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black Fern Canyon Trail

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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°)


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Trail shared by Brian Smith

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Current trail conditions

Minor Issues 93 days ago See History
Muddy, Icy - Trail is mostly snow covered with some sections of mud. Highly suggest micro spikes for this hike.

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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.


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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
Apr 15, 2017
Mikhaila Redovian
Testing out gear!
Mar 10, 2017
Kevin Meyer
Aug 21, 2016
Geoff Spakes
May 13, 2016
Katie Millar

Trail Ratings

  4.1 from 11 votes


in Boulder


  4.1 from 11 votes
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126 Views Last Month
3,024 Since Dec 16, 2014
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