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Boulder, CO: Bear Peak via Fern Canyon

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Star Star Star Star Star

Distance: 7.6 miles


The climb on this 7.6-mile loop to Bear Peak is, well, a bear, gaining 2,800 stair-studded feet. The payoff: Long views into Boulder, Denver, and the Indian Peaks.
  • Longs Peak
  • Bear Peak View
  • Flower
  • Wide trail
  • Northeastern trail view
  • Fern Canyon
  • Climbers
  • Overlook view
  • Steep Trail
  • Trail Sign
  • U.S. Geological Survey
  • Bear Creek
  • Aspen
  • Stream Crossing
  • Bear Canyon
  • Trail

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

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