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 - 12.95 miles

Chautauqua Park Trailhead

Approaching Bear Peak from The Mesa Trail

Approaching Bear Peak from The Mesa Trail

Round-Trip Length: 12.95 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 - 12.95 Miles Round-Trip

Boulder's trail network offers a number of ways to reach Bear Peak (8,461'). The Mesa Trail (2.75 miles), Bear Canyon Trail (1.85 miles) and Bear Peak West Ridge Trail (1.9 miles) form an ecologically varied route through ponderosa forests, meadows and high ridges.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

This route is longer but may be preferable to more direct and challenging ones through Gregory, Fern, and Shadow canyons:

From Chautauqua Park, head south on Blue Bell Road to the Mesa Trail (.6 miles : 6,010). Bear left and begin a steady climb through tall ponderosa stands to the Kohler Mesa Trail split (1.15 miles : 6,250'). The Mesa Trail levels across open contours with good views of the eastern plains.

It dips and rises past the Skunk Canyon Trail junction to a steep, twisting descent on reinforced mud-stairs (1.85 miles).

Once down the trail rises back through open slopes 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 pace.

The trail follows and frequently crosses Bear Canyon Creek, which can be tricky with heavy 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 better views.

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

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

Veer left here for the remaining 1.9 mile, 1280' push to Bear Peak. The West Ridge Trail is initially moderate, tracing a well-defined ridge that leads into the 2012 burn area (5.7 miles : 7,706').

Switchbacks steepen considerably past 6 miles, where you should anticipate many quick, rugged turns. Snow can make this final approach precarious and difficult to read.

The trail emerges from timber in a scree field just below the summit (6.35 miles). It curls west (right) to the Shadow Canyon Trail split (6.45 miles : 8,395'), where an unmarked but intuitively followed scramble leads up to Bear Peak (6.48 miles : 8,461').

The pointed, wind-swept summit is little more than a few jagged boulders that may restrict movement, however cautious maneuvering leads to safe viewpoints across the Eastern Plains, Front Range and Continental Divide.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • 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.


"Spring / summer 2016, watch out for the massive poison ivy infestation where Bear Canyon trail passes near the creek. I heard from a City of Boulder park ranger that the poison ivy is really bad near Chautauqua and along Fern Canyon trail too. He recommened Shadow Canyon trail to Bear Peak, but we found places along the way where the poison ivy was encroaching on the trail from both sides so closely you couldn't get through untouched unless you placed your feet with extreme care like James Bond walking through laser trip wires. Lots of unwary people and dogs are going to get covered in the stuff this summer. I think the wet weather has made this an especially horrendous year for poison ivy growth. "
Laura  -  Boulder, CO  -  Date Posted: June 26, 2016
"Trail Condition Update: The Mesa Trail is mostly dry with muddy and slushy sections leading to Bear Canyon. Bear Canyon still holds significant snow, primarily in the center and on north-facing slopes. South-faces are generally clear and dry. Traction is helpful but not necessary. The West Ridge summit approach holds some deep but fast melting snow. Traction / poles advisable to reach the summit."
ProTrails Admin  -   -  Date Posted: March 16, 2015
"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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