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Bear Peak via Fern Canyon

Denver Metro Area, Colorado

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Bear Peak via Fern Canyon

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  • Bear Peak in the Flatiron Range, as viewed near the trailhead.- Bear Peak via Fern Canyon
  • One of the many sharp spires of rock that give the Flatirons their name.- Bear Peak via Fern Canyon
  • A ponderosa standing in a meadow near the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Trailhead.- Bear Peak via Fern Canyon
  • The trail is nearly flat near the NCAR Trailhead before the grade increases.- Bear Peak via Fern Canyon
  • The iconic sandstone spires create a unique look.- Bear Peak via Fern Canyon
  • Large fields of grass early in the hike are great places to spot wildlife, from deer and elk to the numerous black bears in the area.- Bear Peak via Fern Canyon
  • The trail to Fern Canyon. - Bear Peak via Fern Canyon
  • Fern Canyon provides shade in the large rock spires.- Bear Peak via Fern Canyon
  • The sharp ridge of Green Mountain to the north of Bear Peak as viewed from the saddle.- Bear Peak via Fern Canyon
  • - Bear Peak via Fern Canyon
  • Wildflowers along the trail with the city of Boulder in the distance below.- Bear Peak via Fern Canyon
  • Looking southeast from the trail toward Denver.- Bear Peak via Fern Canyon
  • A U.S. Geological Survey marker adorns the summit block.- Bear Peak via Fern Canyon
  • A view of NCAR from the summit.- Bear Peak via Fern Canyon
  • The trail has a small boulder field just below the summit.- Bear Peak via Fern Canyon
  • The summit features a light scramble to the top.- Bear Peak via Fern Canyon
  • A view looking south from the summit along the sandstone ridge.- Bear Peak via Fern Canyon
  • Hikers taking in the view from the summit of Bear Peak (8,461').- Bear Peak via Fern Canyon
  • - Bear Peak via Fern Canyon
  • - Bear Peak via Fern Canyon
  • An abundance of wildflowers are present at the right times of year.- Bear Peak via Fern Canyon
  • Aspen quake in the breeze along the trail.- Bear Peak via Fern Canyon
  • Areas north of the Fern Canyon Trail are sensitive to raptor nesting during certain times of the year, so please observe any posted signage.- Bear Peak via Fern Canyon
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Beautiful vistas. Well maintained. Flora and fauna.
Cons: 
Peak season crowds.
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Alerts: 
The area north of the Fern Canyon Trail, including the Nebel Horn Ridge, East Ridge, the Goose, and the Goose Eggs is closed to all visitors February 1 through July 31 to protect nesting and roosting raptors.
Region:
Denver Metro Area, CO
Congestion: 
Moderate
Pets allowed: 
Yes
Net Elevation Gain: 
2,381.00 ft (725.73 m)
Parking Pass: 
Not Required
Preferable Season(s):
Spring, Summer, Fall
Total Distance: 
6.00 mi (9.66 km)
Trail type: 
Loop
Trailhead Elevation: 
6,080.00 ft (1,853.18 m)
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Contributor

The Flatirons provide the iconic backdrop for the city of Boulder, Colorado. The name applies to a series of jagged sandstone peaks west of the city that form the foothills of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. These mountains provide endless opportunities for adventures to residents and visitors, but some technical experience may be required to reach the most prominent points. The Bear Peak Trail offers a strenuous but more accessible opportunity to take in the Flatiron experience and enjoy beautiful scenic views of the surrounding area.  

Free parking is available at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). The trailhead starts at the edge of the NCAR facility, and the trail is flat and well maintained as it winds through meadows of tall grass and trees. Wildlife ranging from deer and elk to black bear is common early in the area. Wildflowers are also common throughout the hike.  

Follow the trail for about 1.5 miles where you'll reach the turnoff for the Fern Canyon Trail. From here the trail winds steeply through jagged rock spires and dense green foliage. The trail zigzags across small creeks, and trail conditions may be muddy throughout the year depending on weather and snowmelt.  

At the top of Fern Canyon you'll reach a saddle where you'll have your first views of the Colorado Front Range including Arapahoe Peak and Audobon Peak to the west and Longs Peak to the north. Areas north of the Fern Canyon Trail are sensitive to raptor nesting during certain times of the year, so please observe any posted signage.

From the saddle, continue south approximately a half mile to the summit. The trail steeply winds through quaking aspen trees, across a small boulder field, and finally to a summit covered in large boulders. The summit is marked by a U.S. Geological Survey marker atop the boulders. Bear Peak offers outstanding views of the NCAR Trailhead below, the city of Boulder, and even the distant skyscrapers of Denver. The panoramic views alone are worth the journey.  

From the summit, additional loop options are available through Shadow Canyon or the Bear Peak West Trail through Bear Canyon. Both options return to the NCAR Trailhead.  

 

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