View of South Boulder Peak from Bear Peak Near Boulder Colorado

South Boulder Peak

South Boulder Peak is a demanding 3.7-mile hike (one-way) situated above the South Mesa in the famous Flatirons region near Boulder Colorado. Hikers can bag nearby Bear Peak on the same trip and return via Fern Canyon to make an 8.7 mile loop. Explore the full South Bolder Peak hike profile below for the trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure near Boulder, Colorado.

South Boulder Peak Trail Snapshot

Parking & Trailhead Information for South Boulder Peak

Sign at South Mesa Trailhead South of Boulder Colorado with Parking Fees

The trail to South Boulder Peak begins at the South Mesa Trailhead off of Eldorado Springs Drive just South of Boulder, Colorado. From Denver, drive North on interstate 25 to 36 toward Boulder. Take the McCaslin Blvd exit and then go South/West onto McCaslin. At the intersection of McCaslin and Marshall, take a right onto Marshall Road. Marshall will eventually intersect with Eldorado Springs Drive. Take a left onto Eldorado Springs Drive. About two miles down the road, you'll find the South Mesa Trailhead on the right. The South Mesa Trailhead is a part of the Boulder County Open Space and requires a daily parking fee, or an annual pass. I went online and bought an annual parking pass through the Open Space website. This gives you access to all the southern fee parking areas as well as the parking areas on Flagstaff Mountain. There are restrooms at the trailhead but not potable water.

The Hike: South Boulder Peak

If you study a map of the South Mesa area, you'll notice that it's a complex network of trails. Tis is great for exploring the mesa, but when summiting a peak, you'll want to preserve as much energy as possible by taking the most direct route. The first trail choice presents itself after crossing the bridge over small bridge that spans Boulder Creek.
Boulder Creek at South Mesa Trailhead with willow trees arching over the creek

We took the Homestead Trail, a 1.3 mile segment to a connector segment of the Mesa Trail. It will be marked "Mesa Trail" and have an arrow pointing left to the Shadow Canyon Trail and Right to the Towhee Trail. The way to South Boulder Peak will be to head left toward Shadow Canyon. During this first segment, you'll gain great views down into the entrance of Eldorado Canyon .

sunrise view from south mesa into eldorado canyon pink rock and green rolling meadows

The first 0.4-mile segment of the Shadow Canyon South Trail is gradual. At any of the other trail intersections keep taking those marked "Shadow Canyon." Eventually, the trail leads into a densely wooded ravine where an old cabin is tucked away in the undergrowth

old cabin in shadow canyon on the way up to bear peak near boulder colorado

You'll know when you've entered Shadow Canyon because the trail becomes steep and demanding. It's more humid, too, so the rock can get slippery. Be mindful of your steps and prepared to ascend over a mile of fairly rugged terrain.

sign for trail split shadow canyon to bear peak and wildflowers in foreground

Shadow canyon is an access point for a prominent rock formation, Devils Thumb. Seasonal closures (see photo below) protect nesting raptors. Be sure to stay out of this area from Feb. 1st to July 31st. The Shadow Canyon Trail is not closed during this time, but refrain from going off-trail or taking social trails in the closure area during these periods.

devils thumb along shadow canyon trail with closure sign at bottom left of photo

The trail pops out of the canyon onto saddle between South Boulder Peak and Bear Peak. The first thing you'll notice is a burn area that stretches all the way to the top of South Boulder Peak. It's the result of the 2012 Flagstaff fire.

burn area on saddle above shadow canyon and below south boulder peak

At the saddle ridge, another trail sign notes the way to South Boulder Peak, a 0.3 mile trail climbs to the summit. You'll notice that the trail to the right leads the same distance to Bear Peak.

sign for trail split on saddle between bear peak and south boulder peak

At points, the trail becomes difficult to discern and requires a little bit of bouldering to make it to the top. Whenever I'm in these rocky segments, I try to be mindful of those behind me. It's easy to inadvertently cause a rock to shift and tumble toward the hikers below. Most of the rock is stable, but it's smart to be aware as you navigate these kinds of areas.

view along approach to south boulder peak summit to the Northwest with Longs Peak mountain in distance

The pink granite summit offers 360 degree panoramic views (see the video below).

view out to front range mountains near indian peaks from the summit of South boulder peak

You can also see the summit of Bear Peak just 0.6-mile to the Northeast. If you want to summit Bear Peak, be sure to review our Bear Peak Hike Profile.

Rocky Trail between South Boulder Peak and Bear Peak

From the summit of South Boulder Peak your options are to 1) Descend via the approach route (7.4 miles round trip), 2) Summit Bear Peak and return via the approach route (8 miles total), or 3) Summit Bear Peak and return via Fern Canyon (approx. 8.7 miles). It's important to know that the descent into Fern Canyon is more demanding than the return via Shadow Canyon. For the loop route via Fern Canyon, explore our Bear Peak Trail Profile.

