Visible—and just a few minutes away—from downtown Boulder, 8,461-foot Bear Peak is a popular destination for dayhikers. The five- to seven-hour hike begins at the Bear Canyon trailhead and intersects the Mesa Trail to begin a challenging clockwise loop.
At mile 1.5, turn up Fern Canyon—a stair-studded trail with sweeping views of the city and CU-Boulder (identified by the red-roof buildings). Stop at a rest-worthy saddle a half-mile from the peak. The final uphill stretch rolls over red-stained sedimentary rock to a big stone, requiring a hand-over-foot move to summit. After taking in 20-mile plus summit views of Denver and nearby Indian Peaks, descend via the West Ridge Trail (steep switchbacks for 0.3 mile).
The trail drops into the forested floor of Bear Canyon then crosses its self-named creek a dozen times before turning south to complete the loop. Turn downhill to follow the Mesa Trail for a half-mile back to Bear Canyon. Retrace your steps to the trailhead.
-Mapped by Kristy Holland and Jeff Chow
TO TRAILHEAD: From Broadway St. and Table Mesa Dr., head west on Table Mesa Dr. In 0.7 mile, turn left at Lehigh St. In 0.1 mile, right onto Bear Mountain Dr. Go 0.4 mile to trailhead on the right.
Distance: 7.61 mi
Total Time: none
Speed: 0.0 mph
Pace: 0:00 / mi
Active Time: none
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Bear Peak Trail
Points of Interest
Location: 39.974651, -105.266815
There is a kiosk and plenty of parking at the trailhead on Bear Mountain Drive, but no toilet and no water.
Location: 39.974834, -105.267975
After looping north across a small footbridge, turn left at this T-junction to join the main Bear Canyon trail.
Location: 39.974949, -105.276573
Continue straight along the main path at the Y-junction.
Location: 39.973835, -105.283852
Continue straight at the Y-junction toward Eldorado Springs. Ahead, the trail crosses Bear Creek.
Location: 39.971424, -105.283653
Turn left at this Y-junction to begin the loop to Bear Peak via Fern Canyon. You'll cross this intersection again after another 4.7 miles of hiking (up Bear Peak and down the West Ridge trail).
Location: 39.969830, -105.283653
Turn right at the Fern Canyon trail. Begin a long, steep, pine-shaded stair climb.
Location: 39.965576, -105.285210
Turn right at the T-junction following the Fern Canyon trail.
Location: 39.965118, -105.288498
Large boulders hover above a stone staircase. Continue climbing.
Location: 39.965618, -105.292091
This windy saddle is 0.5 miles from the summit. Rest here before the final 1,000-foot climb.
Location: 39.961021, -105.294838
The trail turns to large, reddish-colored rocks. Watch your step as you scramble along the ridge to the 8,411-foot summit.
Location: 39.960278, -105.295166
There are two U.S. Geological Survey markers at the summit and 360-degree views of Boulder (NE), Denver (SE), Roosevelt National Forest (W) and Rocky Mountain National Park (NW).
Location: 39.960491, -105.295387
Follow the trail signs toward Shadow Canyon to reach the summit's west side, turn right at the junction with the West Ridge trail.
Location: 39.962704, -105.300644
The trail flattens and the remaining 4.5 miles are a gentle downhill toward the trailhead.
Location: 39.974266, -105.308052
Cross Bear Creek and turn right at the Y-junction. For the next 1.4 miles, footbridges and rock-hops criss-cross the creek.
Location: 39.972057, -105.284424
Turn right at this fenced high-voltage area to complete this loop and return to the Mesa Trail junction and waypoint 005.
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