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Boulder Trails

Boulder, CO: Bear Peak via Shadow Canyon

Put your quads and endurance to the test on this 6.6-mile hike that features steep scrambles, boulder-strewn canyons, and dramatic views from Bear Peak.

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Etched into the Boulder skyline, the 8,454-foot Bear Peak beckons to be climbed. Although several routes lead to the summit, ditch the heavily-used Fern Canyon Trail for a quieter climb up Shadow Canyon. Start your hike along CO 93 and climb into the Flatirons over rocky terrain and seasonal springs. At the top of Shadow Canyon, turn right and wind along a ridgeline to the base of Bear Peak’s summit. A final scramble leads to the top where 360-degree views of Boulder, the Rocky Mountains, and the Front Range await.

Note: Depending on the season, crampons and snowshoes may be necessary, but it is not uncommon for hikers to complete this hike year round.

-Mapped by Tim Shisler

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 10.6



Location: 39.9387642, -105.2582502

Begin hiking NW on the Mesa Trail toward Shadow Canyon. Note: Multiple paths lead to Shadow Canyon, so lengthen or shorten the hike depending on your mood.


Location: 39.9394387, -105.2594519

Cross Boulder Creek. Bear Peak frames the skyline directly ahead; Devils Thumb, a large cylinder of rock, rises to the NW.


Location: 39.9397349, -105.2601171

Turn left @ 3-way onto Towhee Trail. In 100 feet, veer right, continuing on Towhee Trail.


Location: 39.9429758, -105.2673912

Catch your breath and turn around for wide-open views that extend to Denver. Most days, the wind funnels down the canyon and races past you on its way to the eastern plains. Surrounding meadows and trees rustle in spurts, breaking the ear-splitting quiet.


Location: 39.9436339, -105.2708673

Continue left @ Y-junction. Note: Depending on snowpack, unmarked trail entering from right may not be visible.


Location: 39.9438705, -105.2761841

Continue straight @ 3-way.


Location: 39.9433378, -105.2797079

Turn left @ T onto Shadow Canyon Trail.


Location: 39.9441274, -105.2836561

Continue straight on Shadow Canyon Trail @ 3-way. Look NW to view Devils Thumb, which is now only a few hundred feet away.


Location: 39.9460028, -105.2871323

Turn left @ T and continue up Shadow Canyon. The next 1.5 miles are extremely steep and require sure footing. Winter hiking is possible, but bring your crampons.


Location: 39.952179, -105.2934189

This spot is perfect for a quick water break, a well deserved rest, and a peek through the trees at Devils Thumb, directly to your right.


Location: 39.9566383, -105.2971802

Emerge from Shadow Canyon and onto the saddle between Bear Peak and South Boulder Peak. Continue to Bear Peak’s summit by turning right @ T-junction for last few hundred feet. Optional: Turn L to summit South Boulder Peak for a classic foothills doubleheader.


Location: 39.9602013, -105.2953339

Bear right @ Y and continue up trail, rock-hopping when necessary.


Location: 39.9605637, -105.2950058

Your legs may be hurting, your lungs burning, and your head spinning, but turn right @ T for 50-foot scramble to the summit. Caution: Rocks can be extremely slippery.


Location: 39.9602661, -105.295166

Bear Peak (8,454 ft.): Worth every bit of sweat and quad-thumping pain. Spin around and enjoy some of the most spectacular panoramas in Boulder. Start by looking N towards the jagged Front Range, jutting thousands of feet from the plains. Boulder sits to the E and Denver to the SE. Directly S, the Front Range continues to Eldorado Canyon. Next, scramble back down to WPT 13 and retrace your steps back to the car.

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