Tips & Resources for Hiking to South Boulder Peak

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old sawmill ruins at meyer homestead in boulder colorado

Meyers Homestead Hike in Walker Ranch

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The Meyers Homestead Hike located in Walker Ranch is an almost perfect family hike near Boulder, Colorado. This 5.2-mile out-and-back hike travels through Meyers Gulch, past the remnants of a historic homestead, to an overlook offering panoramic views of Boulder Canyon and the snowcapped mountains of Indian Peaks. It's a wide trail through meadows, stands of aspen, and punctuated by ponderosa pine and wildflowers. Explore the full Meyers Homestead hike profileRead more


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Mohawk Lakes Hike Near Breckenridge

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Mohawk Lakes are situated in the mountains south of Breckenridge, Colorado. Less than a 2-hour drive from Denver, this moderately demanding hike leads through pine and aspen forest, along a mountain stream, to a beautiful waterfall spilling over granite slabs. Breaking out above treeline at mile 3, hikers will arrive at Lower Mohawk Lake, and a bit further up the trail, can take in spectacular views of the neighboring mountain ranges at Upper Mohawk Lake. Explore the full Mohawk Lakes hike profileRead more


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Continental Falls Hike Near Breckenridge

[twocol_one]Continental Falls crashes through cracks in the granite sides of the mountains near Breckenridge Colorado. It's a moderate 2.5 mile uphill hike to the base of the waterfall. The 1000+ feet of elevation gain require some bodily exertion, but it's worth the effort. Located on the eastern slopes of the Mosquito Range, waterfall finds its source in the high mountain Mohawk Lakes as they spill out into Spruce Creek and make their way down the mountainside. The trail boasts spectacular mountain views, lakes, and the ruins of an old mining operation. Explore the full Continental Falls hike profileRead more


Lost Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

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The hike to Lost Falls is a demanding 15.6 mile trek into into a lesser traveled, northern reaches of Rocky Mountain National Park. The trail follows the North Fork of the Big Thompson River through stands of lodgepole, the pinch of a rugged canyon, and past aspen laden meadows before reaching this hidden waterfall. Explore the full Lost Falls hike profileRead more


Georgetown Railroad Hike & Train Ride

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After the hike, I asked our 7 year-old daughter what she thought of it. Her reply said it all, “Dad, it was awesome!” Here favorite parts were the fairy pond, a small, moss-rimmed pool probably created by miners long ago to hold drinking water, and the gleaming minerals in the rocks she picked up along the trail. I enjoyed the history and stories told by our guide, Kelsey, who had a particular love for the town and people of Georgetown and Silver Plume. This not your typical Dayhike Near Denver because it's actually a guided historic tour meets hike, plus a train ride on a vintage train back to the trailhead. Read below for all the details for this reservation-required hiking tour.
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The Georgetown Railroad hike is a one-of-a-kind guided hike through the clear creek valley, a landscape decorated by the rich history of the Colorado Gold Rush of 1859. If you take just a moment to scan the mountainsides along interstate 70, you'll notice the yellow-stained tailings of abandoned gold mines. This hike takes you right through the very heart of that forgotten territory. We got to take a sneak-peek of the trail before it opened, so I brought our 7 year old daughter with me for our date-night, and she loved it.

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The hike begins in Silver Plume, Colorado at the historical railroad station and museum. On the hike you'll have one to two guides who accompany your party. Groups are typically about 10 hikers. The hike begins on a nondescript gravel road, but soon enters an old, overgrown cemetery. From the graveyard, the trail descends into a healthy stand of lodgepole pines. We could see mist in the valley below, and the sound of the train in the distance. Though the sounds of interstate 70 are not far away, it's like stepping back in time. The hummingbirds zooming past us, and the rapids of Clear Creek below us brought the valley alive.
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The best sounds, however, came from the steam train in the valley below. Kids will love this. It's a unique experience to be on a hike, then to watch a train pass in front of you, below you, and even above you on the tracks. And it creates anticipation of the train ride back.

The hike itself is quite easy and could be done in about 45 minutes--if it was all about speed. But the destination for the Georgetown Railroad hike is the entire journey. Our tour guide pointed out old claim markers from the 1800's, the remains of mining equipment, barrels, and tin buckets tucked away in the woods. She told stories, and showed us things we would have missed just hiking through. At roughly halfway through the hike, you'll stop for lunch (lunch is provided) in a grove of aspens that has a great story of its own. Keep your eyes peeled for the foxes and deer that frequent this part of the valley floor.
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My daughter was captivated by the gleaming biotite and muscovite in the rocks alongside the trail. Our guide picked some special ones out for her to take home. After lunch, you'll hike by the Hall Tunnel, and the old Lebanon mine. Crossing the tracks, then following inactive segments, you'll make your way down into Georgetown. The trail leads under the the Devil's Gate High Bridge and ends at the Devil's Gate Station--named such because of the way the wind howls through this part of the valley.

