Shadow Canyon to Bear Peak, South Mesa Trailhead, Boulder - Denver - Golden - Fort Collins - Lyons, Colorado
Shadow Canyon to Bear Peak - 6.8 miles
South Mesa Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||6.8 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||5,645' - 8,461' (8,461' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+2,816' net elevation gain (+2,951' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Shadow Canyon to Bear Peak - 6.8 Miles Round-Trip
This challenging hike to Bear Peak rewards visitors with sensational views of the eastern plains, front range foothills, Indian Peaks, and Continental Divide. Bear Peak's central location within Boulder's extensive trail network offers several routing options: the following describes the Shadow Canyon-Bear Peak West Ridge route, and is recommended for its compelling scenery and lighter traffic.
This is the shortest but most strenuous route to Bear Peak (longer but more moderate routes can be formed by connecting the The Mesa Trail with either the Bear Canyon or Fern Canyon trails).
There are several ways to reach Shadow Canyon - the following description follows the Towhee and Homestead Trails to Shadow Canyon, chosen for its varied terrain and lighter use:
From the South Mesa Trailhead, cross South Boulder Creek and bear left on the Towhee Trail (.1 mile). The Towhee Trail rises steadily through open slopes for .5 miles, then narrows in a brushy gully beside a small stream.
The Towhee Trail merges with the Homestead Trail at 1.15 miles, keeps right and continues on as the Shadow Canyon Trail. The Shadow Canyon Trail joins a fire road at 1.35 miles (6,275') - the first of three access points to the Mesa Trail.
Turn left on the groomed fire road, which climbs another .7 miles to the last Mesa Trail access point and into Shadow Canyon (2.1 miles : 6,582').
Here the trail grows markedly steeper, climbing 1,967' in just 1.25 miles to the summit. The trail twists quickly on a faint path through large boulders and mature mixed pine. Use sign posts on trees for guidance. Though views are limited, the forest itself is quite pleasant.
Grades moderate up to the Shadow Canyon Trail - Bear Peak West Ridge Trail split (3 miles : 8,155'). The area is badly scarred from the 2012 fires, but recovery is well under way. Turn right (north) for the last .4 mile, 305' push to the summit.
This short segment scales Bear Peak's narrow SW flank, the latter stage of which is over rugged talus. Mind your footing, especially when strong winds or moisture is present.
Interactive GPS Topo MapKey GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84
- N39 56.326 W105 15.493 — South Mesa Trailhead
- N39 56.560 W105 15.906 — Traveling west on the Towhee Trail
- N39 56.763 W105 17.220 — 3rd Mesa Trail junction; begin travel up Shadow Canyon
- N39 56.847 W105 17.319 — Shadow Canyon spur #1
- N39 57.124 W105 17.606 — Shadow Canyon spur #2
- N39 57.404 W105 17.834 — Shadow Canyon - Bear Peak West Ridge junction (saddle)
- N39 57.612 W105 17.715 — Bear Peak West Ridge Trail - summit spur junction
- N39 57.616 W105 17.713 — Bear Peak
- South Boulder Peak is only .35 miles south of the Shadow Canyon Trail - Bear Peak West Ridge Trail junction.
- Note that several spurs stray off the main trail route during the first 2 miles.
- Parking lots fill up quickly throughout the year, especially on weekends; arrive early to secure a space. Parking restrictions on Eldorado Springs Road are strictly enforced.
- Dogs must be on a hand-held leash at all times unless they meet voice and sight control requirements.
- Though seldom encountered, bear and mountain lion inhabit this area. Dawn and dusk travelers should exercise vigilance.
Rules and Regulations
- There's a $5 parking fee at South Mesa Trailhead for cars not registered in Boulder County.
- Dogs are not permitted on the Towhee Trail.
- On trail segments where permitted, dogs must be on a hand-held leash at all times unless they meet voice and sight control requirements, and on trail segments where specifically indicated (irrespective of tags).
- This trail runs adjacent to Habitat Conservation space. Travel is prohibited across these well-marked boundaries.
Directions to Trailhead
From Boulder, take Broadway South which will turn into HWY 93. Go for 2.6 miles on HWY 93 and take a right onto Eldorado Springs Drive / HWY 170. There will be a gas station at the corner. Follow Eldorado Springs Drive / HWY 170 for 1.8 miles towards Eldorado Canyon State Park and look for the parking area on the right hand side of the street.
City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks