The stats for Bear Peak in Boulder are impressive to say the least: 12.7 miles round trip (via The Mesa Trail); 3,075 feet of round trip elevation gain; and a summit that tops out at 8,461 feet. Your reward, however, is not only the sense of accomplishment you'll feel once you've conquered this beast, but also the scenic views, the traipsing through alpine forest and the chance to get up close and personal with the Flatirons of Chautauqua Park.
Bear Peak in Boulder, Colorado — Photo courtesy of Michael Murphy
You should begin your trek early in the morning, and you should allot at least 8-12 hours for the full hike (depending upon your intended pace). A 6 a.m. start will ensure that you've done most of your uphill hiking before the heat of the day sets in, thus making your descent more enjoyable.
Water: The standard three liters of water should get you through this hike, but it's always wise to carry more than what you may need. Four liters is highly recommended.
Food: Since you'll be hiking for 8-12 hours, plan on bringing two small meals (sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs or a salad). You'll also need snacks along the way to keep up your energy. Trail mix, fresh fruit or high-energy snack bars are recommended.
Basic survival items: A knife, compass and first-aid kit are staples for outdoor adventuring, whether you're near town or in the backcountry. Be sure that you know how to use your compass and that you check out the trailhead map before you depart.
Layers: Whether it's winter or summer, it's always wise to pack layers. Be sure to carry a rain shell in any season, and a shirt or jacket that can be put on to raise your core temperature or taken off to lower it, if need be.
Trekking polls: Though it may look like you're preparing for a ski run, trekking poles are great for stability and will make the elevation gain and descent much more enjoyable.
What to expect
Animals: Along with the spectacular views, you can expect to see a variety of wildlife, including deer and raptors. Dogs are allowed on the trail and are allowed off-leash beyond the parking lot if they have been issued a Voice and Sight Command tag by the City of Boulder.
Showers: Also, afternoon showers are a regular occurrence in the mountains - particularly during the spring and summer months - so it is quite possible that you'll get a little wet.
Bear Peak Trail — Photo courtesy of Michael Doughtery
- Travel in groups of three or more.
- Let at least two people know when you're leaving and when they can expect you to return.
- Pack adequate food, water and clothing.
- Wear sturdy hiking boots or shoes.
- If you're visiting from the lower elevations, keep in mind that altitude sickness is very serious. Turn back if you feel sustained light-headedness, nausea or disorientation.
A pub with grub (for afterwards)
After you're finished, you'll wanna eat like a bear at Southern Sun Brewery, where you can sip beer on their fine patio and gaze at the peak that you've just conquered off in the distance.