Alli Fronzaglia, aka The Boulder Hiker Chick, is a full-time mom, an organizer for badass all-women hikes, and also a 'Bear Peak Queen', completing 50 summits of the strenuous Boulder, Colorado hike just this year.
Alli got her first taste of Boulder hiking when she moved to Colorado at the age of 28. After leaving for the East Coast for six years, she returned to the hiking haven of Boulder in 2013 and upon returning to Colorado, she decided to use hiking as more than just a simple workout.
In the years since, she has turned her love of hiking into a way to connect with and empower women, to set personal goals, and to explore every inch of Boulder’s amazing trail system.
Photo: Karen Jacot
This year you set yourself a challenge to hike Bear Peak 50 times, what made you decide on this trail?
I like to give myself yearly outdoor adventure challenges to encourage myself to use my Boulder backyard to the fullest. In past years I gave myself mileage challenges and exceeded my 1000 miles on trail goal. Last December, I decided to set the goal to summit Bear Peak 50 times in one year.
Working a part-time job and being a full-time mom, I wanted a challenge that was accessible but still pushed my limits. Lots of people do amazing challenges with 14ers and out country exploration, but Boulder offers epic adventures that don’t require hours of driving.
Bear Peak, to those who aren’t familiar, is one of the most strenuous Boulder Peaks, at an elevation of 8,459 ft. While there are various approaches to the summit, the trail Alli hiked the most was through the Cragmoor neighborhood up Fern Canyon, which happens to be notoriously steep and difficult.
Alli completed her goal in September 2017 surrounded by her friends and they all dressed up as superheroes. Epic!
How did the trail change as you did it more and more?
I chose to do the same mountain because it offers an opportunity to reflect on my personal growth. When you do the same hike over and over again you’re able to track progress, notice changes in your time, and overall appreciate different aspects of the trail every time you complete it. I’ve seen this mountain in various seasons and weather conditions. The first time I did the hike in January it took me five hours, and now I do the same route in under three.
Alli has done this trail in all seasons, once completing it through a field of waist-deep snow, and having to sit down and 'carefully' slide down the icy steep parts.
Photo: Karen Jacot
Other than Bear Peak, you’ve done tons of other trails this summer, what are your favorite Colorado hikes?
South Arapahoe Peak is definitely a favorite. It’s a bit of a hassle to get to. You need four wheel drive to get up Fourth of July Road but it’s definitely worth it. The summit block is very dramatic looking and has a set of amazing switchbacks. This 13er is challenging but worth it with a view of Boulder’s own glacier to the right and beautiful Colorado wildflowers throughout it. This hike is one of two Arapahoe twin peaks and offers incredible views and is decently challenging.
What is your advice to someone who wants to start hiking?
I think the best part about hiking is that you can make it as challenging or difficult as you want. Rather than feeling like you have to complete a trail, like Bear Peak, as quickly as possible, you can approach it however you want. Some people want a quick, fast workout, while others will make a day trip out of a hike filled with lots of water breaks.
If you’re trying to get into Boulder hiking, I say start small and work your way up. There are plenty of moderate hikes that are a perfect entrance to trying out the five Boulder peaks. You can build up your strength and endurance by doing each mountain a few times. I would start with Sanitas, which is the smallest of the five, and is a quick but challenging hike. Then, work your way up to Flagstaff. From there, the final three Peaks are definitely more difficult but doable!
Your passion for hiking has transformed into an amazing women hiking group, Boulder Hiker Chicks, how did this all start?
When I came back to Colorado in 2013, I had a lot more time to make hiking a priority. I had heard about the Skyline Traverse (a brutal 16.5-mile hike that connects all the Boulder peaks) but seriously doubted that I could do it myself. All the blogs I had found online were written by either professional athletes or men, but I wondered if any regular person had done it. I am a casual trail runner and seasoned hiker, but by no means a professional. I confided in my friend Kari Armstrong, and we researched the hike more and more until we convinced ourselves to finally do it.
We began to train for the hike, breaking up the route trail by trail. We invited people along the way to train with us and by the end of May 2014, joined by 6 others, we completed the trek. We decided, why not make this hike annual? Skyline Traverse was the catalyst for Boulder Hiker Chicks, and we realized lots of regular women like ourselves wanted to feel confident in doing some bad ass hikes.
We started a Facebook page to post about hikes for friends and family to join. One day, on a scheduled hike, two women that weren’t friends showed up to join us. They said they had found out about it through a Facebook post, and that’s when we realized the potential this group could transform into.
Photo: Karen Jacot
The Boulder Hiker Chicks group now consists of over 3,000 women, a community of badass adventure seekers connecting through the outdoors.
Each year, the group holds two major hiking excursions: The Seven Mountain Summit and the Winter Trifecta. In addition, Alli creates a schedule for anyone to join 3-4 free hikes per month. People can reserve a spot by getting an Eventbrite ticket through the Facebook page. The hikes are capped at 25 ladies at a time and fill up fast!
Over the past years, over 70 women have embarked on the two huge excursion hikes. These intense hikes include refueling stations along the trail lead by a team of ladies who cheer on the hikers and hand out candy, snacks, and water.
What is the goal of Boulder Hiker Chicks?
Boulder Hiker Chicks is for regular women who want to experience awesome outdoor adventures. This group connects women of all strengths and levels to hike together. The goal is always to have fun and embrace the amazing Colorado terrain in a positive atmosphere. Maybe the hike ends with topless summit photos, or cracking open a beer, regardless we are always looking to have a good time! BHC has fostered so many connections and women together. Whether it’s someone new to town looking for friends, or a person traveling across the country, together we experience Colorado’s beauty in an empowering group setting. It’s never about record-setting, or who’s fastest, it’s about taking silly summit photos, eating snacks, and always having fun.
Why do you think everyone should hike?
I love hiking because it’s accessible to anyone who can walk, and for those who can’t, there are plenty of trails with wheelchair access. Every time you hike, it’s a completely new experience. Even if you’re doing the same trail, the conditions, the weather, the people you’re with, is never the same. Every time you hike - you create a connection. If I’m by myself, I’m connecting with my thoughts and nature. If I’m with friends, I get to connect with them without distraction. I also enjoy how hikes can range so vastly. You can do a relaxing, laid-back hike that takes all day, or you can do a lung buster and have the hardest hike of your life.
What are your must-haves for a hike?
Other than always having sufficient water and food, I have two must-haves: Cliff Shot Blocks and potato chips. I love the Cliff Black Cherry Gummies because they give me a caffeine boost on hikes and push me through. And while potato chips physically replenish me, they also always sound perfect on a hike. No matter the trail, potato chips are a must-have. In addition, it’s always a good idea to bring tissues, Bandaids, all that stuff just in case you need it, you’ll have it.
What’s your perfect day in Boulder?
My perfect day would start out in my backyard, listening to the birds chirping with a morning tea in hand. After chatting with my husband and daughter, I would hit the trails and have a beautiful hike, thinking what meal I reward myself with. After the hike, I would go to Centro and get a big plate of nachos accompanied by a beer or margarita. Finally, I’d take my dog for a walk near the Boulder Creek Path and finish the day with another incredible meal.