Shadow Canyon, South Boulder Peak

Shadow Canyon proper is relatively short, only 1.1 miles from the beginning of the trail near the shingle shack to the saddle. But in that distance it rises over 1500 feet, giving an average incline of 15 degrees over the entire trail. That's about half the incline of a normal flight of stairs. But remember, this "stairway" is over a mile long. And 15 degrees is the average - it is steeper in parts, a little easier in others. This ain't no Sunday afternoon meadow-walk!

The Shadow Canyon trail is generally quite steep, and it is as varied as any trail can be, smooth, open and easy to navigate in some places, difficult to maneuver or even see in others. It is not used much, nor well kept. But that's half the kicks as far as I'm concerned.

A good technique when in doubt about the trail is this: Stand there. Look around. You know generally which direction you want to go. Up. Not down (behind you), and not off to the sides. Up. Scan the area ahead of you and just off to either side. Which way looks "easiest"? Where would someone else have gone? Climbing up over that huge boulder? I don't think so. Through that thick tangle of vines just ahead - prolly not. But just over there - yeah, that looks doable - I can do that! Do it. Then turn around and look back. You should see a trail! Almost always, and I know not why, it is much easier to see the trail looking back than looking foreward! I discovered this by accident, and it has since been pointed out to me by other hikers.

As you enter Shadow Canyon, you will see that it is well deserving of it's name. It can be quite dark in places, especially with overcast skies or if late in the day. Huge boulders and rocks of all sizes and goofy shapes are everywhere, some off-trail, some right on it so you have to maneuver around them. These, along with the thick tall woods, create patches of shadows and shapes all over, giving the whole place a creepy surreal look; sometimes it can be downright spooky.

As smooth as it gets
There are a few places where someone (Jeffco Open Spaces Park Service?) has tried to make things a little easier

You will be walking over loose rocks most of the time. This is a serious potential ankle-breaker. All the way. You want good hiking shoes / boots, and you want to be sure-footed. Parts of the trail are relatively flat or with only modest incline; other parts are more like climbing than hiking. It is a serious workout. All the way.

I would not recommend this
for a night hike,
but it has been done ...

Proceding along the trail then, you will be treated with a real Magical Mystery Tour. Thick tall woods, trees and wildflowers of all kinds, rocks and boulders everywhere, in all sizes from pebbles to houses, and in shapes you wouldn't think possible.

The entire canyon has an enticing surreal look to it, and you may find yourself exploring as much as hiking. You may be tempted to break off trail to check out this or that off to one side. Don't. Unless you really are sure of yourself. I made that mistake twice and couldn't find the trail again.

Cool views occasionally break through the the creepy canyon forest.

Occasionally you will be able to see thru the trees and catch a glimpse of the Bear Peak ridge to the right, and less visible is the South Boulder Peak ridge on the left.

Rocks from lower Bear Peak ridge
stare down at you

This rock is known as the Pyramid, and is also a climbers rock.
It is just down (South) of Devils Thumb on the Bear Peak ridge.
We will see them both again later.

About half way through the canyon, just past a huge house-sized block boulder in the middle of the trail, look to your right. Through the trees you will see your ancient friend again, Devil's Thumb. It is quite enormous actually, looking much different than the little protrusion on the mountain that you see from Route 93 on the way to Boulder.

When you see this you are about 2/3 of the way up Shadow Canyon, 2.8 miles into the hike, and about 1500 feet above the trailhead.
Experienced climbers hike up that scree field to climb the rock.

Devils Thumb.
An ancient friend
is seen again.

Just after Devils Thumb the canyon noticeably "opens up". The sky looks closer and brighter, the trees are shorter and thinner, and it becomes much more pleasant in general, except for the fact that the steepest parts are just ahead.

Near the top of Shadow Canyon, at a sharp switchback turn very near the saddle, you will pass this rather unimpressive rock on your right. It is easy to walk right by and not notice it. (I did that on my first hike here). After all, Shadow Canyon is full of boulders like this and they get boring after a while. But something about it caught my eye, specifically, the location of it.
If you have any experience bouldering, scrambling or climbing it is very easy to hop up on top of it. If you are not so experienced, be careful! You can't see from the picture, but trust me. If you slip and fall the wrong way you will ...... wish you hadn't.

Perched on this rock you will be looking down on all of Shadow Canyon, with awesome views of both the South Boulder and Bear Peak ridges. (Don't do this if you are afraid of heights ...)

Lookout Rock
It is 2200 feet above the trailhead,
and 200 feet below the saddle.
Some trees are in the way of the view
right in front, but you can easily
see around or through them.
Unique view of Devils Thumb and the Pyramid from Lookout Rock.

Awesome view of the massive Bear Peak ridge from Lookout Rock.
Looking a little to the right, part of South Boulder Peak ridge is seen from Lookout Rock. And just behind it is Eldorado mountain.

Looking strait out from Lookout Rock, kinda South-Eastish. I would like to cut that tree down.

Zoom shot of the Pyramid
from Lookout Rock.

Zoom shot of Devils Thumb
from Lookout Rock.

Continuing past Lookout Rock, the trail rapidly opens up as you approach the saddle.

Where's the trail !?