South Boulder Peak: Training Hike #7
We had hoped to make it up Grays and Torrey’s this past weekend, but after our friend Chris had been up there last Wednesday and reported back that the trek down involved a lot of post-holing in wet, slushy, snow, we decided to hold off. South Boulder Peak is the last of the “training hikes” on my list, so we decided to give it a go. This hike is described as very strenuous. It lives up to that description.
South Boulder Peak is the third mountain in the Guardians of the Flat Irons. Our plan was to hike from the El Dorado Canyon trail head and through Shadow Canyon. We had a rough idea of what to expect because we descended this route (by accident!) on our way down from Bear Peak a few weeks back. I knew this hike would be a workout, and it was. But it was also absolutely beautiful. The area is very green and filled with butterflies and wildflowers.
From the parking lot the hike starts a nice meander on the South Mesa Trail head and over the South Boulder Creek, and then heads towards the flat irons. You bear left after the creek and the trail slowly ascends uphill. We then took the Towhee Trail which narrows and rises through a gully for about half a mile when it merges with the Homestead Trail, and then continues on as the Shadow Canyon Trail.
I believe we hit the trail at 9am, and the sun was already beating down. I couldn’t wait to make it in to the trees and get some shade. It was definitely hot!
You steadily gain elevation at this point as you head into the canyon. The below picture is looking back towards the parking lot.
The Shadow Canyon Trail joins a fairly well kept fire road and climbs almost a mile until you enter into the Shadow Canyon itself (and its glorious shade!).
This is where the work begins! The steep trail switchbacks over large boulders and rocks and fallen trees. It continues at this grade for a little over a mile, until reaching the saddle between the summits of Bear Peak and South Boulder Peak.
As you near the saddle, you enter in to a wildfire burn area from 2012. This is such a beautiful landscape. The blackened and charred trees stand tall against the blue sky, as green plants and flowers line the forest floor. I think I actually said “wow” out loud several times.
Once we reached the saddle, the trail flattened a bit. This is a great place to take a breather and enjoy the scenery.
The route to the summit of South Boulder Peak from this point is not totally clear, but you will eventually come to the giant boulders that make up the scramble to the summit. The larger boulders are stable, but the smaller rocks between them are not. You need to be careful with your steps as you climb the loose scree. Unlike the summit of Bear Peak, the summit of South Boulder Peak is more spread out and there is more space for people to maneuver up and down. There is plenty of room to find a spot to sit down and rest. There also seemed to be fewer bugs than we encountered on Bear Peak, but I’m not sure if that had to do with the peak or the mucky humid weather that day.
This is an out and back trail, so we descended the same route we came up on. I put the camera away for the descent to allow for better balance. We knew we were running from the rain and made it out of the rocky area and on the trail back to the car before it started sprinkling. This is one mountain you don’t want to be on in rain. It would be extremely dangerous in lightening, and descending on the wet rocks would not be fun. There were people going up to the summit as the thunder began which is never a good idea.
I will definitely be doing this hike again and it was Andy’s favorite of all of the trainers. Its nice that it only takes us 25 minutes to get to the trail head from our house and we can do the whole thing in a little over half a day.
South Boulder Peak
Start Elevation: 5645ft
End Elevation: 8549ft
Round Trip Mileage: 6.7
Gain: 2904 net elevation gain (3039 total roundtrip elevation gain) in 3.35 miles (907ft/1mile)