One of my favorite long hikes in Boulder, and my favorite way to “hike to the top of the Flatirons”. While not really the top of the Flatirons, this hike takes you to the top of either of the two tallest mountains behind them! Shadow Canyon is a steep canyon filled with huge boulders, lush foliage, and lots of ferns. This hike begins at the South Mesa Trailhead near Eldorado Springs. The first couple miles are on the Mesa Trail (or take the Homestead Trail to shorten it a bit), staying left when the sign points to Shadow Canyon. After a couple miles, keep a lookout for a mining cabin nestled into the canyon on your right, there will be a pool of water in the middle of the trail and the small Shadow Canyon trail begins on the left. There is a sign designating the start and you will see the trail heading straight up the overgrown canyon.
The next mile will be pretty steep but the trail is well maintained and easy to negotiate. At the top of the canyon, you will come to the saddle between South Boulder Peak on the left and Bear Peak to the right. Many people will take the opportunity to bag both peaks or just go to the summit of Bear Peak. The final stretch to the top of either peak is scrambling on large boulders, these can be loose, so be careful as you step from rock to rock. Once at the top, you can rest and take in the great views of the Indian Peaks to the West and Boulder to the East.
Here is an elevation chart from MapMyHike, an app I used to track my progress up Shadow Canyon this week:
This hike is about an 8 mile hike round trip. Another option is to go up Bear Peak and return down Fern Canyon from the summit. This makes the hike a longer loop rather than an out and back but gives you a great variety of scenery.
Official City information page for the south Trailhead of the Mesa Trail
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