Bear Canyon is one of Boulder's more secluded hiking trails. Wildlife, flowers and amazing rock formations await on this moderate trail. It is also used to link Bear Peak and Green Mountain with the Mesa Trail.
The Bear Canyon Trail is a gorgeous escape that uses the imposing mass of the Flatirons to hide itself from the city of Boulder. Tucked away in the wilderness but close to home, the Bear Canyon Trail can be used to connect to the Green - Bear Trail and the Bear Peak West Ridge Trail. It is also a fine day hike when done as an out-and-back and the mellow terrain makes it good for families with kids ages 6 and older. The main trail splits from the Mesa and goes 2.0 miles to the Bear Peak West Ridge Trail. A lower portion of the trail connects to Boulder neighborhoods and is 1.4 miles (but less exciting).
What Makes It Great
The Bear Canyon Trail has low traffic, which adds to the experience of “getting away from it all”. The trail is very well defined and passed through lovely alpine meadows. All the while, the amazing rock formations of the Flatirons will be in view -- often from new perspectives. As a portal to 8,461 ft. Bear Peak and 8,144 ft Green Mountain, Bear Canyon offers nice alternatives to the standard trails up these peaks.There are a wealth of wild flowers in the early spring, thanks to the small creeks that flow from the modest mountain summits of Green Mountain, Bear Peak and South Boulder Peak. Wildlife is very active in the area, including the namesake black bear and the occasional mountain lion. Given that many of Boulder’s trails are within eyeshot of city views, the opportunity to immerse oneself in the richness of Colorado’s wilderness is a real treat. And for those who want to behold the power of nature, continuing on a short distance on the Bear Peak West Ridge Trail (even if you don’t plan to summit) brings you to an, eerily beautiful burn zone, where the ghostly husks of old trees mingle within boulder fields and defiant, new green growth.
Who is Going to Love It
Wilderness enthusiasts, photographers, hikers and anyone who needs a little time to rejuvenate in nature. Those who are connecting the peaks for a longer, tougher day should stop to enjoy this secluded area–a great place to enjoy lunch or take a few photos. For real peace and isolation, try Bear Canyon as a winter snowshoe after a good storm.
Boulder’s best wildflower displays are along Bear Canyon mid-spring–but of course that changes every year depending on the snowfall. Even if the land isn't in bloom, the shady forests framed by the rocky Flatirons makes for an amazing experience. There is an abundance of wildlife and birds waiting for the patient photographer.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Parking for Bear Canyon is at NCAR (National Center for Atmospheric Research) which is located at the western terminus of Table Mesa Drive. From here, it is just over a mile via the NCAR connector and Mesa Trails (well signed) to Bear Canyon (just make sure to go left at the trail split with the Mesa Trail). Hikers can also reach the trail at its junctions with the Green - Bear Trail and reversing the Bear Peak West Ridge Trail. There are no fees to park or hike in this area.