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Boulder, CO: Shadow Canyon

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Star Star Star Star Star

Distance: 3.4 miles


This 3.5-mile out-and-back climbs into Shadow Canyon, passing an old homestead and striking views of Boulder's Flatirons.
  • Trail Views
  • Mesa Trailhead
  • Bridge Crossing
  • Sign Post
  • Trail Junction
  • Doudy-Debacker-Dunn Homestead
  • Flatirons
  • Cactus
  • Stream Crossing
  • Steps
  • Eastern Views
  • Views of Devils Thumb
  • Towhee Trail
  • Trail Junction
  • Robin
  • Rabbit

Perfect for a short dayhike or trail run, this popular route on the outskirts of Boulder climbs gently into Shadow Canyon for postcard-worthy views of the Flatirons. From the Mesa Trailhead, cross Boulder Creek, then hike northwest toward Shadow Canyon. After 650 feet, turn left at the 3-way junction onto Towhee Trail. The trail passes an old homestead, then veers right, climbing steadily into the foothills. Look to the northwest for views of 8,461-foot Bear Peak and Devil's Thumb, a large cylinder of rock.

As the trail climbs further into Shadow Canyon, make sure to turn around for wide-open views that extend to Denver. Most days, the wind funnels down the canyon and races toward the eastern plains; the surrounding meadows and trees rustle in spurts, breaking the silence. At mile 0.8, bear left at the Y-junction. Less than half a mile later, keep straight at the 3-way junction.

After 1.3 miles, the route turns left onto Shadow Canyon Trail. Follow this trail for another half mile to the turnaround point near the Matron, a towering rock formation popular with climbers. Enjoy the views around Shadow Canyon before turning around for the return trip back to the trailhead.

Note: To extend this route, hikers can continue up Shadow Canyon to summit Bear Peak and/or South Boulder Peak.

-Mapped by Kim Phillips

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