Bear Peak is a fantastic mountain hike in Boulder, Colorado that offers stunning 360 degree views with an exposed summit. While the trail is often considered medium-hard, it provides a fun day hike that is extremely popular among runners, hikers, and weekend warriors. Leashed dogs are welcome to join on this hike!
There are various ways to make your way up this mountain. We have maps highlighting some of the most popular routes so you can choose the best path for you.
Height: 8,352 feet (2,549.7 meters)
Distance: 8.1 miles (13.0 km)
Elevation Gain: 2,847 (867.7 meters)
Duration: 4-6 hours
Bear Canyon Trail “The Classic”– 8.1 Miles Round Trip (Loop) – 2,847 Feet Elevation Gain
This peak begins at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), which is the same starting location to hike the NCAR Ramble Trail, Mesa trail, Bear Canyon, Fern Canyon, Green Bear and several other popular hikes in the Boulder area.
The trail begins as a well maintained path heading west on the NCAR trail until meeting up with the Mesa trail. Turn left (south) and continue onto the Mesa trail where you will hike through a forest and over a small bridge. Afterwards, you will make a right turn onto Fern Canyon trail which is where you will begin the bulk of the elevation gain- first the Fern Canyon trail will contain several switchbacks and moderate elevation gain, but it will progress into a straight and steep rise in elevation until you reach the summit. Here, you have the option to climb a rock scramble to get 360 degree views, but do not worry- the view below the scramble is worth the hike up!
To return to the NCAR area parking lot, begin the rocky descent in Bear Peak West Ridge where you will walk down the ridge to Bear Creek. Continue onto Bear Canyon trail which will lead you to Mesa Trail, over the small bridge where the Mesa Trail (which will have an increase in elevation for a short period of time) will lead you back to the NCAR trail. Finally, take the NCAR trail back to the NCAR parking area and your car!
Bear Canyon and Bear West Ridge Ascent (Counter-Clockwise) – 8.1 miles – 2,847 Feet Elevation Gain
You can complete this loop the other direction, however this route is longer on the ascent and steeper on the descent which will be more impactful on the knees.
If you are interested in hiking both Bear Peak and South Boulder Peak by the Shanahan North Fork, Fern Canyon and Mesa trails it will be an 8 mile loop with 3,353 feet of elevation gain.
This route is highlighted in Blue on trail maps.
Green West Ridge Trail – 9 miles – 2,100 Feet Elevation Gain
This is a less traveled approach. Hikers often choose this starting point if also looking to summit Green Mountain. Though this approach is longer in mileage, it has less cumulative elevation gain.
Begin at Green Mountain West Ridge Trailhead, and avoid private property signs. After 0.9 miles, turn right (south) onto Green Bear Trail. 1.5 miles later, make a right turn to Bear Peak West Ridge.
Continue on Bear Peak West Ridge for 2 miles to the summit.
South Mesa Approach – 8.2 miles
This approach is about the same length as the most popular route from the Bear Canyon and Fern Canyon trails.
Begin at South MesaTrailhead on Mesa Trail. This route is highlighted in red on trail maps.
Here is a detailed forecast for the area in the next four days.
Eldorado Springs, CO
Mostly clear. Low around 33, with temperatures rising to around 35 overnight. West wind 22 to 25 mph.
A chance of snow after 5pm. Mostly sunny. High near 47, with temperatures falling to around 39 in the afternoon. Southwest wind 3 to 17 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%. New rainfall amounts less than a tenth of an inch possible.
Snow. Mostly cloudy. Low around 29, with temperatures rising to around 32 overnight. Northwest wind 2 to 8 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New snow accumulation of 2 to 4 inches possible.
Snow before 5pm. Cloudy, with a high near 30. North wind 6 to 10 mph, with gusts as high as 16 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New snow accumulation of 3 to 5 inches possible.
A slight chance of snow after 5am. Partly cloudy, with a low around 23. West northwest wind 5 to 16 mph, with gusts as high as 25 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
A chance of snow. Mostly sunny, with a high near 34. Chance of precipitation is 50%. Little or no snow accumulation expected.
A chance of snow. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 17. Chance of precipitation is 40%. Little or no snow accumulation expected.
Hiking in winter
Because this hike features exposed hiking above tree-line near the summit, it is essential to bring the proper winter hiking equipment. Also, due to the buildup of ice and snow in the final rock summit, it is recommended that only experienced hikers attempt the final descent. Simply be cautious and make good decisions.
West Ridge Trail
South Mesa Trail