Bear Peak, 2579m (8461' SOFT RANKED)

Mountain area : Boulder, Colorado USA
Maps :
Online map :
Primary Factor: 80m+ (South Boulder Peak)
Hiked : Aug 2002
South Boulder Peak and Bear Peak

South Boulder Peak
and Bear Peak


Bear Peak is a dominating peak when viewed from Boulder, and is a popular mountain for joggers and hikers, easily accessible from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, at the end of Table Mesa road. The neighbour, South Boulder Peak is slightly higher, but not seen from central Boulder.

I have ranked Bear Peak as "soft rank". The minimum drop before ascending South Boulder Peak is 261 feet. In theory, the saddle could be 39 feet higher, which makes exactly 300 feet (countour lines on US maps are 40 feet). Until the elevation of the saddle is known, the soft rank stands. Nevertheless, Bear Peak is a prominent mountain and offers great views towards Boulder.

Trail descriptions:

Note: Class ratings are in reference to YDS (Yosemite Decimal System).

NCAR - Bear Peak via west ridge - down Fern Canyon (summer/autumn)

Difficulty : Class 1 most of the way. Class 2 below summit
Distance :
Time : 2-4 hours roundtrip
Starting Elev.: Approx. 1820m (3,000ft.)

Map of the area
Map of the area
(route coming)


Locate the Table Mesa Road in Boulder, and follow this all the way to NCAR (National Center for Atmospherical Research). Find parking there.

The trail

Follow the hiking trail just behind NCAR. The trail runs up and down a couple of hills before you meet the Mesa trail. Stay left in the south/north junction before you arrive the Mesa trail. Turn left on the Mesa trail and stay on this trail until you arrive the Fern Canyon junction. Do not exit into Fern Canyon (you'll be coming down this way), but continue straight ahead.

The trail continues west into Bear canyon with Green Mountain on your right hand side. The trail turns north and when you're just west of the Green Mountain summit, exit left onto the Bear Peak west ridge trail (signed). You'll now have a clear view of Bear Peak. Stay on the ridge which leads to the foothills of Bear Peak summit. The final section up the summit is much steeper than the terrain you've hiked so far. Just below the summit, handholds might be requried, all dependent on your route.

From the summit, you have a good view of the ridge that leads to the saddle between South Boulder Peak and Bear Peak. A project for the notorious scrambler? Note that South Boulder Peak has a different trailhead.

From the summit, head down north on the trail that turns NE down towards Fern Canyon. This route is much shorter and steeper than the via the west ridge. When Fern Canyon trail junctions with Mesa trail, take the Mesa trail back to NCAR.

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