Trail Run Project Logo

Fern Canyon Trail



1.4 mile 2.2 kilometer point to point
41% Runnable


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.

Run this trail?

We need help with the following missing trail information:

Need to Know, Flora & Fauna, Runner Notes


Rate This Trail

Rate Quality

   Clear Rating

Rate Difficulty

Share This Trail

Check In


Jun 25, 2016
Kaylee M
May 9, 2016
Matthew Coye
Aug 8, 2015
Gus Delaporte
Descent from Bear Peak
Jul 19, 2015
Chris Rozoff
Used to summit Bear Peak and South Boulder Peak

Trail Ratings

  4.2 from 13 votes


in Boulder


  4.2 from 13 votes
5 Star
4 Star
3 Star
2 Star
1 Star
Trail Rankings


in Boulder


in Colorado


79 Views Last Month
3,773 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
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
Looking down on the approach of Bear Peak West Ridge trail
Aug 17, 2019 near Boulder, CO
First light while heading up Fern Canyon.
Mar 29, 2019 near Boulder, CO

Trail Run Project is part of the REI Co-op family,
where a life outdoors is a life well lived.

Shop REI Running