Boulder – Mt. Sanitas Loop via Dakota Ridge Trail

Hiking Mt. Sanitas Loop via Dakota Ridge Trail

The 3.2-mile Mt. Sanitas loop trail is one of the top 3 most popular hikes in Boulder. It is a great option for visitors to Boulder or anyone who is looking to get in a quick, but substantial workout.

The Hike

This is a slight variation to the Mt. Sanitas loop via the Sanitas Valley Trail that’s posted on You can do the loop in either direction, but I decided to do the loop counter-clockwise via Dakota Ridge Trail, which runs parallel to Sanitas Valley Trail. Compared with Sanitas Valley Trail, Dakota Ridge is more interesting, with less people. I also thought going counter-clockwise would be better in the late afternoon when I went, because the mountain makes East Ridge Trail going uphill shadier as the afternoon goes on, and I expected Mt. Sanitas Trail would still be relatively sunny on my way back. This proved to be the case.

Starting Out

The hike starts out from Centennial Trailhead. You cross the road and pass through the picnic area first. To go counter-clockwise, take the right path from the picnic area along Sanitas Valley Trail.

Sanitas Valley Trail

Soon you will see a connector on your right for Dakota Ridge Trail.

Dakota Ridge Trail

The Dakota Ridge Trail runs parallel to the Sanitas Valley Trail and is more of a hiking trail, with varied terrain, as opposed to the Sanitas Valley Trail, which is wide and flat. This trail is also less trafficked. You hike along this trail for 1 mile.

Dakota Ridge Trail

Near the end of the trail, there is a lovely lookout point and bench –

Dakota Ridge Trail viewpoint

East Ridge Trail

At the end of Dakota Ridge Trail you connect with the Sanitas Valley Trail for 0.1 miles before reaching East Ridge Trail to go uphill. The switchbacks on East Ridge Trail provide some nice views of the mountains –

East Ridge Trail view of Boulder mountains

And of Boulder –

East Ridge Trail view

As you head up, the path gets rockier and you have to scramble a bit.

East Ridge Trail scramble

But the views get better and better as you get higher –

East Ridge Trail

Mt. Sanitas Summit

The summit was packed with people in the late afternoon, getting their workouts in. However, the view from the top of the mountain never disappoints.

Looking south –

Mt. Sanitas summit view

Looking north –

Mt. Sanitas summit view

Mt. Sanitas Trail

From the summit, you take the Mt. Sanitas Trail back down the mountain to the parking lot. The benefit of doing Mt. Sanitas counter-clockwise is that you are treated to views of the Boulder mountains and Flatirons most of the way down.

Mt. Sanitas Trail

Recommended as a Strenuous Hike

This 3.2-mile Mt. Sanitas loop hike is a must-do for anyone living or visiting the area. It features the summit of one of the most popular mountains in Boulder, as well as classic Boulder views. Although the steep hill on East Ridge Trail of 700 ft elevation gain over 0.8 miles can be a bit of challenge, it’s still very doable.

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