Shadow Canyon to South Boulder Peak, South Mesa Trailhead, Boulder - Denver - Golden - Fort Collins - Lyons, Colorado
Shadow Canyon to South Boulder Peak - 6.7 miles
South Mesa Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||6.7 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||5,645'- 8,549' (8,549' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+2,904' net elevation gain (+3,039' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Shadow Canyon to South Boulder Peak - 6.7 Miles Round-Trip
South Boulder Peak (8,549') is located 3.35 miles from South Mesa Trailhead via Shadow Canyon. This direct but strenuous route rises steadily through the foothills before splitting off on a rugged climb to the saddle between South Boulder Peak and Bear Peak. A short, fire-scarred trail continues south to the summit with panoramic views across the Eastern Plains and Continental Divide.
There are several ways to reach Shadow Canyon - the following description follows the Towhee and Homestead Trails to Shadow Canyon, chosen for its varied terrain and lighter use:
From the South Mesa Trailhead, cross South Boulder Creek and bear left on the Towhee Trail (.1 mile). The Towhee Trail rises steadily through open slopes for .5 miles, then narrows in a brushy gully beside a small stream.
The Towhee Trail merges with the Homestead Trail at 1.15 miles, keeps right and continues on as the Shadow Canyon Trail. The Shadow Canyon Trail joins a fire road at 1.35 miles (6,275') - the first of three access points to the Mesa Trail.
Turn left on the groomed fire road, which climbs another .7 miles to the last Mesa Trail access point and into Shadow Canyon (2.1 miles : 6,582').
Here the trail grows markedly steeper, climbing 1967' in just 1.25 miles to the summit. The trail twists quickly on a faint path through large boulders and mature mixed pine. Use sign posts on trees for guidance. Though views are limited, the forest itself is quite pleasant.
Grades moderate up to the Shadow Canyon Trail - Bear Peak W. Ridge Trail split (3.0 miles : 8,155'). The area is badly scarred with a skeletal feel from the 2012 fire, but recovery is under way as ground vegetation anchors in to slow eroision. Turn left (south) for the last .35 mile, 395' push to the summit.
The final 100 yards run up steep and loose scree. South Boulder Peak (3.35 miles : 8,549') is small and pointed, but with ample room to maneuver. Views stretch across Walker Ranch to the Vazquez Peaks, James Peak Wilderness, Indian Peaks and Rocky Mountain National Park.
- N39 56.326 W105 15.493 — South Mesa Trailhead
- N39 56.560 W105 15.906 — Traveling west on the Towhee Trail
- N39 56.763 W105 17.220 — 3rd Mesa Trail junction; begin travel up Shadow Canyon
- N39 56.847 W105 17.319 — Shadow Canyon 1
- N39 57.124 W105 17.606 — Sahdow Canyon 2
- N39 57.404 W105 17.834 — Shadow Canyon - Bear Peak West Ridge junction (saddle)
- N39 57.281 W105 17.915 — Approach to summit
- N39 57.215 W105 17.967 — South Boulder Peak Summit
- Bear Peak is only .4 miles north from the Shadow Canyon Trail - Bear Peak West Ridge Trail junction.
- Note that several spurs stray off the main trail route during the first 2 miles.
- Parking lots fill up quickly throughout the year, especially on weekends; arrive early to secure a space. Parking restrictions on Eldorado Springs Road are strictly enforced.
Rules and Regulations
- There's a $5 parking fee at South Mesa Trailhead for cars not registered in Boulder County.
- Dogs must be on a hand-held leash at all times unless they meet voice and sight control requirements, and on trail segments where specifically indicated (irrespective of tags).
- This trail runs adjacent to Habitat Conservation space. Travel is prohibited across these well-marked boundaries.
Directions to Trailhead
The South Mesa Trailhead is located 1.8 miles west of Highway 93 on Eldorado Springs Drive (Highway 170) in south Boulder.
From Boulder, take Broadway South which will turn into HWY 93. Go for 2.6 miles on HWY 93 and take a right onto Eldorado Springs Drive / HWY 170. There will be a gas station at the corner. Follow Eldorado Springs Drive / HWY 170 for 1.8 miles towards Eldorado Canyon State Park and look for the parking area on the right hand side of the street.
City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks