Bear Peak is the most prominent mountain summit in Boulder. The Bear Peak hike in Boulder Colorado is one of my favorite day hikes.
It is definitely one of the best hikes near Boulder that you can do.
There is something very satisfying about viewing it from around town and then hiking your way all the way up to the top.
From the summit take in spectacular 360 degree views:
- Denver to the South
- Green Mountain and Longs Peak to the North
- The Continental Divide to the West
- Just below is the city of Boulder
Be aware, Bear Peak hike is strenuous and demands a high level of fitness.
The shortest route up and back is via Fern Canyon Trail. The journey is approximately 9km or 5.6 miles in length. The elevation gain is rapid. Total elevation gain is about 848m or 2800 feet from the NCAR starting point. It takes about 3 hours.
You can also take a longer distance route via Bear Canyon Trail, Bear Peak W. Ridge Trail, and down Fern Canyon Trail back to NCAR. Total distance is about 12.8km or 8 miles with an elevation gain of 868m or 2850 feet. This route will take about 4 hours. You could also do this route in reverse. If you have bad knees that might be a good idea. It is a sharp steep descent coming down Fern Canyon.
There are other much longer hikes you can take to get to Bear Peak Summit. You could start at Chautauqua and make your way via Green Mountain. Or you could go via Shadow Canyon Trail to South Boulder Peak and then pop over to Bear Peak. Either of these routes will require being dropped off at one location and picked up at another. Alternatively if you are going with others you could park cars at both the start and finish to make it work.
The Best Bear Peak Trail Routes:
Fern Canyon Up/Down (From NCAR)
Bear Canyon -> Bear Peak W. Ridge Trail -> Fern Canyon (From NCAR)
As I mentioned before you can take this hike in either direction. A long steady incline to the summit with very sharp and steep descent. Or, a ultra steep ascent that burns your legs hard followed by a relaxed steady descent. Take your pick!
Chautauqua -> Green Mountain -> Bear Peak -> NCAR
In the above map I followed Amphitheater Trail to E.M. Greenman Trail and then up to Green Mountain Summit.
In the above map I followed Saddle Rock Trail to E.M. Greenman Trail and then up to Green Mountain Summit.
Alternatively, from the same Chautauqua starting point (Gregory Canyon Trailhead) you can follow Gregory Canyon Trail to either Ranger Trail (longer route) or E.M. Greenman Trail to get to Green Mountain Summit. All before you descent via Green Mountain West Ridge Trail and Green Bear Trail to make your way over to Bear Peak West Ridge Trail that takes you to Bear Peak Summit. So many great routes to take and reach Bear Peak!
Shadow Canyon -> South Boulder Peak Summit -> Bear Peak Summit
After you check out South Boulder Peak Summit follow the signs to Bear Peak Summit. As long as you are not going back down Shadow Canyon you are on your way.
Why Do Bear Peak Summit Hike?
- Awesome 360 views at the top (Continental Divide, the Flatirons, Boulder, Denver)
- A tremendous challenge both mentally and physically
- Fantastic views along all trails
- Feels great sitting on top of a summit
When To Do Bear Peak Hike?
- Any season is a good time to do Bear Peak
- Spring and Fall temperatures are more moderate
- Summer (hot) and Winter (cold) temperatures are more extreme
- Start early in the morning or later in the afternoon to avoid hot (summer) temperatures
- In the winter do it mid day to experience warmer temperatures
How To Prepare For The Bear Peak Hike?
- Check the weather forecast
- Carry plenty (2-3L ) of water especially on hot days
- Take snacks (nuts, protein bars, etc)
- Bring a long sleeve shirt or sweater (weather can quickly change)
- Bring a rain jacket or outer shell if there is any mention of rain/snow/wind
- Wear hiking boots (lightweight are fine) with a solid tread
- Avoid regular running shoes or your feet will get pounded by the rocks
- Wear a hat and sunglasses
- Download the Hiking Project app to your phone and follow progress
- Bring sunscreen (15+)
- Take your camera
Where Can You Start The Hike?
- Gregory Canyon Trailhead
- NCAR Trailhead
- Bear Canyon Trail
- Shanahan Ridge Trailhead
- South Mesa Trailhead
- Parking for Green Mountain West Ridge Trail (not recommended due to less parking spots)
Video Taken On Fern Canyon Trail
Photos of Bear Peak Hike Views
There are so many spectacular hiking views on this hike. Here are some of the best views you will see.
The Flatirons Near NCAR Trailhead
Looking Up At Bear Peak From NCAR Trailhead
View Up To Royal Arch + Mallory Cave
Looking Back Towards NCAR Trailhead
Fern Canyon Pines
Fern Canyon Rocky Staircase
More Rocky Steps Going Up Fern
Further Up Fern Canyon Almost At Nebel Horn
View of Green Mountain From Upper Fern Canyon Trail
Bear Peak Summit View to the North
Looking North from Bear Peak Summit
Pointy Rock on Bear Peak Summit
Old Baldy / South+North Arapaho / Deshawa / Arikaree / Kiowa / Apache Peaks
A Wider View Of The Continental Divide
Mount Audubon Colorado
Sun Skimming Over Bear Peak Summit
Looking Down on Boulder Colorado
Bear Peak West Ridge Trail
Looking Up At Bear Peak Summit From Bear Peak West Ridge Trail
Boulders On Bear Peak West Ridge Trail
More Boulders Heading Up Bear Peak West Ridge Trail
Sunset Near NCAR
Green Mountain West Ridge
Bear Peak and South Boulder Peak from Green Bear Trail