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
|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)|
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.
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 uniform ponderosa 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).
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 grade.
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.
Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84View Interactive Google Map
- 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
- 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
Take Baseline Road West to the Chautauqua Park entrance on the left hand side.
Take Highway 36 into Boulder and exit on Baseline Road. Turn left. Take Baseline Road to the Chautauqua Park entrance on your left.
City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks