April of 2002 was probably the first time I climbed Bear Peak in the Boulder, CO area. There are two peaks in the area separated by a ridge. South Boulder Peak 8,549' on the left, and Bear Peak 8461' on the right. I cross-trained on those mountains on the Mesa trail, running the flatter sections and climbing the steep sections, to prepare for the higher mountains.
I usually got to Bear Peak by going down rt. 93 to rt. 170 to El Dorado Springs. I drove two miles on 170 to the Mesa trail. From there I would run the Mesa trail to Shadow Canyon. When I got to the small cabin 2 1/2 miles from the trailhead, I passed a small creek and took the steep trail up to the saddle between S. Boulder Peak and Bear Peak.
The first 2 1/2 miles is about 500' of elevation gain. You gain nearly 2000 in Shadow Canyon. This is a very steep trail which is well-defined enough to follow, but only because it is surrounded by rock piles, which you can't even walk on at most times of the year due to environmental restrictions.
There is a lot of vegetation early on the Shadow Canyon Trail, but after 5-10 minutes, the trail is clearer. The trail is nice and clear in Spring and early summer, but I had to turn back in early fall.
I climbed in October of 2002, and at the creek, were tons of yellowjackets. I passed the creek and started climbing the trail. I noticed a sound below my feet, and looked down to see a huge snake. I forged ahead, and noticed a tree whose branches and leaves grew over onto the trail, about 5 feet above ground....surrounded by yellow jackets. I couldn't get past it, without climbing up onto the rocks a ways, and I was wary about yellowjackets throughout the rest of the hike. There would be no summit that day. On my way back, I long-jumped the snake, which turned out to be a non-poisonous Brown Snake, but a 4-footer nonetheless. Bottom line...climb this sucker in Springtime and you will have a much better time.
When I did make it to the summits in the Springtime, I first had to reach the saddle, which usually took about 45 minutes from the base of Shadow Canyon. At the saddle, a sign points you to the right(Bear Peak) or the left(S. Boulder Peak). Both are great hikes. However, Bear Peak is a little longer, and the final part is mostly on rocks. In addition, at the top of Bear Peak, you will be bothered by bugs.
South Boulder Peak is a little shorter, mostly through woods, and for some reason, has less bugs. Both mountains have excellent views of the front range, particularly the Indian Peaks and Longs Peak. Climbing to the top of either peak is over 2 hours for an avid hiker. I climbed S. Boulder Peak and Bear Peak about 5 times each in 2002.
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