We’ve all seen, marveled at, photographed and enjoyed Boulder Falls. On the North side of Boulder Canyon about 3/4 of the way up to Nederland, parking on the left, Falls on the right. But the water at the top must come from somewhere. Where does it come from? The magic of Dream Canyon holds the answer to the mystery. Guarded by hidden dirt roads, a virtually impassable cliff, 800 to 1000 foot canyon walls, and a well kept secret route, isolation continues to be almost a guarantee.

There is no safe way that I know of to get up behind Boulder Falls from the Falls side of Boulder Creek. To get to the headwaters of the Falls, access is from around the top-back of the Falls. Access is from a dirt road off a dirt road to a dirt path. Each time I find it I’m amazed that I ever found it to begin with. Like a secret club with a secret password, just knowing it is not enough. You have to remember it. I suggest finding an old-time Boulder resident to show you the way. Each time I’ve found it I was astonished that I had succeeded. I did screw up twice and ended up going down the cliff (stupid, do not do it) instead of walking down the dirt road.

In short, after driving up a local canyon off North Broadway, you locate the dirt road on the South/left side of the paved canyon road. How do you spot the dirt road? It’s been so many years since I’ve been there that it would be like finding the secret route to Shangrila. I was astonished every time I succeeded in finding the parking lot and the dirt road

which led to it from the paved major canyon road. I am electing an unpopular choice here. I am NOT divulging the secret of the way to Shagrila. Ask another long term Boulderite. Find it on the topographic map. Labeled or not, find Boulder Falls and then look up the falls and behind that to the North West. The canyon is easy to spot on the topo. The canyon road and the dirt road should then be apparent. If this is too much trouble, then the canyon is not for you.

Forgive the use of links instead of pictures. This is done out of respect for copyright laws.

On the hottest of days the creek provides a welcome respite from the heat, and the surrounding rocks provide on the most scenic and magical spot for sunbathing (with sunscreen of course) that I have experienced. It is called “DREAM” canyon for a reason. it is true magic. The cliffs surrounding it range from 700 to about 1000 feet, rising almost straight up from the area of Boulder Creek. If it were easy to find, it would not be as magical. I will give a hint. Taking Four Mile Canyon up the hill is not a bad start.

At the top of the trail which leads down to the bottom of Dream Canyon and Boulder Creek you are faced with a choice. Go straight, and climb down the cliff, OR, notice the almost hidden road down to the right. By following the remains of the dirt road you have a fairly gentle walk with no cliffs to the bottom of Dream Canyon, next to Boulder Creek. Other than fellow visitors you have the world to yourself.

Just as Coot Lake near The Diagonal at IBM was famous for skinny dipping, Dream CanyonThe Canyon Walls Surrounding Dream Look MUCH Steeper Looking Down OR Looking Up.

shares the same reputation. In the past, both lived up to the reputation.

At the parking lot at the top of Dream Canyon you can go straight or make a right down a “dirt road.” I’ve taken both routes. Going straight leads to a cliff and to a treacherous terrifying climb down and 800 cliff to the water. It can be done without technical equipment and you have to be somewhat of an idiot to go that way. Not shockingly, Dream is well known as a cliff-climbing destination, offering a variety of death-defying challenges for the experienced technical mountain climber.

Famous for skinny dipping, you’ll likely encounter, in the small number of people at the bottom, a fair number of them sans clothes. On one trip we saw a naked young man with a holstered pistol. We chatted with him and learned that he was afraid of being hit on by a gay guy, Since. the Canyon is famous as a gay guy destination, we were afraid that he was simply looking for an excuse to draw his weapon. We kept our distance and were FAR more worried about the armed idiot than we were about any gays who may or may not have been with us that day. The reality has been a small group of people, generally keeping to themselves, and generally keeping away from their clothing piled on the bank.

The area is staggeringly beautiful, unique in Boulder, and if you can find it, one of the most special spots in the County. It is hard to imagine that a few hundred yards South and the creek plunges down Boulder Falls, and to an area awash with visitors, local and tourist alike.

All dressed, and mostly all oblivious to the Bacchanalian gathering just a few feet above them a steady stream of tourists admire Boulder Falls. Before the North left side (looking up) of the Falls was fenced off, it provided a “front” way to get to the back of the Falls. The steep hill face covered with scree was treacherous, with a long history of tragic falls as people tried to take this impassable route to the top of the Falls. Most I suspect had no idea what was on the other side. Scree is a collection of broken rock fragments at the base of a cliff or other steep rocky mass that has accumulated through periodic rockfall. I describe cliffs and “trails” which are covered with loose rocks as bring covered with  “scree.” For example, the wrong way to Dream, coming up from the Boulder Falls side, takes you up a scree covered steep dirt side. It is treacherous, and has been the location of serious injuries over the years. The “chute” just below the Longs Peak summit is 800 feet of a scree covered steep chute. The scary part of the section of the Long’s Peak hike is the rocks being knocked down from above by other climbers.

Dream is the perfect place for a first hike date if you are both up for such an adventure. 39 years ago my wife and I took that particular exploratory safari. We of course missed the road and went down the cliff face. At the time, my wife was terrified, downright phobic around water. As we descended, modifying our route each time we hit a dead end drop off the cliff, we could see the creek hundreds of feet below us. At the time, the creek was perhaps three feet across and 6″ deep. You guessed it. My wife was (not yet my wife) not afraid of the cliff, which was truly treacherous and insanely dangerous, but was terrified of the trickle of water hundreds of feet below us. After decades, having married into a “water family,” she has come a long way in defeating her aqua-fear. Of course I was reminded of the famous scene from Butch Cassidy, “the fall will probably kill you!”

It is worth it. It is worth solving the mystery of finding it to begin with. It is worth the trek down. It is the best place for skinny dipping in relative privacy except for the Strawberry Fields hot springs outside of Steamboat. Leave your modesty at the top. There’s no room for modesty at the bottom. Start your map search at the intersection of North Broadway and Four Mile Canyon.

I have found it when I remembered how to find the left off the paved road to the dirt road, and I’ve found it following a topo. This holy grail of secret Boulder spots is not for the feint of heart, nor for the weak of legs. Although if you don’t miss the hidden dirt road going down, it is a pretty easy walk down to the creek.

Stay safe! since no helicopter rescue is going to be of any help. If you can find it, you will understand my sense of mystery and magic when I recall my trips down the canyon to the creek and the bottom of Dream Canyon. It lives up to its name and to its reputation. Be careful, be safe, and be enchanted!

Please understand my reluctance to give detailed directions. Some secrets are worth keeping, and this is one of them. I have given enough hints so that you can find it if you make the effort. It is worth it.

Lenny Lensworth Frieling

Shared Knowledge Is Power

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