This trail is not for the faint of heart if you're riding a horse. Trailhead does not allow horses so don't follow the directions to this one. Mesa Trail that leads to Bear Canyon Trail is fairly easy to travel but still challenging Bear Canyon Trail has a very challenging parts and some very scary parts. Trail is incredibly beautiful though a lot of it is in the trees with great views.
We approached from Bear Canyon and descended via Fern Canyon. I would consider approaching and returning via Bear Canyon to make the hike longer, more scenic, and more moderate. Beautiful views on the back side, the stream parallels the trail much of the way and the dirt path opens onto meadows of wildflowers and the burn from 4 years back creates visual interest. Whereas the ascent/descent via Fern Canyon is steep and more technical for some.
We hiked this yesterday with our 2 dogs. Took Mesa trail to Bear Canyon up to the peak. It was a nice hike on the way up, but we took the fern canyon trail on the way down which made for a steep descent. The trail was relatively crowded (not surprising being that it's so close to Boulder), and there weren't many wildflowers because it was hot and bone dry. Overall a good workout with nice views from the summit, but not a hike I'd repeat. (Warning - the trails aren't marked well at the peak and we started coming down to shadow canyon before turning around)
This trail is no joke. I am a southerner and it was truly amazing. We don't get these kinds of views in GA. So a few pointers. Take plenty of water! It was hot and I ran out with a mile left to go. Plan to take breaks if you are out of shape. I am a moderate hiker. Can do distance but the elevation change was new to me along with altitude. So as for the scenery you get a little bit of everything.
We loved this trail! We went up fern canyon, which was strenuous but rewarding, and had beautiful views. Bear peak was spectacular, but we were swarmed with gnats. Pay attention to signs, since we didn't and had to backtrack a little to get where we wanted to go. Took bear peak west ridge to bear canyon, then back to Mesa trail to NCAR. Bear canyon was gorgeous and had lots of wild flowers. Pick a day with good weather, as this route took us all day and we were lucky to not get stuck in afternoon thunderstorms. Also bring LOTS of water. The hike up fern canyon is challenging, and a recent wildfire on bear peak west ridge means there is little shade in that section.
This was an incredible trail!!! I hiked with my love and my puppy, and although it took us over 6 hours, it was 100% worth it. The last half was really strenuous and our Florida muscles and lungs didn't appreciate it, but it was wonderful and fulfilling. The view at the top... Breathtaking.