Boulder – Double Sanitas 8-Loop
One of the most popular mountains to hike in Boulder is Mt. Sanitas. Strenuous, but short, with about 1,250 ft elevation gain over 1 mile uphill, it’s a great option for those who want some solid exercise in a short period of time, while also taking in some beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and Boulder. If you’re training for a big hike, ascending Mt. Sanitas twice is a way to get in extra elevation gain and mileage.
To do this hike, park at the Centennial Trailhead, or if it’s full, at the end of Mapleton Avenue. I started by doing a clock-wise loop of Mt. Sanitas and the Sanitas Valley Trail up Mt. Sanitas Trail, then did my favorite loop in Boulder – the Sunshine Canyon/Lion’s Lair loop of Mt. Sanitas – by climbing Mt. Sanitas Trail again to the summit, and circling back via Lion’s Lair Trail and Sunshine Canyon Trail. The total mileage came out to about 7.6 miles of hiking.
You start out at the Centennial Trailhead, head down along the road and cross over to get to a picnic area. You pass through the picnic area and take one of two different paths. Both paths will come out in different, but close locations on the Sanitas Spur Trail, which is 0.1 mile long and connects with Mt. Sanitas Trail. For the most direct path to Mt. Sanitas Trail, go up the left trail.
Mt. Sanitas Trail
Soon you will merge with the Mt. Sanitas Trail. From the get-go you ascend a steep set of stairs thoughtfully installed by the Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) trail crew. Because of severe erosion due to the popularity of the trail, installation of steps at various points became necessary.
As you hike up and take a breath in-between uphill pushes, you start to see beautiful views of the mountains behind you –
The trail is rocky and sandy. I definitely recommend using shoes that have good traction underneath (as opposed to flat sneakers).
Last summer the OSMP trail crew worked hard to install long sections of rock steps on the trail to restore the trail from heavy erosion. Their hard work paid off, and these sections of the trail are definitely much easier to use than they were before.
As you go uphill, you are also treated to lovely views of Boulder down below –
Mt. Sanitas Summit
As always, the views from the summit of Mt. Sanitas were gorgeous. One of my favorite spots in Boulder is the summit of Mt. Sanitas on a sunny day. I always stop here for a snack and a drink of water.
Looking south –
Looking north –
East Ridge Trail
To loop down the valley trail, you have to go down the East Ridge Trail from the summit. It is close to 0.8 miles long, and steep. Near the top there are a few rock scrambles.
As you head down East Ridge Trail, you can see lovely views of the Boulder mountains from a different angle –
There are a couple switchbacks before you go around a curve to join up with the Sanitas Valley Trail.
Sanitas Valley Trail
The Sanitas Valley Trail is 1 mile long and probably the least interesting part of the hike trail-wise, as the trail here is busy, wide, and not steep. Still, it’s a good part of the hike to pick up the pace.
Mt. Sanitas Trail – Second Ascent
After rushing down Sanitas Valley Trail, I promptly looped back up Mt. Sanitas Trail again at the end of it. The second time up was both easier and harder in parts. It was easier in terms of my body being warmed up and used to moving by then. It was also definitely harder at times going up the steeper portions of the trail.
Lion’s Lair Trail
After another snack and drink of water at the summit of Mt. Sanitas, I decided to loop back to my car via my favorite trail in Boulder, Lion’s Lair Trail, which is 2.7 miles long.
My favorite view on the trail, looking out to the Indian Peaks in the distance –
This is what the viewpoint looks like on the trail, with lots of good rocks to sit on and gaze out at the mountains –
Lower down Lion’s Lair Trail –
On this day the warm sunshine and smell of the Ponderosa Pine trees was just heavenly.
Sunshine Canyon Trail
The last 1.1 miles of the hike along Sunshine Canyon Trail was probably the least comfortable of the hike. Due to all the shade caused by the neighboring hill, much of the trail was covered in a mix of snow, ice, mush, and mud.
Recommended as a Strenuous Hike / Training Hike
By doing an 8 loop on the two main loop routes of Mt. Sanitas, you are treated to all the great parts of Mt. Sanitas on one hike. It is also definitely good exercise and training – my leg muscles were quite tired for the next two days. I would recommend this as a hike for anyone who wants a full showcase of what Mt. Sanitas has to offer, or anyone who is training for a big hike.