Parking is almost entirely along neighborhood streets. Please be respectful of local residents when nearby their homes, and do not cut through private property to access the trail network.
Most of the trails around Shanahan Ridge
are either wide, smooth dirt doubletrack or rocky, moderately technical singletrack, without a lot of in between. Shoes with rock plates are helpful but not an absolute necessity. Most sections have sufficient tree cover to provide plenty of shade, even during hot summer days.
This is a popular area and it can get fairly crowded throughout the day. Sticking to the more challenging trails is one option to avoid crowds for runners looking for a more quiet experience.
While most people take North Fork Shanahan Trail
or NCAR - Bear Canyon Trail
to reach Shanahan Ridge
, a third option exists for those unintimidated by a steeper, more technical climb: Fern Meadow - Cragmoor Trail. Visitors willing to take on the additional challenge will find expansive views of Boulder Valley and Baseline Reservoir.
The trail begins as a relatively smooth dirt path branching off to the right of Cragmoor Connector
about a hundred feet from its starting point. This initial portion, just short of a half mile, is flat and follows the contour of the neighborhoods to the east, eventually ending at a small creek crossing which can easily be traversed without getting wet. A number of short access paths branch off to the right, but these all pass through private property and should not be used by visitors.
After the creek, the trail begins a long, steady climb up the hill through Fern Meadow. It remains lightly technical until reaching the treeline, where trail users will have to contend with some moderately rocky singletrack as it steeply ascends. The view of Boulder from the grasslands is spectacular and can be a good reason to take the trail in reverse, though the nearby Fern Meadow Connector
has a less aggressive descent and fewer sight obstructions. The trail crosses intersections with Upper Fern Meadow Connector
on the way up, but the ascent there is just as steep.
After entering the wooded upper portion of the trail, it splits and rejoins itself a few times. Staying right tends to be the more direct course, though watch for a spur that has been blocked by logs to indicate a closure.
The climb tops out at Shanahan Ridge
. On the other side of the ridge, Mesa Trail - Shanahan Ridge
heads off to the north, or stay on course for a few hundred feet longer to reach a crossing with Mesa Trail
, indicated by two unlabeled trail markers. The trail continues its rocky, steep climb about a quarter mile further before ending at Fern Canyon Trail
. This final section is the most rugged; taking one of the other nearby routes to the top might make for a nicer trip.
A large number of animals call the area home, including peregrine falcons, red-tailed hawks, a variety of songbirds, mule deer, and coyotes. Black bears and mountain lions are occasionally sighted, though both tend to avoid humans.
Lower sections pass through fragrant mixed grass prairie. As the trails climb higher, they pass through ponderosa pine savannah.