Bear Peak Loop (Flatirons)


Trail Stats & Info

RT length 8.5 miles
Elevation gain 2,990
Difficulty moderate-strenuous
Lowest elevation 6,100 feet
Highest elevation 8,440 feet
Trail type loop
Trails Illustrated Map™ # 100
Restrooms @ TH? yes


June 2012 fires “South Peak” Photo by Dave Dugdale

From I-25, take Hwy 36 to Boulder. Exit Table Mesa Drive, and head west onto Table Mesa Drive. Follow this road for about 3 miles till you reach the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). Park at the NCAR parking lot and the trailhead is west of the building.

From C-470, take Hwy 6 or 6th Ave. to Hwy 93 north to Golden. Follow Hwy 93 through Golden to Boulder which becomes Broadway. Then, turn left onto Table Mesa Drive and follow this road all the way to the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). Park at the NCAR parking lot and the trailhead is west of the building.



This hike is a great loop hike, especially if you want something that gains a lot of elevation and that is longer. It was a little confusing trying to figure out how long this hike really is. One of the trail guides states that it is 6.2 miles, which is what we thought the length of the trail was when we hiked it. However, another trail guide states that it is 7.4 miles. When we finished the hike, our GPS read 8.5 miles. So, there is some discrepancy with the length. We feel that it definitely did not seem like it was 6.2 miles, but instead, it felt more like we hiked 8.5 miles when we were done. We researched a little further on the internet and found that a runner had completed this loop and he stated that it was over 9 miles long. So, we would say it is about 8 miles long. Nevertheless, this trail is fun, yet challenging.

The trail starts at the NCAR and follows the Walter Orr Roberts Interactive trail till it meets up with the Mesa trail. The beginning of the the trail can be very busy with traffic, but once you get further in, there is significantly less people. When you come up to a sign at a fork in the trail that points in both directions for the Mesa trail, go left. You can go right, which then you hit another fork and at this point you need to go left and eventually you will end up at the same place if you just went left at the initial fork. It is one big triangle that connects the Walter Orr Roberts trail and the Mesa trail at 2 points. After you’re on the Mesa trail, you will come up to Bear Creek, from here head right up Bear Creek. Stay on Bear Creek which is a wide dirt road and you’ll come up to a sign for Bear Canyon trail. Follow this sign for Bear Canyon trail. This trail gradually ascends, which will then hit Bear Peak West Ridge trail. Take a left onto Bear Peak West Ridge trail and follow this trail all the way to Bear Peak. As you get up on the ridge, you can now see Bear Peak and also South Boulder Peak to the south. After hiking along the ridge, the trail begins to ascend more steeply over boulders and large rocks. You may have to do some minimal scrambling, but nothing too difficult. As you get towards the summit, the trail becomes mostly scree and boulders, so make sure to follow the trail more carefully as it is not clearly marked. You will come up to a junction just below the summit and here you will take a left onto Fern Canyon trail to get to Bear Peak summit. At this junction, if you take a right, you will be hiking to South Boulder Peak. The trail does not quite reach the summit of Bear Peak, but you can scramble your way up to the top. Otherwise, the Fern Canyon trail begins to descend very steeply and does so for quite some time. As you descend down Fern Canyon trail, be careful as there is loose dirt and loose rocks. In the early Spring, there is still some snow, so be extra careful not to slide on the ice/snow. The trail levels out for a moment, but then descends again until you reach Bear Creek. Follow Bear Creek down to the junction of Mesa trail and head back up Mesa trail to Walter Orr Roberts trail and finally to the NCAR. This hike took us approximately 5.5 hours to complete.

Comments or Questions?

About Jake & Mar

Jake and Maria have spent a good chunk of their time hiking and exploring all that the Colorado wilderness has to offer. Their ambition is to seek out all the hidden treasures of the Rocky Mountains from pristine alpine lakes, to tall dense Aspen forests, to high mountain summits. They both bring their own unique talents and abilities to, whether it's the organizational skills and consistent ambition to take on new terrain, or the desire to creatively record and document the experience. They are truly passionate about their site and the outdoors. "We thank you for visiting and wish you safe and fun adventures!"