Bear Peak via The Mesa Trail and Bear Canyon, Chautauqua Park Trailhead, Boulder - Denver - Golden - Fort Collins - Lyons, Colorado

Bear Peak via The Mesa Trail and Bear Canyon - 12.7 miles

Chautauqua Park Trailhead

Approaching Bear Peak from The Mesa Trail

Approaching Bear Peak from The Mesa Trail

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Round-Trip Length: 12.7 miles
Start-End Elevation: 5,710' - 8,461' (8,461' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +2,751' net elevation gain (+3,075' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate-Strenuous
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

Bear Peak via The Mesa Trail and Bear Canyon - 12.7 Miles Round-Trip

Boulder's extensive trail network offers a number of ways to reach Bear Peak's 8,461' summit. The Mesa Trail (2.75 miles), Bear Canyon Trail (1.85 miles) and Bear Peak West Ridge Trail (1.75 miles) form an ecologically varied route to Bear Peak.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

Those who value the journey and destination equally may find this route preferable to the more direct but challenging ones of Gregory, Fern, and Shadow canyons.

From Chautauqua Park, head south on Blue Bell Road to its formal connection with the Mesa Trail (.6 miles : 6,010). Bear left and begin a winding, moderate climb that levels off just beyond the Kohler Mesa Trail split (1.15 miles : 6,250'). The Mesa Trail continues mildly for some time, skirting the forest edge with good views of the eastern plains.

It rolls gently through sparse forest and open space past the Skunk Canyon Trail junction to a steep, twisting descent on reinforced mud-stairs (1.85 miles).

Once down the trail rises gradually through a spacious meadow with good views of Bear Peak to the Mallory Cave Trail junction (2.05 miles : 6,207').

Travel quickens through undulating forest and drops to a service road (2.4 miles). Bear right on the service road for a steep climb to the Bear Canyon Trail split (2.75 miles : 6,262'). The Bear Canyon Trail is rugged in places but generally keeps a steady, moderate pitch.

The trail closely follows and frequently crosses Bear Canyon Creek, some requiring attention with lingering snow or heavy runoff. Note the emergence of aspen as you gain elevation.

Though views are limited, Bear Canyon is not hemmed in quite like others in the area (Gregory Canyon, Fern Canyon and Shadow Canyon), generally affording a better views.

The trail crosses the creek (right) one last time (4.2 miles : 7,030'), and up a series of steep switchbacks along the canyon's north wall.

The grade moderates in the upper canyon, now centrally positioned with terrific views back down the route you just traveled. It levels through a small meadow to the Bear Peak West Ridge Trail junction (4.6 miles : 7,181').

Veer left here for the remaining 1.75 mile, 1,280' push to Bear Peak. The West Ridge Trail is initially moderate, tracing a well-defined ridgeline with a revealing look at Bear Canyon, Green Mountain, South Boulder Peak and the back-range.

Switchbacks tighten and steepen considerably after 6 miles, where you should anticipate many quick, sparingly marked turns up rugged terrain to the summit. Lingering snow can make this final approach precarious and difficult to read.

The trail emerges above the forest in a loose scree field (6.25 miles), which may take a moment to properly assess. The rocky, obfuscated path generally veers west (right) to the Shadow Canyon Trail split (6.3 miles : 8,420'); here an informal but intuitively followed scramble leads straight up to the summit (6.35 miles : 8,461').

The pointed, wind-swept summit is little more than a few jagged boulders that tend to restrict movement, however cautious maneuvering leads to safe viewing areas across the eastern plains, Boulder foothills, Indian Peaks Wilderness and Rocky Mountain National Park.

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Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

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  • N39 59.930 W105 16.970 — Chautauqua Park Trailhead
  • N39 59.496 W105 17.119 — Bluebell Road - Mesa Trail junction
  • N39 59.126 W105 17.157 — Mesa Trail - Kohler Mesa Trail junction
  • N39 58.677 W105 17.055 — Mesa Trail - Mallory Cave Trail junction
  • N39 58.268 W105 17.010 — Mesa Trail - Bear Canyon Trail junction - turn right
  • N39 58.236 W105 17.609 — Bear Canyon Trail - point #1
  • N39 58.149 W105 17.793 — Bear Canyon Trail - cross creek to right
  • N39 58.289 W105 18.324 — Bear Canyon Trail - cross creek over bridge
  • N39 58.453 W105 18.475 — Bear Canyon Trail - Bear Peak West Ridge Trail junction
  • N39 58.282 W105 18.542 — Bear Peak West Ridge Trail mark #1
  • N39 57.726 W105 17.937 — Bear Peak West Ridge Trail mark #2
  • N39 57.646 W105 17.742 — Emerge above forest in scree field
  • N39 57.612 W105 17.715 — Bear Peak West Ridge Trail - Shadow Canyon Trail junct.
  • N39 57.616 W105 17.713 — Bear Peak Summit

Worth Noting

  • Be cognizant of seasonal closures for nesting raptors, bear and mountain lion activity.

  • Parking is very limited at the Chautauqua Park Trailhead and spaces fill up quickly. Street parking restrictions are enforced.

Rules and Regulations

  • Bikes and motorized vehicles are not permitted on any trail leading to Bear Peak.

  • Dogs must be leashed in the parking lot and trailhead area. Beyond the trailhead, dogs must be leashed unless they meet Voice and Sight Control Standards and display a City of Boulder Voice and Sight Tag.

Directions to Trailhead

From Boulder:
Take Baseline Road West to the Chautauqua Park entrance on the left hand side.

From Denver:
Take Highway 36 into Boulder and exit on Baseline Road. Turn left. Take Baseline Road to the Chautauqua Park entrance on your left.

Contact Information

City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks
Phone: 303.441.3440

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


"One of my all time favorite hikes! It gets steep at the top, but the view is worth it."
Nico  -  Colorado  -  Date Posted: January 29, 2013


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