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