Tag Archives: Boulder Colorado

Bear Peak Via Fern Canyon, Boulder CO 6/1/13

4 Jun
View of the North Front Range From Bear Peak

View of the North Front Range From Bear Peak

Walter Orr Robert Trail> Mesa> Fern Canyon> Bear Peak Trail> Bear Canyon Trail> Mesa Trail> Walter Orr Robert Trail @NCAR

Starting Elevation:  6104

Highest Elevation: 8461 ( with some up s and downs we had a total Elevation gain of a little more than 2600 feet)

Trip Length: Officially it is anywhere from 7.5 to 9 miles depending on what trip information you can find, we were pretty close to 9 mile

Trail Uses:  Hiker and Joggers- no bikes

Pets:  Dogs are allowed but from Fern Canyon to Bear Canyon Leash only.  For the Mesa Trail as long as they have the Boulder green tag for voice command, they can be off leash.

Fees:  None

Degree of Difficulty: Difficult

Bathrooms:  None that I could find….although it looked like during regular business hours the lobby of NCAR could be used.  We didn’t check to see if regular business hours included Saturday and Sunday.  Sadly we discovered not many people practice leave no trace on this trail…

VIews west from the summit of Bear Canyon

Views west from the summit of Bear Canyon

I have wanted to do this hike for a while, unfortunately much of it was effected last spring/summer when the back part of it caught fire during our horrible wild fire season. I kept checking periodically for when sections would reopen and then last weekend my hiking super hero Wendy did it and said that at least one of the ways were open again.  Since the Continental Divide got hammered with enough snow on Wednesday and Thursday that they close I70 at the Eisenhower Tunnel in both directions Thursday morning, it was time to attempt this hike.  A lot of hikers use it to get in 14er shape when they can’t get altitude hikes in due to weather because it is an almost 2700 foot elevation gain overall and because we opted to go up Fern Canyon, most of that( about 2200Ft) would come in just the 2 miles to get to the top.  It was a great work out with great summit views!

Walter Orr Roberts TrailMap at trialheadTo Mesa from WOR

Lets talk trail, we opted to enter  at  NCAR( National Center of Atmospheric Research), which is easy to see from so many places in Boulder and the trail system is woven all around its ample parking lot.  We got there early at 6:30AM and good thing because we got a close parking spot to the trail head, when we got back to the car a little before 1 it was packed.  You drive right past the trail head as you pull into the parking lot, which we missed but as we walked west there is a huge rock with the trail name for the Walter Orr Robert Trail.  If in doubt of where it is, follow the road west out of the parking lot and it will be obvious as you get closer to the building.

Take this trail around and down to the Mesa trail, you can also make it a little more interesting up here by taking in all the signs and displays that NCAR has set up, we paid more attention to them on the way back because we were too excited when we first started to take extra time reading. You will end up taking the Mesa trail to the Fern Canyon  Trail head, most of the time you will turn left when given the option except when you get onto Fern Canyon that is a right turn off of the Mesa.  Everything is really well marked with area maps and signs as you go, because of this I decided to not post the trail markers.

The Fern Canyon trail is steep, it starts out harmless enough then gets really steep and really rocky.  In some places having poles didn’t help us and we would have to just use our hands to climb up, I am going to post a series of pictures of the different parts of the Fern Canyon trail so you can see how it changes as we made our way to the summit.

Early on Fern Canyon Trail

Early on Fern Canyon Trail

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAup Fern CanyonSteep incline

Where the fire came over the ridge and close to the summit

Where the fire came over the ridge and close to the summit

Final approach to the summit

Final approach to the summit

Me at the summit

Me at the summit

When we got to the summit we actually took turns climbing up, it is climb that requires both hands and concentration.   There were a surprising number of hikers who didn’t even bother going up, they said that there is no point in going up as you can see everything good from the trail breaks.  Plus the way to Boulder peak is still closed because of the fire as is Shadow Canyon.  We had something to eat took a bunch of pictures and then headed down via Bear Canyon trail.

Bear Canyon Trail from the summit

Bear Canyon Trail from the summit

You head to the right and down from the summit climb, then you come to Shadow Canyon and the Bear Canyon trail heads as you can see the Shadow Canyon trail is still closed.  Go Right and down….

trail to bear canyon from summit

We once again put away our poles and used mostly our hands to get down, the first quarter-mile down is steep but not as steep as Fern Canyon.  Personally I feel like down is the harder part of a hike and so I wanted to take the less steep option down, this was not the norm on Saturday I have to say I was surprised.  The truth is I was the biggest person on this loop so maybe the stress of down on knees and ankles isn’t a concern to all the super healthy in shape people who passed us.  Bear Canyon is much less steep and after that first quarter-mile we made good time back to the car.  My knees ankles and feet were very thankful.

