Cold temps and predicted snowfall prevented a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, but we still geared up at 6:30AM to hike the 3.5 mile loop trail to summit Mount Sanitas in Boulder, CO. I have done this hike several times in the summer, but this was my first winter excursion.
- Trailhead: Centennial Trailhead
- Distance: 3.5 Miles loop
- Total Elevation Gain: 1,280 ft
Great trail for running, hiking, dogs.
The Mount Sanitas and Sanitas Valley Loop trail is not far from the heart of Boulder, easy to get to with lots of parking and hiking options. Mount Sanitas Loop Trail is rated as difficult on AllTrails and for good reason; there’s nearly 1,300 feet of elevation gain in 1.5 miles. Either direction of the loop has its advantages, but I would suggest going counter-clockwise to ramp up the difficulty level.
Ice coated the trail, but we were able to make it to the summit with a good pair of boots, no additional traction needed. Other hikers had the same idea as us, we encountered more traffic than usual at 7AM than we do on a standard Rocky Mountain day. Dave was hoping for a sunrise shot, but with incoming weather the sky was overcast and a dense fog shrouded surrounding peaks. If we kept moving the cold was kept at bay; it was tough not having a clear sky and a bright sun to warm us.
Mount Sanitas Summit (6,821 ft)
At the summit the clouds near the horizon cleared just enough to display a thin line of pink sky bordering the peaks. Dave took a few shots on the true summit indicated by a metal post before we exited to test out the other half of the loop back to the trailhead.
We descended without microspikes, but they would have been ideal. The first stretch of trail on this side of the mountain is similar to what we just ascended; a steep slope with crude rock steps covered in ice.
This portion is adorned with several switchbacks, but after 0.5 miles and an elevation loss of 700 feet the trail makes a final turn onto a wide trail with a gradual slope. There are several trails that branch off, including Goat Path Trail and Dakota Ridge Trail. There are also private property access trails; all are adequately marked. At this point the trail is somewhat repetitive, but views of the Guardians of the Flatirons more than compensate.
Trails surrounding the Mount Sanitas area and the Centennial Trailhead are great options for hikers with dogs and for runners – we passed several on our descent. Hikers with necessary permits for dogs can enjoy this park with their pets off leash. The parking lot was not at capacity upon our return but there is also parallel parking further down along Sunshine Canyon Rd if need be.
Hiking Mount Sanitas Video