6,843 ft. Mount Sanitas Trail is a modest bump compared to Boulder’s iconic Flatirons, but it is one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions. Within a mile of downtown Boulder, the easy access, spectacular views, and challenging trails make it the perfect location for a lunchtime run or moonlight hike. The classic loop of Mount Sanitas Trail Trail to ascend, East Ridge Trail to descend, and Sanitas Valley Trail to cool down is only 3.1 miles but takes even strong runners over an hour to complete. Simply completing the full loop without stopping gives you tremendous bragging rights. Even the less intense Sanitas Valley – Dakota Ridge Loop at 2.4 miles round trip is still an enjoyable ride and all of this happens over 5,000 feet above sea level.
While there are a few steep steps and roots to navigate on the summit trails, the trails are still suited for running, so if you are up for the challenge, give them a try. No worries, in case you need a breather, the views to the east are spectacular on a clear day, and you can easily see the skyscrapers of Denver. To the north is the towering summit block of Longs Peak and every once in a while a clear view south lets you see Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs. For trail runners, Mount Sanitas Trail is an excellent place to increase their strength and endurance. While the trails aren’t long, they make up for it with gritty elevation gain the standard Mount Sanitas Trail trail has 1,320 ft. of elevation in 1.8 miles. Don’t feel ready for the big hill? Get ready by running the 1.3-mile Sanitas Valley trail, a wide, but beautiful dirt path that gains 600 feet in elevation before heading up the 0.4 mile East Ridge trail, which leads to the summit of the mountain.
Mount Sanitas Trail has a lot of variety and loop options for a relatively small mountain. At the foot of the mountain, the Valley Trail is paralleled by the Dakota Ridge trail, a 1.0-mile path that offers some shade compared to the exposed valley trail. There are two trails to the summit that are often done in a loop, and either direction will give you a heck of a workout. The Mount Sanitas Trail trail cuts to the chase, instantly going vertical with a series of steps that quickly gain altitude. The East Ridge trail, on the other hand, begins at the northern terminus of the Sanitas Valley Trail and features more modest, but still steep switchbacks before changing to the big steps characteristic of the Mount Sanitas Trail Trail. Of course, Mount Sanitas Trail is a great hike but for runners, it really is a classic test piece. Many runners work their way up to a full jog of the summit trails by “hiking the steps and running the flats”, a proven strategy for reaching the top in record time or at least personal record time. Dogs are welcome on-leash or off-leash with a green tag from the city around Boulder’s dog license program.
Hills running enthusiasts will enjoy the short, flat recovery sections followed by steep steps on the summit trails. It may take 35 minutes or so to run up the peak, but the 1,300 ft. elevation gain will provide a good workout. Those looking for a challenging trail run with little elevation gain will enjoy the Valley Trail, where one will see deer, coyotes, foxes, and even the occasional black bear. Perhaps most importantly, those seeking to build up their running skills can use Mount Sanitas Trail as a benchmark of their fitness as they progress to the fabled summit run.
In addition, Mount Sanitas Trail, because of its location between the plains and high mountains, has a variety of wildlife. This ranges from plants like Ponderosa pine, cacti, grass, & other plants to animals including mountain lions, coyotes, foxes, mule deer, & raptors. The area is also subject to a bewildering number of domestic dogs as well, mostly unleashed, especially during the summer & fall months.
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