Looking back what we climbed down at the start of Bear Canyon

Looking back what we climbed down at the start of Bear Canyon Trail

The trail started leveling out and moved through more of the burn area, which was strangely beautiful with its blacks, golds and then bursts of green where the flowers were sprouting up.

trail lvling from summitOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It took us a solid 3-3:30 hours to get up the mountain and just 2 hours to get down.  It was a lovely path and after we got out of the burn area, we got whiplash from all the flowers everywhere!  We really loved this hike and were super proud of ourselves with how well we did  on it.  My legs were a little shaky at the top but quickly recovered for the hike down.  I hope you try this one out some time, it is definitely strenuous so work up to it but so worth all the effort!  After the directions I will put my favorite pictures.


From 36, take Table Mesa Drive west past Colorado 93 all the way until you get to a large parking lot for the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).

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Eldora Ski Resort

Eldora Ski Resort


kat n al

Green Mountain Boulder- Repeat hike 3/16/13

17 Mar
view at the top on 3/16/13

view at the top on 3/16/13

We had so much fun with Lauren and Anne last week and with the benefit of a surprise blizzard, their stay was unexpectedly extended which meant another day of fun for us.  That also meant no hike for us last weekend…. It hit me this week that the summer is fast approaching and our hikes need to get tougher if we want to do our first 14er so I decided that we needed a really good workout.  What I really wanted was a good butt killer and figured this weekend was a good one to revisit Green Mountain in Boulder, I had some problems in posting this one so there are 2 links to the original hike, first the specs and then the details of our assessment.  The other reason I wanted to hit this one was that the weather was calling for rain on Saturday but it had been moved to the early afternoon from first thing in the morning and a tough workout as quickly as we could manage  was in order .

We woke up extra early to make sure the hike would be mostly done before the rain which meant we were the first car in the parking lot.  I have to be honest, I was little worried that the trail would be too much for us not to mention that we  are starting to really get into spring, my Chicago brain was thinking so will this be the hike we see a bear?

Oh and the other big thing about this hike, it is exactly 1 year after we started on this journey.  Which means I needed to show my inner eater/fat girl I knew how to keep it moving for a whole year and beat the hell out of it!

We got out on the trail and started climbing right away…on ice and after like 100 yards we thought “ok time for crampons” and I kid you not, we put them on and walked just around the corner to no ice… no ice at all for like ever.  Off came the crampons, we moved onto heavy breathing and the butt workout we needed.


The view from the non icy part in the beginning

The view from the non icy part in the beginning

There was no ice until we reached the Ranger trail break, got passed by a jogger at the start of more ice  and while we slid on ice we  saw only ice in the distance.  For the second time we put on crampons, walked a 100 yards and no more ice….. although this time there was actually more ice visible not far  up ahead.  I am so glad we didn’t take them off this time because the ice really never ended the rest of way up.

All ice all the time

All ice all the time

The interesting piece of climbing this part of the trail with all this ice and snow was that the it felt so much smaller than the first time we hiked it.  I was actually looking at the edge thinking hmmm I don’t remember it being so steep and I am comfortable with heights.  I didn’t even want to think about how Aaron was feeling who is actually uncomfortable with that part of hiking.

At the end of the day the hike was awesome again, because of the forecasted weather we had this hike almost to ourselves which was perfect mostly because I could breath heavy without fear of judgement by those insanely healthy people we saw the last time.

Here are our favorite pictures from the hike:



Us at the top....it was really cold at the summit

Us at the top….it was really cold at the summit

The front range looked especially beautiful from the summit

The front range looked especially beautiful from the summit

Mesa Trail – Boulder Co Hiked 2/2/13

2 Feb
View at the start of the hike

View at the start of the hike

Bluebell Road > Mesa Trail

Starting Elevation:  5700Ft

Highest Elevation: 6482 Ft ( but the trail goes up and down the whole way like we covered  8 ascents and 9 descents, giving an overall elevation gain of 2600- ish for what we completed)  It is a great leg workout!

Trail Length:  Officially the Mesa trail is 6.7 miles from Chautauqua Park all the way south to the Southern trailhead just outside Eldorado Canyon State Park for 13.4 round trip and our goal was to do the whole trail round trip.  What we managed to hit was 5.7 one way, 11.4 miles round trip according to the map, but my fit bit said 6.5 miles.  So I am taking the middle of the road and saying we finished 12 miles today. It took us 5.50 hours 8AM-1:30PM to finish.

