No matter what season, this hike is a local goldmine.

The Bear Canyon Trailhead is just one of many starting points for this hike, one could also start at NCAR, North Fork Shanahan, or any point on the Mesa Trail. For the purposes of this adventure, I'll start at Bear Canyon Trailhead in South Boulder. This hike will take you about 2-4 hours depending on time of year and conditions (another hour or so if you want to go all the way to Bear Peak).

Head up Bear Canyon Trail to where it connects with the Mesa Trail (1.0 mi.), keep left on this trail. Shortly after these trails connect you will have to cross over a creek, be careful crossing this creek. This creek crossing was very beat up during the 2013 Boulder Flood, along with many others, and it is a bit trickier to cross than it once was, so proceed carefully. After safely crossing, you will come to a fork (0.4 mi.) that splits: Bear Canyon to the right and Fern Canyon (via the Mesa Trail) to the left - both directions can get to Bear Peak, but for this adventure I stick with Fern Canyon. After another 0.4 miles, another fork will indicate where the Mesa Trail continues on to your left and Fern Canyon to your right, you guessed it, take the Fern Canyon exit.

Now prepare for some butt-busting "stairs" to reach Mars Blocks - a saddle point on the mountain that gives you a new, and lovely, view of the Flatirons from the side. The rocks at this false peak are called Mars Blocks, but if you continue on another half-mile up the mountain you will reach Bear Peak. Proceed with extreme caution during the winter as the final ascent is quite steep - I wouldn't suggest this unless you are very well prepared with crampons and hiking poles. At any other time of year, this final stretch is very manageable, but tough.

If you do continue on to Bear Peak (an extra ~1,000 feet elevation gain), you can loop down and around the backside of the mountain via Bear Peak West Ridge and back through Bear Canyon to make this a loop instead of an up-and-down trip.

Pack List

  • Hiking boots
  • Layers - dress to the weather
  • Plenty of water
  • Snacks
  • Sunscreen
  • Camera
  • Hiking poles optional, but recommended
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RT Distance 4.6 Miles
Elevation Gain 1800 Feet
Activities Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Year Round
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Scenic

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