Tag Archives: United States

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.

Directions:

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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Boulder

Boulder

Eldora Ski Resort

Eldora Ski Resort

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kat n al

Ben Tyler Trail #606-Pike National forest. 2nd attempt failed- 5/11/13

12 May
The view of our destination from the beginning

The view of our destination from the beginning

When we kind of stubbornly decided we were going to do Ben Tyler Trail (hike details here) this weekend, I knew deep down there was no way in hell we would make it to the top……. AGAIN.  It is really close to Kenosha Pass and one of the areas that probably got 4-5 feet of snow over the last month and then this week we had rain all week which meant snow storms up high, but still we got up insanely early and headed out to this trail.

A little closer the curve of the mountain to the middle right is where we are trying to get to.

A little closer the curve of the mountain to the middle right is where we are trying to get to.

At the beginning of the hike we were really optimistic, the trail conditions were straight up awesome and the weather was perfect.  I mean check out that sky, have you ever seen a more perfect color blue!

No gators yet

No gators yet

About a mile or so in, the snow really was taking over and we were trying to not comment about how deep it was starting to get.  There was only one other set of foot prints in front of us and honestly we were really hoping it was someone who had made it to the top.   We saw him jogging down not long before we crossed the stream for the first time and we were so excited he was actually there today (and not the day before) that we forgot to ask how far up he made it.

Crossing the creek

Crossing the creek

It wasn’t too far after this that we saw where the runner turned around, headed back and then we realized that it was time for gators.  I picked up some new ones at a great price and I am so glad they arrived before this hike because I needed them today.

Gator time

Gator time

Snow is getting higher

Snow is getting higher

At least the views made the snow not such a big deal

At least the views made the snow not such a big deal

We honestly didn’t take that many pictures and when we did, these are all with my iPhone or our Olympus tough camera not our canon, but the day was so beautiful I think it would have been hard to take a bad picture.

iPhone - Aaron's favorite from the hike

iPhone – Aaron’s favorite from the hike

After we saw where the runner turned around, it was just us blazing the trail through the snow.  Which we love but man was it a workout, first a foot, then 2 and 3 when finally we got to the trail marker around 10,000 feet up.

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We were huffing and puffing all through here still feeling good so we continued forward although we knew that it was unlikely we could get all that much further. It was actually getting warmer, the snow was getting deeper and more unstable yet we still had hope that we might make it up a little higher or that the snow would be a little less but finally we had to admit….the snow was too much.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAsnow is deep

Before we took these pictures, Aaron slid down almost to his waist, for like a second we wanted to try to go further and try too hard to make it to the top.  But the clouds were really moving in and the reality that the snow was not going down at all hit us.  We turned around and started heading back, as I have begun to learn going down is not as easy as I once thought it was, the temperature had started raising and the snow was melting pretty quickly.  Only from the bottom up or so it seemed, the stress to our knees was intense.

the way back is not so great

the way back is not so great

The hardest part of heading down before we wanted too, was that the clouds almost disappeared and the sky turned this intense amazing blue that made us wish we hadn’t turned around ( even though it was the right decision) because the views on a day like yesterday would have been unbelievable.  I cannot wait to make it to the top one day and we will!

Seriously blue with my iPhone no less

Seriously blue with my iPhone no less

I feel like I had never seen this color blue in nature until I moved here and now I cannot get enough.

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In the end we managed to get to a little over 8 miles of hiking with a total elevation gain of 1700ft but it took us 5 hours round trip. One stupid feeling of awesomeness hit us on the way back, there was another pair of foot prints in the snow that suddenly appeared but they turned around at least half a mile or more before we did.  We got to the parking lot as they were finishing up their de-clothing post hike ritual, 2 guys younger and in better shape than us the look on their faces when they realized we went further than them was priceless.  We could almost read their lips “like seriously they beat us”, it felt crazy great!

We just loved the views too much and our favorite pictures got out of control so forgive me.

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