Trail Uses: Hiker, Running and I think horses….NO BIKES

Degree of Difficulty:  For the first time, Aaron and I cannot agree – my assessment moderate to difficult, Aaron’s = Moderate the book says easy

Bathrooms:  At each end North and South.  Otherwise this thing is insanely busy all year round so use good judgement…..unlike me

Pets:  Yes, but dogs must be either on leash or have the green tag indicating they passed the voice control test for Boulder.

Fees:  None!

View of the Front range from Bluebell Road

View of the Front range from Bluebell Road

We were feeling pretty awesome after last weeks hike and decided ambitious was the best way to jump into this weekend’s hike.  I picked this hike because it was long and while it is considered an easy trail, I think that rating is only given because if you do any one section it is easy compared to where you are going.  The Mesa Trail is the main artery along the Flat Irons of Boulder, it leads to the some of the best and hardest hikes on the front range.  It goes to Shadow Canyon, Fern Canyon, Bear Peak ( Closed due to fire damage until 7/31/13), Bear Canyon among others.  The total up and down elevation gain is around 3200 feet, which is a pretty tough butt burner, calf builder or cardio challenge.  At the end I think I counted roughly 8 ascents with 9 descents, I am wiped out!

You can pick up any portion of this trail at 3 parking lots, today we chose to go from North to South so the only choice was to start at Chautauqua Park in Boulder or the beginning ( You can also start at NCAR and the South trailhead by Eldorado Canyon).  Take Bluebell Road, directly west of the Rangers station up( South) to the Mesa Trailhead.

Hike starting point.

Hike starting point.Mesa Trailhead

Mesa Trailhead

It isn’t a killer climb until you realize it goes  on for roughly 2 miles and 700 feet in elevation.  It did warm us up super quick! In the distance of the picture above,  there is another outhouse which I thought was poorly placed since it was just over half a mile from the parking lot…. but at the end of the hike I actually ran to it.  The trail was so busy and after mooning 6 fellow hikers I was a little outdoor solution shy….. Anyway we took the left smaller trail, the right is supposed to be a butt buster up to Royal Arch but we haven’t tried it yet.  From the left, this is really the most narrow the trail will ever be.  It was often wide enough for 2 groups to pass each other easily.  As we got to the ice/mud stairs, I was feeling great thinking how awesome I was, hehe if only had a crystal ball.

The top - so easy looking

The top – so easy looking

The Bottom of the mud stairs....not so cute now
The Bottom of the mud stairs….not so cute now

The whole time I was thinking, man those stairs are going to suck on the way back if all that mess melts…it did!  The trail is so well-marked, each trail head is very well identified, as is the Mesa trail and what way is the way you want to go. I was super impressed.  We stuck to following the signs for 5.7 miles until we turned around.

NCAR entrance and trail info

NCAR entrance and trail info

This trail is interesting for so many reasons.  It is really a beautiful hike, in and out of pines, around canyons, the views East and along the front range are stunning.  It makes you want to be out there every weekend to see how it is different each day.  What makes you kinda not want to ever go there again is your fellow trail users.  At first, early in the morning everyone was sort of nice but then the later it gets the nastier your trail companions become, no courtesy or consideration for other people on the trail.  Runners are huge here, and no joke, on the way back as we were on a tough climb up, 2 runners tried to “run” us off the trail as they came down making sure that we knew their workout was more important than ours.  I was shocked and really disappointed  at how many mean or indifferent people there were after 10AM, honestly it made me not want to ever come back.

There was one more thing that made me not want to come back.  On a slow trail, finding a secluded place to “take care of business” is challenging as it is.  On a busy trail like the Mesa Trail it is almost miraculous, which is how I found myself mooning several hikers after my best efforts to find a secluded spot,  shortly before we turned around.  I am newly comfortable to peeing outside so this new hiccup was unexpected and REALLY embarrassing.  Aaron was trying to so hard to misdirect the passing hikers stares by talking to the decoy me on the opposite side of the trail but I just chose unwisely.  It did lead to a ton of laughter and trying not to make eye contact with those hikers that passed Aaron as they realized it was my butt they saw in the trees not so long ago……

This is a year round place to hike, the ice can get tough in the shade just as the mud is super tough on the sunny parts. It is worth doing at least once and honestly we will probably do it one more time to try to get to the end.

After the directions to the hike will be our favorite pictures.


From Boulder, take Baseline Road west of Broadway 1 mile to the Chautauqua Park entrance on the left hand side of the road.

