Hiking the Bear Peak Trail is an incredible experience. I like to do it via the Mesa Trail and Bear Canyon Trail which makes the hike about 12 miles (20km) long while climbing up about 2,700 vertical feet in elevation from bottom to Peak. It takes me just over 4 hours moving at a steady pace to do the full circle.
The views are stunning, and after about an hour going up into Bear Canyon you really feel like civilization is far far away. This is what I love about this hike. You can walk for an hour and not pass a single person.
When you do Bear Peak, I recommend leaving in the morning so that you won’t be out in the hot afternoon sun the entire hike. Take a lot of water with you.
I usually start the hike in South Boulder where Table Mesa Drive runs up to NCAR. You go up the NCAR trail you see in the picture below and past the NCAR building heading West. Or, you can take the Table Mesa Trail to Bear Canyon Trail around the South side of NCAR which runs into the Mesa Trail.
After passing NCAR, you make your way down to the Mesa Trail and Mallory Cave Trail junction and then head South (turn left).
Follow the Mesa Trail for a while, cross a stream, keep going up and around to the right until you get to the Bear Canyon Trail junction, also the start of Fern Canyon Trail.
From here, you have 2 route choices.
Go right and take the long way up to Bear Peak summit. 2-3 hours to the summit. It is a nice gradual incline until the final climb from the backside or West side which gets steep and strenuous the last 30 minutes. On a hot day it will slow you down quite a bit, and there isn’t much shelter from the sun. All the trees in the area have been burnt from the fires 2 years ago. After the summit, you can go over the East side down the steep path. This will take you back to the junction.
Or, you can go left up the Fern Canyon Trail. This is the very steep route up to the top which is quicker, but gruelling. It is like doing steep stairs for well over an hour. On a hot day, the one benefit is that you are in the forested shade, so you can keep cool. Once you are at the peak, you can keep going over the backside via the Bear Canyon Trail if you feel like being out longer, or you can just turn around and go back the way you came.
I have done both routes, both directions, and it is always amazing.
Lets pretend we are going on Route 1. Below we see some nice looking cliffs at the start of Bear Canyon trail after the junction.
Check out these slabs of rock.
Soon, you will arrive at a creek which you cross over to the right. You will than go through a series of switchbacks up, and West.
Keep on going, and eventually you will cross a creek over a bridge. The path curves West for a bit, then you will hit a clearing and a flat ridge where you will see Bear Peak in the distance to the South.
Straight across you can see the halfway point up the steep front (East) side, and then the last half steep stretch up to the peak. This photo was taken about halfway to the peak via Bear Canyon Trail, and making my way to the West Ridge Trail.
Walking along Bear Peak West Ridge Trail towards the summit.
As you can see there was considerable damage to the forest here due to the fires of 2012.
This is the view to the North West.
Some beautiful mountain flowers.
Looking backwards along the West Ridge Trail of Bear Peak.
And finally, after about 2-3 hours this is the view atop the summit of Bear Peak looking backwards at the Bear Canyon Trail and the side of Green Mountain all walked along to get to this point.
The view South towards Denver.
There’s a happy dog. Cisco could do this hike many times over.
Another view from the summit looking straight North towards the city of Boulder far below.
On the way down spotted some nice sun on rocks with cool shadows.
And a nice red rock.
After about an hour down the steep East side, and back out the way in, here we are at Table Mesa Trail just South of NCAR.
So, there you have it…a tour around Bear Peak in Boulder Colorado. This is what you can see. Go for it!