The old adage – beauty is in the eye of the beholder – recognizes that aesthetic taste is relatively subjective. Still, when it comes to college campuses in Colorado, almost everyone would agree that the title for the most gorgeous university should be awarded to the University of Colorado, Boulder (CU Boulder). Nestled at the base of the Flatirons – a series of dramatically slanted, slate-gray rocks – CU Boulder’s stunning natural surroundings and fascinating architecture are virtually unparalleled anywhere else in the state.
CU Boulder certainly isn’t the only lovely place to live and study in Colorado. Honorable mentions for most beautiful campus in the Centennial State include the University of Denver in the heart of the Mile High City; Colorado State University (CSU) in Fort Collins; Colorado College (CC) in Colorado Springs; and Fort Lewis College (FLC), in Durango. And while all of those possess their own merits, it’s hard to compete with the magnificence that is CU Boulder and the town it reigns over.
So what makes CU Boulder the most beautiful campus in Colorado? Let’s explore.
Academic Excellence Surrounded By Natural Splendor
A leading research institution and beacon of academic excellence, CU Boulder is renowned for its accomplished scholarship, interdisciplinary studies, and robust intellectual communities. From excellence in the arts and sciences, to top-notch engineering, business, law, and environmental programs, its rigorous academics allow faculty and students to actively engage in cutting-edge research. CU Boulder’s commitment to exploration and innovation propels students toward transformative educational experiences and equips them with the knowledge, skills, and perspectives they need to navigate and shape an ever-evolving world.
CU Boulder is also home to many beloved sports teams, most notably, the Colorado Buffaloes football team. All home games are played at Folsom Field, an historic stadium located right in the middle the campus, showcasing a rich football history that dates back to the late 19th century. Unsurprisingly given its location, CU Boulder likewise boasts an extraordinary ski team who regularly dominates NCAA alpine and Nordic skiing events.
All of this cool stuff on one of the prettiest campuses on earth. Pretty impressive, right? But I digress…
Here is my argument for what makes CU Boulder so remarkably stunning.
Walking around CU Boulder is delightful. No matter what the season, the landscape is mesmerizing. Winter covers the uniform red-tile roofs in tufts of white snow. The spring is full of radiant colors. Summers are green and lush. And the fall air is crisp and delicious. Approximately 36,000 undergraduates cross the campus’s various paths on their way to classes every day. The rich foliage, old trees, and abundant flowers create an intoxicating atmosphere. It is easy to tromp through this campus for hours without ever getting bored.
And that’s just a description of the grounds. The architecture is equally lovely, both inside and out.
From the Richardsonian Romanesque elegance of Old Main – with its heavy stonework and clock tower – to the opulent French Renaissance Revival design of Macky Auditorium – CU’s building and their architectural styles are varied and intriguing. The neoclassical symmetry and columns of Norlin Library evoke classical influences, for instance, while the pointed arches and ornate stonework Fleming Building mirror the Collegiate Gothic.
It’s worth lingering over the Norlin Library for a moment. This is a true gem. Showcasing Tuscan Vernacular Revival and Italian Renaissance architectural styles, this house of books flaunts a limestone exterior, symmetrical design with columns and a portico, and an infamous stairwell reminiscent of Harry Potter’s. The library’s particular blend of historic and modern elements creates an inviting space for study and collaboration. Finally, a quote at the library’s entrance reminds us of the vital relationship between study and maturity: “Who Knows Only His Own Generation Remains Always a Child.”
With so many different kinds of buildings, one might think the campus would begin to feel disjointed. However, uniform clay, red-tiled roofs hold everything together – fusing disparate elements of style into a singular and glorious vision. It is especially breathtaking to see from above.
(Hold tight: we will soon talk more about the many hikes that provide an aerial view of the entire campus!)
Not only is the campus itself exquisite, but so is the town itself. Boulder is a quaint mountain community that has miraculously managed to maintain some of its wilder, more rugged, qualities. Despite the explosive development along the Front Range, Boulder’s population has only grown 2.9 percent over the past decade. Considering its popularity, this is almost impossible to believe. But the cost of living here is often prohibitive. Homes currently list for a median price of $1.3 M!
The high cost of living is really no wonder considering how enchanting Boulder’s natural setting really is. With the Flatirons as a dramatic backdrop and the Boulder Creek as a moving centerpiece, you can’t turn around without feeling nature’s powerful presence. This includes the wildlife. Beautiful animals are everywhere!
Although those affiliated with CU are nicknamed the Buffs after the school mascot – “Chip the Buffalo” – students and facility are unlikely to see these majestic animals roaming anywhere near campus. However, you are likely to spy a plethora of smaller mammals indicative of Colorado’s majestic wildlife as you from walk classroom to classroom. Not only the campus itself, but nearby Boulder Creek Trail, Chautauqua Park, and many surrounding wilderness areas are home to mule deer, squirrels, various bird species, raccoons, foxes, bats, and insects, like butterflies and bees. At night, you might even see black bears. Having lost so much of their natural habitat, these animals frequently wander into the city in search of food. Bear-proof trashcans are therefore an important part of the landscape and exist to keep both bears and Boulder residents safe.
To-Die-For Amenities and Recreational Activities
Ultimately, it is hard to beat CU Boulder’s location. Between the campus and its surroundings, it is spectacular everywhere you look. And there is no end to the fun and often free outdoor activities Boulder offers. For a relatively small town, it really packs a punch. When big-city culture meets nearly endless outdoor activities, you truly get the best of every world. The Boulder culinary scene alone will blow your mind. Designated “America’s Foodiest Town” by Bon Appétit, there is much to surprise and delight the palate. Best of all? Many of Boulder’s numerous and diverse restaurants are within walking distance to campus – an added benefit for students without cars of their own. There is also ample public transportation, including buses, bike shares, and bike paths.
Moreover, it is super easy to spend the day biking, hiking, or rock-climbing here. Chautauqua Park, for instance, is a quick drive from campus. And it offers tons of trails to explore the Flatirons. The Mount Sanitas Trailhead, which is right in the city, is another accessible, albeit challenging, hike. The summit rewards visitors with panoramic vistas of Boulder, the surrounding plains, and the majestic Rocky Mountains. Because Mount Sanitas trail consists of steep inclines, rocky terrain, and switchbacks, it provides an invigorating workout. At this altitude, many hikers must stop to rest. But the views -including a bird’s-eye glimpse of the entire campus – are worth the effort. Just ask the locals.
Above all, CU is close to phenomenal skiing! Students and skiing aficionados from all over the world appreciate Boulder’s proximity to some of Colorado’s most beloved mountains. Keystone, A-basin, Winter Park, Copper, Loveland, and Eldora are all only a relatively short drive away (if the traffic is not out of control, of course).
In short, given its spectacular location and thoughtful design, it is hard to beat CU Boulder’s beauty.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Red Herring/Shutterstock.com
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