Visitor Info

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View looking northwest of the Flatirons, outcrops of the Pennsylvanian Fountain Formation

Preparing for your visit: A thermochronologist’s guide to Boulder

If you are planning on spending time in the CU TRaIL preparing your samples for analysis, please spend a few minutes reading our guide  to help make sure your visit is smooth and efficient!

In addition to having awesome thermochronology facilities, Boulder is an excellent place to visit. Below is a brief guide to some of our favorite aspects of Boulder life, and some information that anyone planning on visiting the CU Thermochronology Lab might find useful.

How to get here and how to get around

As you may know (especially if you have ever attended the Denver GSA meetings), the Denver airport is essentially in Kansas. But have no fear, it turns out it is fairly easy (and affordable) to get from the airport to the CU campus, even without calling in favors to friends with cars.

The lab is located on the second floor of Benson Earth Sciences, room 285, just south of Folsom Field. Parking is available within a short walk of the lab. The closest visitor pay parking lots to Benson are the Folsom Garage (lot 391) at the corner of Folsom Street and Stadium Drive, and the Euclid Parking Garage southwest of Benson near Broadway. Both can be used by visitors, and you can either pay with coins, credit cards, or using the ParkMobile app on your smartphone. ParkMobile is also handy around Boulder, most of the downtown pay lots work with it as well, and it allows you to pay for parking, but also to add additional time to the meter from your phone.

Any of the pink lots on the parking map can be used by visitors:

The lab is on the second floor of Benson Earth Sciences, which is located at M17 on the parking map.

Supershuttle runs regular service from DIA to anywhere, with one-way trips usually in the neighborhood of $100 (plus tip).

Green Ride runs regular service from DIA to the Boulder area. It runs $30-$40 depending on where you want to be dropped off, and because it doesn’t make as many intermediate stops as Supershuttle can often be considerably faster. Oh, and they give you free bottled water.

RTD (The Regional Transit District) has public busses that also run from the airport straight to campus. These are a bargain ($9.00 each way, cash only), and are often faster than the Supershuttle or Green Ride. They run roughly every hour, but make sure to check the schedule if your flights are early in the morning, late at night, or on weekends. Bus route AB to Boulder loads and leaves from the transit center at DIA, just follow signs to the transit center. You need exact change, and should get off at the Broadway and Euclid stop for easy campus access. You can also take this bus to the Boulder Transit Center, where you can connect with almost every local bus route (with a free transfer).

The Boulder bus system is also a great way to get around town. From campus, for example, the HOP bus will take you right downtown. This page has plenty of information about Boulder transit. The HOP route stops just out front of the Benson Earth Sciences and during business hours runs every 7 minutes.

Boulder is also an easy town to get around on bike or on foot. This is in large part due to the extensive and well-maintained multi-use paths and trails throughout town. You can walk downtown from campus without ever having to cross a street! If you’d like to explore Boulder on your own schedule, you can rent a bike from a variety of local shops, or join the non-profit bike sharing program Boulder B-Cycle.

Where to stay

There are a number of decent hotels within an easy walk of campus. Here are a few that are directly across 28th street from campus, all of them are about a 15-minute walk from the lab in Benson Earth Sciences. You can often also find reasonable deals just using hotel search web sites. Use the lab address (2200 Colorado Ave.) as your destination.

Boulder Inn/Best Western Plus : Recently renovated and pretty nice. I don’t know why it has two names.

America’s Best Value Inn : If you like America, and you like Value, this is the place for you.

Boulder Millennium Harvest : Kind of upscale, but can run great specials and is close to restaurants and grocery stores and right along the Boulder Creek Path.

Food, Coffee, and Beer

Near campus and the hotels there are a number of good places to eat, drink, and be merry. Boulder is also an excellent beer town, so when you decide to buy the lab manager a pint there will be no shortage of options. Near and on campus there are a typical assortment of college-type places to refuel. Download the annotated map to see where the walkable coffee and food places are with relation to the lab. The area labeled “The Hill” is a few blocks of restaurants, bars, and college-y shops, home to some decent places to eat, including Half Fast Subs. But the establishments change every now and then, so if you aren’t sure what you want, it isn’t a bad place to go. Also,  on the map are labeled the nearby campus coffee cafes, and the University Memorial Center (UMC), home to a variety of places to eat, get coffee, the bookstore, and Boulder’s only bowling alley.

Annotated Map of Campus

But if you have some time to kill, we’ll highlight some of our favorites.

Backcountry Pizza : Pretty good pizza with over 50 beers on tap. That should be enough information. Backcountry is a relatively short walk from campus, and can also be reached on the HOP bus line.

