South Boulder Peak via Shadow Canyon
UPDATE: This trail was re-opened on June 7, 2013 nearly after a year’s closure due to the Flagstaff fire.
Distance: 3.35 miles
Average Grade: 16.5%
Description: Some may disagree with on the choice of this hike as #3 as opposed to maybe #2. South Boulder Peak is the highest mountain in the Boulder OSMP. The approach up Shadow Canyon feels as relentless as it does remote and the views of Eldorado Canyon to the south, both from Shadow and the summit of South Boulder, are pretty amazing by local standards.
So this hike scores highly both on the epic scale and as good training but also suffers from a number of accessibility inconveniences. Unless you are a resident of Boulder County and have acquired the appropriate permit, there is a $5 fee for parking at the South Mesa trailhead. The hike is also the longest on this list with much of that distance being a scenic but fairly easy approach to the bottom of Shadow, where the vertical fun begins. Basically, it’s difficult to knock this one out after work unless you can run it (and I hate running) or don’t mind coming down in the dark.
That said, while the trailhead itself is very popular, South Boulder itself is not so much, mostly due to the reasons mentioned above. So if dodging the crowds is your thing, this is your hike. Make sure to consult or better yet bring along the official OSMP trail map as there are numerous junctions and spurs of the Mesa trail to navigate on your way to Shadow.
Trailhead & Parking: $5 per car for non-Boulder County residents (or you can purchase an annual pass for $25) at the South Mesa trailhead. Boulder Country residents are free as long as you have obtained the annual pass from OSMP. If you don’t mind an even longer and more boring approach, you can park free at the South Boulder Creek West trailhead, just watch you don’t step in none of them cow patties along the way.