Hiking Project Logo

Fern Canyon Trail



1.4 mile 2.2 kilometer point to point


Ascent: 2,031' 619 m
Descent: 0' 0 m
High: 8,413' 2,564 m
Low: 6,382' 1,945 m


Avg Grade: 28% (16°)
Max Grade: 59% (31°)


Driving directions Take a virtual tour
Zoom in to see details
Map Key

Trail shared by Brian Smith

A steep, technical ascent to Bear Peak from the Mesa Trail.

Brian Smith

Features Birding · River/Creek · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife


In just under a mile and a half, Fern Canyon Trail ascends over 2,000 feet to the summit of Bear Peak. Obviously, this trail is steep!

Starting from Mesa Trail, Fern Canyon climbs into the woods through a series of switchbacks and water bar stairs. After a short period, the grade backs off significantly - but don't be fooled. After Shanahan Mesa merges from the left, Fern Canyon gets very steep. Enjoy increasingly dramatic views as you ascend and check out the cool rock formations of the Boulder Flatirons.

Eventually, the trail will level out in a saddle and you'll be presented with amazing views of Bear Canyon, The Flatirons, Green Mountain, Boulder and the Continental Divide. This is a great place for a snack, but don't dwell for too long as the views only get better.

Follow the trail to the south for the final approach to Bear Peak. From here, Fern Canyon turns into more of a rock scramble, but it's a great workout and the summit is well worth the work. When you pop out at the top, you'll know it. Scramble up the boulder field to the true summit and take in the 360-degree views. On a clear day, you can see as far south as Pike's Peak and west to Winter Park and the Continental Divide. To the north you might glimpse Longs Peak, Lyons and Fort Collins, and to the east it seems like you can see to Kansas City.

From here, scramble off of the boulder field summit and pick your route down. You can either retrace your steps down Fern Canyon or Bear Peak West Ridge. If you want to stay high, head south on Bear Peak to South Boulder Peak and then head down Shadow Canyon Trail.

Hiked this trail?

We need help with the following missing trail information:

Family Friendly, ADA Accessible, Need to Know, Flora & Fauna


Rate This Trail

Rate Quality

   Clear Rating

Rate Difficulty

Share This Trail

Check In


May 3, 2020
Mike Sanders
Jul 26, 2019
Alex Rotondo
Jun 16, 2019
Brandy Coffey
May 18, 2019
Kristy Dickens
Oct 19, 2018
Micaela Burrow
Sep 12, 2018
Lyman Chapin
555.8mi — 2h 30m
Jun 25, 2017
Matt Oliver
Apr 17, 2017
Kevin Meyer
Loose rocks, snow has melted. 4.5mi

Trail Ratings

  4.4 from 16 votes


in Boulder


  4.4 from 16 votes
5 Star
4 Star
3 Star
2 Star
1 Star
Trail Rankings


in Boulder


in Colorado


168 Views Last Month
4,313 Since Dec 16, 2014



Bear Peak panorama
Jun 27, 2015 near Boulder, CO
The Continental Divide from Bear Peak in Boulder, CO
Aug 17, 2019 near Boulder, CO
Looking south
Jul 7, 2015 near Boulder, CO
The views don't disappoint heading down from Bear Peak.
Jun 18, 2017 near Boulder, CO
Sunset off the western ridge of Bear Peak.
Aug 31, 2016 near Boulder, CO
Looking west from Bear Peak
Jan 30, 2015 near Boulder, CO