Southern Sun / Mountain Sun : These brew-pubs are Boulder institutions, and offer rotating taps and a wide variety of things to eat. Mountain Sun is on Pearl Street, directly on the route of the HOP bus line, which you can catch right outside of Benson. Southern Sun is down on Broadway and Table Mesa, just off the SKIP bus line. Plan your visit in February to enjoy Stout Month! These places are cash-only, but have ATM’s inside.

Avery Brewery : Superb range of beers, reasonable bar food, and some outdoor seating. The brewery features rotating seasonal beers that aren’t available in bottles or cans.

West Flanders Brewing : On Pearl Street in the heart of Boulder, West Flanders offers fantastic beers and a recently revamped menu.

Rueben’s Burger Bistro : Belgian beer oasis with a good selection of burgers (including vegetarian options). Rueben’s has one of the best happy hours around.

Brewing Market : In addition to excellent breweries and tap houses, Boulder also has an abundance of excellent coffee shops. Brewing Market is the closest to campus, just next door to the beyond-amazing McGuckin Hardware, a short walk, or an even shorter ride on the HOP.

Ozo Coffee Roaster : Arguably the best coffee shop in Boulder, the Ozo on Pearl Street (west end, also on the HOP bus route) offers free WiFi, lots of seating and power outlets, and fricking awesome coffee. Seriously good.

Laughing Goat Coffee : Laughing Goat operates a coffee shop in the University Library, but also has a permanent shop downtown on Pearl Street (right on the HOP route). Laughing Goat has good coffee, decent cafe style food, and their main store also serves booze.

Grocery Stores and Markets : So you want to stock up on things to eat so you aren’t always going out? Not a problem, turns out there are plenty of grocery stores near campus. Try Whole Foods on Broadway and Baseline, Sprouts on Folsom and Arapahoe or 28th and Baseline, Safeway on 28th and Arapahoe, or Alfalfa’s on Broadway and Arapahoe. These are all either a short walk or a short bus ride from either campus or any of the local hotels. Boulder also now has a Trader Joe’s, just up 28th and near a HOP bus stop.

What else to do

So your grains are picked and packed, under vacuum, and being lazed. You are in the wonderful Front Range, and wondering what you can do? There are plenty of things to do in Boulder, here is a sampling:

Pearl Street Mall : A 2-mile walk or a short bus ride from campus, the Pearl Street Mall is a 4 block section of downtown closed off to traffic, filled with shops, restaurants, bars, an excellent independent book store, street performers. Nice place to enjoy an evening. During the summer the mall often hosts live music.

Walking : Boulder is a pretty excellent town for pedestrians. Just north of Benson, if you walk north on Folsom Street, you can reach the Boulder Creek Path, part of an interconnecting network of multi-use paths. These paths are scenic and closed to motorized traffic. They also include a series of underpasses and overpasses so you rarely have to cross streets. There are also a number of paths and trails that branch off from the paths if you like hiking or trail running.

Hiking : There are plenty of great hiking spots close to campus, including some that you can take a bus to! Chatauqua Park has a number of hikes up into the Flatirons of varying difficulties. The park is a short bus ride or a short walk from campus.

Trail Running : Boulder is one of those super-active towns that can make even the most in-shape person feel like a bag full of pudding. The upside is that there is a huge selection of outdoor activities and resources to keep you busy. Becky’s suggestion is to take advantage of some of the world’s best trail running. She especially recommends BoulderRunning.com, Guidespot, and Trails.com for ideas and routes. Many of these routes are easily accessible from the lab, and considering that Boulder averages over 300 days of sun a year, open year-round.

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University of Ottawa graduate student Justin Emberley finished his sample preparation early and decided to take advantage of the location and the weather and climbed the first flatiron. Pretty impressive for a Newfoundlander.

Rock Climbing : Boulder boasts world-class climbing routes, many very close to campus. These include routes in Boulder Canyon and the Flatirons themselves. You can bring your own gear or contact a local guide company, they’ll set you up with what you need and show you the way! Justin Emberley (pictured below), recommends the Colorado Mountain School.

Skiing : If it is winter, then you might want to tack on a couple days of skiing to your trip. Not a problem, here are some guides.

Farmer’s Markets : On Wednesdays and Saturdays Boulder is home to respectable farmer’s markets that include both fresh produce and prepared food (read : amazing tamales). Nearby there is plenty of open park space on which to enjoy the day.

Beer and Coffee : I consider these activities as well as food, please see the above descriptions.