“Sanitas” is the Latin word for health and there may be no better embodiment of that principle than Mount Sanitas. It is easily the most visited peak in Boulder, with good reason. The modest 6,863 ft. mountain affords incredible views of the entire city of Boulder, not to mention distant vistas of Denver’s skyscrapers, Longs Peak to the north and the Indian Peaks to the west. Mount Sanitas holds special significance for mountain lovers: it is literally the start of the Rocky Mountains and the western terminus of the Great Plains. The trail network on Sanitas offers several different ways to reach the top, along with multiple options to return to where you began.
What Makes It Great
It’s right in town, so accessibility is a snap. The main parking lot off Mapleton Avenue can also be used to access the Anemone Trail and Boulder’s version of Red Rocks. Sanitas is perfect for a quick hike (many people will jog it and can get up and down in under an hour) or take your time for a more deliberate experience -- the views are always spectacular. Sunrise, sunset and night hikes are especially appealing. The trails themselves are well maintained, though steep in a few parts. The East Ridge Trail is slightly less steep than the Mount Sanitas Trail, but can get icy in the winter thanks to the north facing aspect -- microspikes are encouraged in the winter!
While the distances aren't long -- a full loop is only about 3 miles -- you are guaranteed a good workout thanks to the 1,300 ft.+ elevation gain. The classic Mount Sanitas Trail scales the south ridge of the peak, reaching the top in 1.6 miles. Along the way will be alternating steep and flat sections and several great picnic and rest spots. By looping down the East Ridge Trail and returning via Sanitas Valley, hikers can enjoy a great 1 - 2 hour outing.
Who is Going to Love It
Locals love Sanitas for its ease of access and variety of routes; many use it as a training mountain for bigger peaks or just for a routine adventure to clear their heads.
Dogs are welcome on the peak but be aware there can be a lot of traffic, especially on sunny weekends. Pups may be off leash if they are part of the Boulder off-leash tag program.
For visitors, Mount Sanitas is the ideal place to take a hike but be warned, you may fall in love with Boulder after a day on Sanitas.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Take Mapleton Road off of Broadway (just north of Pearl Street Mall). This is a steep hill that flattens out and goes through one of Boulder’s most beautiful neighborhoods. Follow the road 0.6 miles to the intersection of Mapleton and 4th Street. Past this intersection, there are a few parking spots on the right but the main parking area at the Centennial Trailhead is a few hundred feet farther up the left. You’ll need to cross the street to begin Mount Sanitas (on the north side of Mapleton). There are plenty of bike racks.
A nice alternative trailhead -- with less traffic -- is to take Broadway to Linden drive. Turn west onto Linden and follow it 1.0 miles, where a large, unmarked sandy parking lot is on the left side of the road just before it begins to climb up a steep hill. Park here and follow the Goat Trail. It will connect to the northern end of the Sanitas Valley Trail.