Shanahan Forks Loop

Denver Metro Area, Colorado

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Shanahan Forks Loop


  • Clearing at the south end of the loop.- Shanahan Forks Loop
  • Almost at the trailhead.- Shanahan Forks Loop
  • Official trailhead.- Shanahan Forks Loop
  • On the way up South Fork first.- Shanahan Forks Loop
  • Quiet forest.- Shanahan Forks Loop
  • Some snow in the shade after an early storm.- Shanahan Forks Loop
  • Trees growing right up through the rock; this is how paper beats rock.- Shanahan Forks Loop
  • Clearing near the top of the loop.- Shanahan Forks Loop
  • Close-up of rocky outcroppings in front of Bear Peak.- Shanahan Forks Loop
  • Bear Peak.- Shanahan Forks Loop
  • Looking out into the plains.- Shanahan Forks Loop
  • View of Bear Peak from the top of the loop.- Shanahan Forks Loop
  • Descending into the trees.- Shanahan Forks Loop
  • Nebel Horn.- Shanahan Forks Loop
  • Onto the North Fork.- Shanahan Forks Loop
  • Interesting plants along the trail.- Shanahan Forks Loop
  • Another entry point into Shanahan Ridge.- Shanahan Forks Loop
  • Keep an eye out for birds.- Shanahan Forks Loop
  • Close-up of the Flat Irons above National Center for Atmospheric Research.- Shanahan Forks Loop
  • Close-up of ever active plant life.- Shanahan Forks Loop
  • NCAR and the Flat Irons.- Shanahan Forks Loop
  • Onto the North Fork.- Shanahan Forks Loop
Overview + Weather
Quiet Path. Good Views. Wildflowers. Well Maintained.
Street Parking.
Denver Metro Area, CO
Pets allowed: 
Yes, with restrictions
Highest point: 
6,482.00 ft (1,975.71 m)
Net Elevation Gain: 
758.00 ft (231.04 m)
Year round: 
Parking Pass: 
Permit required: 
Preferable Season(s):
Spring, Summer, Fall
Total Distance: 
4.00 mi (6.44 km)
Total elevation gain: 
981.00 ft (299.01 m)
Trail type: 
Trailhead Elevation: 
5,724.00 ft (1,744.68 m)
Typically multi-day: 
Current Local Weather:
Hike Description

Hike Description

Pro Contributor

The Open Space and Mountain Park system near Boulder is one of the best in the country, with over 45,000 acres of protected land and over 150 miles of maintained trail. Each part of the park system has a different charm, some without established trailheads or parking areas of any kind. The neighborhood access to some of the best trails in the Front Range shows just how special it is to live in an area that values outdoor activities as much as Boulder. The Shanahan Fork trails are an example of just that kind of neighborhood trail, active as much during the week as on the weekend. There are least five different access points without anything but street parking to accommodate, so be courteous to the homes nearby when picking your trailhead.

This loop involves the Shanahan South Fork, Mesa Trail, and the Shanahan North Loop. Either direction makes for a great hike; this description will follow the Clockwise direction. The signage along the trail is fairly good, but it is still a good idea to have a map with you. Starting from Shanahan Hill at one of the neighborhood trailheads, make your way south along the Shanahan South Fork Trail until intersecting the Bluestem Connector Trail. Turn right and keep going uphill. When a large water tank comes into view, it will signify a left turn followed by another left turn at the next intersection about a half-mile later.

As you make your way higher and higher along the South Fork Trail, you can really see the forest changing due to the differing temperatures and amounts of precipitation. Once you meet the Mesa Trail, turn right and keep looking behind you because this is the most scenic portion with occasional views in both directions. The best view will be at the large clearing shortly after joining the Mesa Trail; look behind you and down into the valley on the right where you can see the Denver Skyline, Boulder, and more.

Soon a four-way intersection will signal it’s time to unfortunately start heading back down. Continue on the North Fork Trail as it weaves its way to Shanahan Hill. Find your exit point where you entered the trail, and leave with a new appreciation for how good a local trail system can be.

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Field Guide

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Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(14 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(89 within a 30 mile radius)

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Who's Done It
2 Members
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Pro Contributor
124 Adventures Explored
104 Adventures Published

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