving over 300 days of sunshine. Climate is influenced by Boulder’s elevation – the city lies in a “rain shadow” of the Rocky Mountains.


As of the 2020 U.S. census, Boulder has a population of 108,250 people. Boulder’s population has grown rapidly in recent decades, increasing over 50% since 1990.

In terms of racial makeup, Boulder’s population is 87% white, 1% black or African American, 0.5% Native American, 6% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, and 3% from other races. 4.6% of residents identify as Hispanic or Latino of any race.

Around 20% of residents are aged 18 to 24, reflecting the large student population of CU Boulder located in the city. Over 90% of residents have a high school education or higher. The median household income is around $83,000 per year.

Boulder has a reputation as an environmentally-conscious and politically progressive city. The population is well-educated and affluent compared to state and national averages.


Boulder has a thriving economy focused around high tech industries, healthcare, education, tourism and outdoor recreation. Many large technology companies have a presence in Boulder including Google, Qualcomm, Twitter, Oracle, and Amazon. Tech startups and incubators are also active in the city.

The University of Colorado Boulder and its 30,000 students have a major economic impact, along with federal labs and research centers like NCAR, NOAA, and NIST located nearby. Healthcare is another major employer via Boulder Community Health hospital.

Outdoor recreation is big business for Boulder. The city is home to numerous outdoor gear and athletic apparel companies like Pearl Izumi. Nearby outdoor attractions like the Flatirons and Rocky Mountain National Park bring tourists to the area. Events like the Bolder Boulder marathon also support the local economy.

Boulder has a bustling downtown commercial district centered along the Pearl Street Mall. The 29th Street retail area is another shopping hub. Local business, restaurants, breweries, and the arts contribute to the city’s culture and economy.


Boulder is known for its active, healthy, and environmentally-conscious culture. Outdoor recreation like hiking, cycling, running and rock climbing is extremely popular. The city has over 45,000 acres of open space and over 230 miles of trails. Events like the Bolder Boulder 10K celebrate fitness culture.

Farmers markets, local and organic foods, and craft breweries reflect Boulder’s interest in sustainability. Strict development limits promote urban density over sprawl. The city runs on renewable electricity and has goals to be carbon-neutral by 2050.

The arts scene includes theaters, museums, galleries, festivals and a thriving live music environment. Notable venues include the Boulder Theater, Chautauqua Auditorium and the Dairy Arts Center. Popular events are the Colorado Music Festival, Boulder International Film Festival, and Pearl Street Art Fair.

Boulder’s college culture stems from CU Boulder and its 30,000 students. Bars and restaurants along University Hill cater to students and young adults. The city also has a vibrant coffee shop and cafe culture.

Colleges and universities

The most prominent college in Boulder is the University of Colorado Boulder, a public research university founded in 1876. CU Boulder is the flagship school of the University of Colorado system. There are over 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled.

CU Boulder is located on the east side of the city, with many campus buildings set against the scenic backdrop of the Flatirons rock formations. Academics, research, athletics and the arts are all important parts of student life.

Also located in Boulder is Naropa University, a private liberal arts college with Buddhist roots established in 1974. It offers programs in psychology, art therapy, environmental studies, and more. There are around 1,000 students enrolled at Naropa.

In addition, there are local campuses for Front Range Community College and University of Colorado Denver in the city. The federal laboratory NCAR and other research centers also provide educational and training opportunities in Boulder.


As a city, Boulder is served by the Daily Camera newspaper and local television stations based out of Denver like channels 4, 7, and 9.

On the radio dial, listeners can find a variety of music stations, NPR, and CU’s own radio station KVCU. The University also runs campus paper the CU Independent.

High-speed internet, cable, and satellite TV service is readily available from providers like Comcast, CenturyLink, and DirecTV.

Social media is very active and connects the Boulder community through accounts like Visit Boulder (Facebook), Boulder Police Department (Twitter), the Downtown Boulder Partnership (Instagram) and more.


Major highways and roads serving Boulder include:

  • Highway 36 – Connects Boulder to Denver and northwest to Estes Park & Rocky Mountain National Park.
  • Highway 93 – Runs north from Boulder toward Longmont and southeast toward Golden. Part of the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway.
  • Highway 119 – The “Diagonal Highway” crossing through Boulder leading to Longmont and Boulder Canyon.
  • Canyon Boulevard – Crosses through downtown as State Highway 9. Becomes a scenic mountain road westward into Boulder Canyon.
  • Arapahoe Avenue – Main east-west road through downtown and University Hill. Part of State Highway 88.
  • Broadway – North-south road through downtown Boulder that becomes State Highway 93.
  • Foothills Parkway – Scenic road connecting Boulder to mountain parks and communities west of the city.

Boulder is very bike and pedestrian friendly. Over 300 miles of on-street bike lanes and multi-use paths encourage cycling as transportation. The city’s “Go Boulder” project promotes alternative transportation.

Major Landmarks

Prominent landmarks in Boulder include:

Flatirons – The iconic slanted rock formations visible to the west of the city. A landmark of Boulder and a popular hiking and climbing area.

Pearl Street Mall – Pedestrian walkway through the heart of downtown with shopping, dining, entertainment and street performers.

CU-Boulder Campus – Flagship campus of the University of Colorado set against the scenic Flatirons west of the city. Includes Folsom Field football stadium and Macky Auditorium concert hall.

NCAR – Striking modernist building that is home to the National Center for Atmospheric Research, a federally-funded meteorology lab.

Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse – Intricately decorated teahouse structure gifted from Boulder’s sister city, Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

Chautauqua Park – Historic public park at the base of the Flatirons known for its auditorium, hiking trails and dining hall.

Scott Carpenter Park/Civic Area – Stretch of open space along Boulder Creek including the municipal buildings, public library and farmers’ market space.

Celestial Seasonings Factory – Local tea company headquarters with tours showing the tea production process.

Eldorado Canyon State Park – Spectacular state park with hiking, rock climbing and remnants of old mines and railroad routes just west of Boulder.

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  • From Downtown Boulder: Head northwest on Pearl Street toward 28th Street. Turn left onto 28th Street and drive for 2 miles. Make a right onto Valmont Road and continue for 1 mile. Turn left onto 33rd Street, and 1950 33rd St will be on your left.
  • From Denver International Airport (DEN): Take Pena Boulevard to I-70 W, then merge onto I-25 N. Take exit 217A onto US-36 W toward Boulder. After 20 miles, take Foothills Parkway exit, merge onto Foothills Parkway, and drive 2 miles. Turn right on Valmont Road, then left on 33rd Street. 1950 33rd St will be on your left.
  • From University of Colorado Boulder: Head southeast on University Avenue, which becomes Baseline Road. Turn right onto 30th Street and drive for 1.5 miles. Turn left onto Valmont Road and continue for 1 mile. Finally, turn right onto 33rd Street, and 1950 33rd St will be on your left.