Just when you think the fun is over, you get a 30-45 minute train ride back to your car in Silver Plume.

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Tips & Resources for the Georgetown Railroad Hike & Train Ride:

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  • Call Ahead to book Your Hiking Tour: 1-888-456-6777
  • Great for Kids: I would guess that the youngest age to take on this hike would be 6 years old, but it really depends on the child. Our daughter is pretty rough-and-tumble. The pace is right, and their are a lot of things to keep their attention.
  • Supervise Kids on the Tracks: Kids will want to run fast down the railroad tracks, but the ties prove to be pretty uneven ground. Our 7 year old daughter tripped and got a little scrape on her knee, but was fine. Your guide will give you safety tips, but they will also be very engaged in giving you the tour.
  • Restrooms: There are restrooms about 1/2 way through the hike at the Lebanon mine site.
  • It's a Hike: I'd classify this as an easy hike, but there are some segments where the trail is steep and runs through soft gravel, where it's easy to slip. While it's a guided tour, it's not a bike path--it's still a hike.
  • Footwear: Wear close-toed shoes. Boots are not necessary, but I'd recommend something that laces up.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: The Alpine Restaurant & Bar in Georgetown

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Map & Driving Directions


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Elk Range Trail at Centennial Cone Park

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or those who are looking for a nice hike that incorporates the highland meadows of Colorado and views to snowcapped mountains, then the Elk Range Trail at Centennial Cone Park is the perfect hike. The Elk Range Trail can be hiked as an out-and-back 6.6 mile adventure, starting from one of two different trailheads. We saw a lot of wildlife and few people. Explore the full trail profile below for trail details, Centennial Cone park map, driving directions, and more.[/twocol_one] [twocol_one_last]
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Centennial Cone Hike 01Looking East towards Centennial Cone

Elk Range Trail at Centennial Cone Profile

For a high country hike the elevation gains and descents are very gentle, and the inclines are not difficult. Centennial Cone Park is about 10 miles west of Golden, Colorado, and feels like a backcountry trail in many ways.

You have two trailhead options when taking the 6.6 mile Elk Range Trail.The driving directions link above are for the Centennial Cone Road trailhead. A North Centennial Cone Park Trailhead has equestrian trailer parking and can be located at this link. Our trail profile here describes the trail hiking from West to East.

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From the Centennial Cone trailhead, you immediately find yourself surrounded by green open fields. At about half a mile in you'll encounter a fence with a gate. When you walk through the gate, you'll be on private property for a few hundred yards. Jefferson County parks has some sort of easement, so continue your hike but stay on the trail, until you get to the other gate. There are horses and cows that wander about the area without fences, so they may be on the trail when you arrive. Another reason to be sure that the gates close behind you.
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Centennial Cone Hike 02

Hiking along the Elk Range Trail, I couldn't help wondering, "Can you hike up to the top of Centennial Cone?" There is no trail on the map but there appears to be the vestiges of an old road or trail leading up the North end of Centennial Cone. Because I haven't hiked it yet, I can't recommend it, but the old trail can be found just before the trail enters private property. Where the trail bends just before the gate, you can follow a set of what look to be markers for an underground gas line. These lead up to the trail at the base of Centennial Cone. This is as far as I explored, and hope to get back to attempt a hike to the top of the cone.

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It's important to know that on the weekends the trail alternates from hiker-only to biker-only. Here's how to keep track of it: Odd days are hiker only and even days are bikes only.The weekdays are open to both hikers and mountain bikers.The park is closed during certain days for hunting season. You can get the exact closure dates from the Centennial Cone page of Jefferson County's opens space site.

If you've started from the Centennial Cone Road trailhead and would like a pleasant and beautiful drive home, take Highway 6 through Clear Creek canyon, and into Golden.

more dog friendly hikes

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Tips & Resources for Hiking the Elk Range Trail:

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  • Mud: The Elk Range Trail can be a bit muddy after a good rain. You'll want to bring appropriate gear if you're planning a hike after a storm for a good day or two, including sturdy shoes.
  • Storms: The Elk Range Trail is at a high enough altitude that you'll want to keep an eye out for thunderstorms. There is very little cover on this trail, so check the weather report before heading out as well.
  • After the Hike: Cafe13 in Golden
  • Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Trail Map for Centennial Cone Park: Trail Map Link
sunset over colorado front range from castle ruins at mount falcon

Mount Falcon - Castle & Tower Hike

A hike to castle ruins in Colorado? Yep. Throw in a lookout tower, great view of Denver, of Red Rocks, and of the mountains, and you've got some of the highlights of the Mount Falcon Trail. The trailhead is nestled in a community in the foothills just about 40 minutes from Denver. Here we detail a 2.3 mile loop trail that hits all the destinations.

