South Boulder Peak is the tallest of the peaks in the "Boulder Range" just west of Boulder Colorado upon which the famous Flatirons lie. It is also the highest of the six major peaks in the Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks (from south to north these are: Eldorado, South Boulder, Bear, Green, Flagstaff, and Sanitas). For all this lofty altitude, however, it is visible from only a few places in town; from most angles, the nearly-as-tall and impressively pointy Bear Peak shields it from view. Nor does South Boulder Peak suffer under the profusion of hiking trails and climbing routes that other peaks in the area host and is thus much more lonely and than the neighboring Bear Peak and Green Mountain.
Given the proximity of Bear Peak and South Boulder Peak, they are usually climbed together. Much excellant information on South Boulder Peak can be gotten from the Bear Peak page and I will only sumarize here.
There are two hiking routes and two trailheads for South Boulder Peak. From the north, the most accessible trailhead is at NCAR at the western end of Table Mesa Drive in Boulder. From the South, the Mesa Trailhead on Eldorado Springs Drive a mile or two east of the town of Eldorado Springs. The Mesa Trail runs along the base of the flatirons and connects the two trailheads (and many other places in the park) quite efficiently. It is possible to make a loop hike from either trailhead.
The Boulder OSMP map page has much more information and links to high-quality maps.
Trails: Shadow Canyon
The southern approach starts at the Mesa Trailhead and climbs the rugged Shadow Canyon. From the TH, hike 2 miles to the base of the canyon on the Mesa, Towhee, or Homestead Trails. Pass a small, ruined cabin along the creek. It is then a stiff 1.1 miles and 1800 vertical feet to the sandy saddle between Bear and South Boulder Peaks. From the saddle it is an easy 0.3 miles to the summit of South Boulder and the fantastic views to the west. Returning to the saddle, it is a slightly rougher 0.4 miles to the summit of Bear Peak.
Trails: Fern Canyon
This is one of the standard northern approaches to South Boulder Peak but requires climbing up and over Bear Peak first. It is well covered in the Bear Peak section. Total milage from NCAR to South Boulder Peak is about 3.5 miles one way with a very stiff but scenic climb up Fern Canyon and the north ridge of Bear Peak.
There are no parking fees or permits neccessary. Dogs are allowed in most areas but should be kept on leashes at all times. Bears and mountain lions frequent many areas of the park. Occasionally, trails will be closed for excessive bear or lion activity.
Boulder jealously guards its raptor habitat and many areas in the park are closed between February 1 and July 31 for nesting perigrines and other hawks. The Boulder Open Space and Mountain Park website has a comprehensive closure list with maps. As of 2004, neither the Fern Canyon hiking trail nor the Shadow Canyon route are closed.
When To Climb
These peaks are in essentially a glorified city park and are pretty managable at any time of year. Snow on the trails in late winter may pose a problem and, in the shadowed depths of the canyons, may exist late into the season. Given the traffic that these peaks receive, it will likely be packed down hard. Crampons might not be a bad idea during these conditions.
Camping is not allowed in the Open Space and Mountain Parks. Since any concievable hike up South Boulder Peak will be less than ten miles, camping shouldn't be a problem.
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