Wednesday, April 20, 2016

South Boulder Peak via Shadow Canyon

Trail Length: 6.7 miles round trip
Elevation: 5,645 ft - 8,549 ft
Elevation Gain: 3,039 ft
Critters: Mountain Blue Birds
Bathroom at Trailhead: Yes
Dogs: Off leash with OSMP voice and sight tag
Date Hiked: March 2008
Tags: #boulder, #osmp, #peak, #hiking, #coloradooutdoors

Looking north towards Green Mountain from the summit of South Boulder Peak 
Climbing to the summit of South Boulder Peak in Boulder, Colorado is an arduous adventure that is like climbing a 14er without the altitude. The lower part of the route is on dirt trails, but the last half is up the slopes of Shadow Canyon, a rock filled gorge that will require some route finding and rock scrambling skills.

Note in 2013, a small fire on the top of the peak burnt most of the trees on the summit as well as the saddle below. 

Heading up the Homestead Trail
The ascent via Shadow Canyon begins at the Eldorado Canyon/Mesa Trail trailhead. The hiker can ascend the Homestead, Towee, or Mesa Trails to the base of Shadow Canyon. This trip we chose the Homestead trail because it was a bit steeper (for maximum pain) and dogs are allowed on it off leash.

The Homestead Trail briefly intersects the Towee trail before it runs into the fire road, near the ruins of the Debacker cabin that leads Shadow Canyon. The road switch backs upwards and in its final curve to the north, dead-ends at the base of the canyon itself near the ruins of the Stockton Cabin with its large section of water pipe. This is where the trail gets interesting.

A typical trail segment in Shadow Canyon.  Narrow, rocky,  and straight up. 
From this point on, the route ascends upwards 1,620 ft in one roughly one mile. The trail is dark with pine, encrusted with boulders and scree, and poorly defined. In early spring, the trail can be covered in a mix of snow and black ice. 

There are no views per say in the canyon itself except for glimpse of the Devil’s Thumb along the right wall about a third of the way up, and of valley below from the switch backs that start about two thirds of the way up. The saddle itself is flat and covered in more Ponderosa and Lodgepole pine. 

One of the only viewpoints on the trail
From the saddle, you can go to the east and ascend and additional 281 ft in 0.3 miles to Bear Peak or head to the west and ascend an additional 369 ft in 0.2 miles to South Boulder Peak. The summit is a small scree field with lots of nooks and crannies. The views from the peak are expansive but watch out for storm clouds, which have a habit of building on top of these peaks. 

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