Trail Snapshot: Mount Falcon Castle & Tower Hike

Mt. Falcon Loop Hike

Mount Falcon features several trails. By combining a few, you can create a 2.3 mile loop and take in several historic sites as well as breathtaking views of Denver, Red Rocks, and the Front Range. This is makes it one of the best hikes close to Denver for visiting friends and family. Because it is an easy hike and has a relatively flat and wide trail, you can take the jogging stroller on this one, too. If you are looking for more great trails for your family, be sure to check out our Kid Friendly Trails Near Denver and our recommended Colorado Hikes for Visiting Friends and Family pages. If hiking with kids, be sure to access it via the West Trailhead as described in this post. Map apps and other sites may take you to the very demanding east trailhead, which is very exposed to the sun and has heavy mountain bike traffic.
Denver View From Mount Falcon

The Loop Trail Sequence:Start at the parking lot off of Mt. Falcon Road, and when you come to a fork in the trail, take the Tower Trail to your right. Soon you'll pass the Eagle Eye Shelter which offers great views towards Mount Evans and the surrounding foothills. Stay on the Tower Trail until you get to the Fire Tower which commands a panoramic view of Denver, Red Rocks, and more of the Front Range of Colorado.

Then continue on the Tower Trail until it intersects with the Meadow Trail. Take the Meadow Trail North/Left for about .3 miles. It will end at the Castle Trail - take a left. The Castle Trail will lead you back to the parking lot, but don't head back until you stop at the ruins of the old Walker Home. The views from here are beautiful as well.

hiking near sundown with dog and baby at mount falcon hike near denver

Tips & Resources for Hiking Mt. Falcon:

Rattlesnake Gulch Trail at Eldorado State Park

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he Rattlesnake Gulch trail takes you up the sides of Eldorado Canyon, one of Colorado's historic State Parks. This lollipop trail takes you past the ruins of the Crags Hotel, then on to gain views of the Continental Divide. Scroll down to look over the trail snapshot, then explore the trail details and tips below for this rewarding hike in Eldorado Canyon State Park.
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If your legs are ready to gain some quick elevation
to some rewarding views, the Rattlesnake Gulch trail will give you just that. This trail starts at the west trailhead of the Fowler Trail about 1/2 a mile into Eldorado Canyon. The hike first takes you about 1.2 miles to the site of the Crags Hotel. The hotel was built in 1908 and visitors could reach it by taking an incline railroad and by an old wagon trail. In 1912, the hotel burnt to the ground, and just a few ruins remain. The parks department has put up interpretive signs to give you an idea of what the site was like in the early 1900's.

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If you continue past the Crags Hotel site, you can add on an additional 1.4 miles by hiking the Rattlesnake Gulch Loop. A spur along the trail takes you to the Continental Divide overlook, where you can look out to the plains and towards a few peaks to the west. If you don't want to hike the entire loop, but you want to catch the view from the overlook, take the trail to the right after the hotel site and hike about 10 more minutes. See the map link above for the exact location of the spur that leads to the overlook.
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The picture above is looking northeast towards the Cadillac Rock area. If you take a pair of binoculars, scan the formation for rock-climbers. Eldorado Canyon makes for some great Denver area hiking. It's one of those places with so many unique features, that you'll find yourself drawn back there time and time again.
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Tips & Resources for Hiking the Rattlesnake Gulch Trail at Eldorado State Park:

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  • Exact Trail Length: Exact trail lengths are approximate until we can GPS this one. We've noticed discrepancies on maps and reports. So, be sure to add some buffer time on to this hike.
  • Parking: Parking fills up fast at Eldorado Canyon. So, we suggest you go early in the day, or as the crowds are filtering out of the park in the late afternoon. As well, you'll find weekdays less crowed. Eldorado Canyon is open from sunrise to sunset year round.
  • Directions: Use the driving directions on this page. They will lead you to the nearest parking area to the Rattlesnake Gulch Trailhead.
  • Fee: There is an $8 parking fee per car or you can use your Colorado State Parks Annual Pass
  • Trail Map for Eldorado Canyon State Park: Trail Map Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Boxcar Coffee Roasters in Boulder

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Map & Driving Directions


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Forgotten Valley Hike at Golden Gate State Park

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an you think of a more mysterious name for a hike? Colorado's Golden Gate State Park has many trails, and the Forgotten Valley is a great place to start discovering this gem that is tucked between Golden and Boulder, Colorado. Get all the details on hiking the Forgotten Valley by scrolling down to the hike snapshot and hiking tips below.Read more