Colorado’s Hidden Gems: Dream Canyon

Dream Canyon lies just twenty-five minutes west of Boulder along highway 119. (Gray Bender/CU Independent)
Dream Canyon is just 25 minutes west of Boulder along Highway 119. (Gray Bender/CU Independent)


“Colorado’s Hidden Gems” is a column exploring places around town that are little-known to CU students.

Just a few miles outside of Boulder is Dream Canyon, where you can spend a Saturday adventuring and still get home in time to prepare for a night out.

West up Canyon Boulevard and onto Sugar Loaf Road, make a left-hand turn onto Angel Road and continue until you hit a fork in the road. Keep left until you encounter a dusty parking lot that will lead you to the Valhalla of canyons — Dream Canyon.

The trail down from the parking lot is remarkably steep, not surprisingly. After about a half-mile of knee-crushing strides down the face of the canyon, you are spat right into the heart of this natural beauty.

Dream Canyon is not typical of the vistas you see when driving through Canyon Boulevard. Dream Canyon is steep, with only a narrow gap of sky above you, almost making you feel entrapped between its walls. When the sun hits the canyon, it reflects a white light off the rock, which, along with the sounds the river, makes for a tranquil ambience.

As you begin to walk around and explore each bend of the river, you notice dozens of climbers perched on these glorious rock faces. Ropes climbing seemed to be the main attraction at Dream Canyon; just about everyone we ran into had climbing gear with them.

My friends and I continued downstream for at least another mile or so. This trek was much more involved than your average hike around Boulder. Although it is not always clear, this trail leads you over huge boulders and across rivers, and requires some climbing and rock jumping if you want to stay dry.

We eventually dropped anchor by a little pool just downstream from some rapid chutes, where we were able to sit and hang out on some large boulders and take in the surreal environment.

My buddy had told me to bring my fly fishing rod on the excursion and within minutes of putting it together, my friend had one of the most beautiful rainbow trouts I have ever seen. It was only about five inches long, but I was impressed; it had a remarkable orange color that I have never seen in a rainbow trout before. (I tried to follow his act, but just ended up tangled in a tree on the first cast. His catch was enough glory for the both of us.)

The trek back to the truck was just as tiring. If the way down was knee-crushing, the way up was thigh-blistering.

Overall, this is a tough but rewarding hike, and absolutely do-able by most anyone’s physical standard. Dream Canyon had a lot more to offer than I expected. The descent into this river-carved steep canyon makes you feel isolated from everything and everyone, when really you are just minutes away from Boulder.

The road leading to Dream Canyon winds its way through the woods. (Gray Bender/CU Independent)
The road leading to Dream Canyon winds its way through the woods. (Gray Bender/CU Independent)

Contact CU Independent staff writer Wyatt Carlson at

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