Boulder, CO: Bear Peak and South Boulder Peak

Tag two neighboring summits that overlook Boulder (and climb nearly 3,000 feet in the process) on this 8.3-mile lasso loop to Bear Peak and South Boulder Peak.
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Tag two neighboring summits that overlook Boulder (and climb nearly 3,000 feet in the process) on this 8.3-mile lasso loop to Bear Peak and South Boulder Peak.

Put your lungs and quads to the test on this 8.3-mile loop that links two rocky summits high above Boulder. The route starts at a small, neighborhood trailhead along Bear Mountain Drive. Follow the dirt path 400 feet to a trail junction; turn left onto a wide, well-maintained trail that climbs gently toward the base of the mountains. Take in views of rolling hills and massive sandstone rock formations. Less than a mile later, bear left onto the Mesa Trail.

After 1.5 miles, turn right onto Fern Canyon Trail and start the stiff ascent up the trail's namesake canyon. Prepare for an onslaught of steep rock steps and intermittent switchbacks as the route climbs past giant sandstone slabs and lush greenery. After 2.3 miles, crest a small saddle overlooking Bear Canyon. Catch your breath, then hike south for the remaining 0.4-mile stretch to Bear Peak's 8,461-foot summit. (The final 300-foot stretch to the summit will require hikers to scramble up jumbled boulders and maneuver across an exposed ridge.)

Soak up the dramatic views from the top of this rocky perch, then descend 100 feet to a signed, but easy-to-miss junction. Turn left and descend the rocky backside of Bear Peak. The trail levels as it crosses the saddle connecting Bear Peak to South Boulder Peak, then climbs steeply to South Boulder Peak, a 8,549-foot peak covered with massive boulders. Find a spot to sit and admire the contrasting views: the mountains extend to the northwest and the plains to the east.

Return to the saddle and turn right at the 3-way junction for a steep descent into Shadow Canyon. At mile 4.6, continue straight at another 3-way junction and leave Shadow Canyon. The next 2 miles follow the Mesa Trail north to a T-junction (mile 6.7). Turn left and head west 350 feet to the junction with Fern Canyon Trail. Turn right and retrace your route back to the trailhead.

-Mapped by Kim Phillips

PLAN IT

MAP:
>> View a trail map of the area at OSMP Trail Map.
>> Order a custom map of this route by selecting the "Print MyTopo" option in the left-hand menu bar.
>> Order the USGS topo quads listed above at store.usgs.gov.

CONDITIONS: Check weather at Boulder, CO (80306) Weather

INFO: For more information, go to the Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks website.

CONTACT: P.O. Box 791, Boulder, CO 80306; (303) 441-3440

OTHER RESOURCES

GEAR
Neptune Mountaineering, Inc.
633 South Broadway #A
Boulder, CO
(888) 499-8866 ‎
neptunemountaineering.com

REI
1789 28th St.
Boulder, CO
(303) 583-9970
rei.com

RESTAURANTS
Southern Sun Pub & Brewery
627 South Broadway St.
Boulder, CO
(303) 543-0886
mountainsunpub.com

Tandoori Grill
619 South Broadway St.
Boulder, CO
(303) 543-7339

South Side Walnut Cafe
673 South Broadway St.
Boulder, CO
(720) 304-8118 ‎
walnutcafe.com

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 13.4

Waypoints

BSB001

Location: 39.974625, -105.266836

From the trailhead next to Bear Mountain Drive, hike southwest on the dirt trail.

BSB002

Location: 39.974384, -105.267367

Pass an interpretive sign on the left. The trail winds northwest toward the first trail junction.

BSB003

Location: 39.974814, -105.267928

Turn left @ T-junction, heading southwest on a wide, well-maintained trail.

BSB004

Location: 39.975352, -105.281671

Bear left @ Y-junction onto the Mesa Trail.

BSB005

Location: 39.973589, -105.283739

Continue straight @ 3-way junction.

BSB006

Location: 39.97112, -105.283501

Bear left and follow the switchback to the south.

BSB007

Location: 39.969496, -105.283326

Turn left onto Fern Canyon Trail.

BSB008

Location: 39.965516, -105.285577

The trail enters Fern Canyon, a lush canyon flanked by towering slabs of sandstone. Prepare your quads for a stiff climb up countless rock steps.

BSB009

Location: 39.965609, -105.292368

Crest a small saddle overlooking Bear Canyon. Catch your breath, then hike south for the remaining 0.4-mile stretch to Bear Peak's summit.

BSB010

Location: 39.961029, -105.294825

Scramble up jumbled boulders and maneuver across an exposed ridge to the 8,461-foot summit of Bear Peak.

BSB011

Location: 39.960219, -105.295152

Bear Peak (8,461 ft.): Dramatic views extend in every direction from the top of this rocky perch. Next, descend 100 feet to a signed, but easy-to-miss junction.

BSB012

Location: 39.960502, -105.295093

Turn left and descend the rocky backside of Bear Peak.

BSB013

Location: 39.956604, -105.297174

The trail levels as it crosses the saddle connecting Bear Peak to South Boulder Peak. Continue straight @ 3-way junction and start the steep climb to South Boulder Peak.

BSB014

Location: 39.953677, -105.299342

South Boulder Peak: The summit of this 8,549-foot peak is formed from massive boulders. Find a spot to sit and admire the contrasting views: the mountains extend to the northwest and the plains to the east. Return to Waypoint 13 and turn right for a steep descent into Shadow Canyon.

BSB015

Location: 39.951941, -105.293355

Peek through the trees for views of Devils Thumb on the left.

BSB016

Location: 39.946027, -105.28695

Continue straight, heading east. Ahead, the trail leaves Shadow Canyon and winds north on the Mesa Trail.

BSB017

Location: 39.951559, -105.282015

Continue on the Mesa Trail.

BSB018

Location: 39.953603, -105.279982

Continue on the Mesa Trail.

BSB019

Location: 39.958627, -105.280169

Continue straight @ 3-way, heading north.

BSB020

Location: 39.964404, -105.279338

Bear left, heading northwest.

BSB021

Location: 39.969412, -105.281982

Turn left @ T-junction, heading west. Next, the trail reconnects with Waypoint 7. Follow the same route back to the trailhead.

Bear Canyon

Location: 39.973141, -105.272262

Bear Canyon

Location: 39.973067, -105.273195

Bear Canyon

Location: 39.974168, -105.275041

Fern Canyon Trail

Location: 39.969498, -105.283227

Fern Canyon

Location: 39.965346, -105.286907

Bear Peak

Location: 39.96047, -105.295085

Bear Peak

Location: 39.960406, -105.295096

Bear Peak

Location: 39.960311, -105.29512

Bear Peak

Location: 39.960221, -105.29512

South Boulder Peak

Location: 39.954392, -105.298837

South Boulder Peak

Location: 39.953693, -105.299224

Mesa Trail

Location: 39.955741, -105.279778