From Denver, take I-25 North to HWY 36 towards Boulder. As you enter Boulder, turn left onto Baseline Road and turn left. Take Baseline Road for about 1-2 miles and Chautauqua Park will be on your left.

Goofy faces

Goofy faces

View from the turnaround point

View from the turnaround point


Mesa Trail -Chautauqua

Mesa Trail -Chautauqua

Green Mountain via Gregory Canyon Trail 11/17/12 The Assessment

20 Nov

Sorry for the double posting and duplicate seeming emails- something weird happened with the original post and almost all of it was deleted so I had to rewrite it!

The whole week before we did this hike I was pretty nervous about how hard it would be.   From everything I had read, if it was windy the trail would be tough, if it was snowing or had snowed recently the trial would be tough, if it was cold it was going to be tough and the final common theme was that the views from the top were worth all those challenges.  Oh and there was that other obvious challenge of climbing 2400FT of elevation in just 3 short miles.  It was a constant assault on my butt and legs, I am still a little sore today 3 days later.

We got there pretty early, 7:15AM and were hiking by 7:30 which gave us the good fortune of getting a parking space in the very small 8 space lot.  It gave us the chance to attack that first steep climb with little to no company, as we struggled up the trail, the CU marching band starting playing for some event  and the “we are the Champions” vibe helped give us a little extra momentum in that tough beginning.

This is a pretty heavily used trail, and it seemed like runners were the most frequent users who passed us.  Then again everyone passed us and some of them were so stealthy (or I was breathing so hard) I didn’t hear them until they were right behind us so I did squeal a few times out of shock.

The view on the east side is of Boulder and just got more beautiful as we climbed.

The trail is rocky at first and uses rocks for steps along with a wood based step.  There is a little very easy scrambling involved and for us, patience because we had to keep stopping to peel off clothes, one time we will dress perfectly for our hike.  When it levels out for a short period of time the trail gets wider, about the width of a small road.  As we got higher and came around to the West side of the trial, the views of the Indian Peaks were breathtaking (or that was the incline kicking my butt) especially with the clouds crawling over them.

The very last stretch was an easy scramble that was more like rock steps up to the summit.  It was worth every single step we took up!

This is one we will do again and again, as it seems like it will really help build our stamina and skills to attack more high elevation peaks next summer.   As I read more and more about 14ners, I know we will need to work on our ability to adapt to a lot of different conditions and be prepared to take as long as we need to finish our goal.   It seems this trail will help more than our old standby  Deer Creek Canyon did and serve as an easy go to hike that could challenge us but  is still close to home.   I honestly cannot wait to do it again!

For the specs of the trail go to that post Green Mountain Via Gregory Canyon trail – Specs and below are our favorite pictures from the hike.

Not the weekend hike we planned, repeater of Carpenters Peak-Roxborough State Park 11/4/12

4 Nov



There is a hike that is proving to be more elusive than I thought possible, I had hoped today was the day to get it done, but alas it was once again not meant to be.  This will be the 3rd time I have had to cancel it!

I knew last night when Aaron got up at 4AM not feeling well that the hike I had originally  planned was likely out.  When the alarm went off at 7, I went down to see how he was doing and while the hike I had originally planned was out for sure, he was still up for trying to a hike today.  I was shocked and pleased because I really need to keep this butt moving and motivated.  He really wasn’t feeling well so we wanted to hit something not too hard and close to home so we could come home quickly if we needed too.   So it was off to Roxborough State Park to do Carpenters Peak, which is still a nice workout but not something we would need to invest the whole day in order to complete.  The up side of our hike today was that we finished it in just 2.5 hours and in the past it would typically take us 3.5 hrs.  Unfortunately it was a really tough hike for Aaron and him not feeling well.  You can check out the hike details from my original Carpenters Peak post here.

Typically I like to get our hike in on Saturday but we did an awesome Sunset Photography class last night.  It was through REI Outdoor programs and I had no expectations, but it was a wonderful class.  They had us meet at a park in Boulder at 4PM and then we worked on technique until the sun started to set. I will admit that I barely know anything about my camera so I was a super novice in the class, the instructors were great in helping me understand the most basic functions of my camera ( like the shutter).  By the time sunset started I felt like I had learned so much and that I really was able to pull the color into the clouds:

But the best part by far was after the sun actually set and we  learned how to do light painting


I see hours of fun ahead practicing how to do this and I cannot wait to do it with my nieces and nephews!

My fingers and toes are crossed that next weekend will not lead to a 4th failed attempt at doing this now ridiculously desirable trail.