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Boulder, CO: Bear Peak via Fern Canyon

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.

Trip Tools

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.

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