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Length: 4.1 miles round-trip
Trailhead: Shanahan Ridge Connector (39.96727, -105.25862)
Why we love it: Up-close views of the Flatirons paired with rolling wooded sections make this a magical winter adventure that’s just 35 minutes from Denver.
Pre-hike fuel: Grab a hot chai and slice of house-made sour cream coffee cake at South Side Walnut Cafe, a longtime favorite brunch spot among Boulder locals.
Post-hike buzz: Sidle up to the bar at Southern Sun Pub & Brewery for local suds—February is beloved Stout Month—and a bowl of vegan chili and grilled cheese sammie on Texas toast.
Shanahan Ridge is highly trafficked in warm weather, but the crowds thin out come winter. That solitude sets the stage for a truly majestic winter trek complete with unobstructed views of Boulder’s iconic Flatiron mountains and serene stretches where you’re immersed in a ponderosa forest, hearing only the sounds of your foot falls. For best snowshoeing conditions, go as soon as you can after a storm. If it’s been several days since the last snow, the trail should be packed down enough for simple traction devices and waterproof hiking boots.
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From the trailhead, immediately ascend a short, steep hill that opens up to a pinch-me mountain panorama. Continue west (toward the mountains) to intersect the North Fork Shanahan Trail, roughly 0.3 mile from the start. Negotiate the gentle terrain, weaving among a spotty ponderosa forest to a T-junction near mile 0.6. Split hiker’s left (west), following the North Fork Shanahan Trail roughly 0.8 mile up the flank of 8,459-foot Bear Peak, one of the major high points in the Boulder skyline, to a major, four-way intersection. Turn left (south) to pick up the Mesa Trail. (Bear is too steep for snowshoes, but this trip on its lower slopes is perfect for them.)
Over the next 0.7 mile, meander through dense woods on snow-covered singletrack that crosses a small stream and eventually opens up to a meadow with in-your-face vistas of the more southern Flatirons. At the next fork, veer left onto the South Fork Shanahan Trail, which winds downhill through a thinning forest. After about 0.7 mile, pick up the Shanahan Connecter Trail to close the loop portion of this lollipop route. Rejoin the North Fork Shanahan Trail, which you started on, and retrace your steps to your vehicle.
Getting there: From Denver, follow I-25 north to U.S. 36 west, and continue for 18 miles. Take the exit toward Table Mesa Drive, and turn left at the light onto South Boulder Road. Continue for about 1.6 miles, then turn left onto Lehigh Street. Continue for about a mile; the trailhead is on your right. Park along the street where signage allows.
Before you go: Always check winter conditions, including the local avalanche report and weather. It’s OK (and fun!) to hike in snow, but wind can make your outing miserable. Gusts up to 20 mph are perfectly manageable with the right gear.
Winter Packing List
- Trekking poles
- Waterproof boots
- Waterproof shell
- Insulating midlayer, like a puffy jacket or fleece
- Sunglasses or other eye protection
- In your backpack: water, food, sunblock, and extra layers. For more intrepid treks, consider packing the Ten Essentials and/or avalanche equipment.