Length: 3.4-mile loop
Difficulty: Moderate
Trailhead: Mt. Sanitas (40.02062, -105.29629); parking at Centennial (40.02022, -105.29775)
Why we love it: This short hike serves up long views super close to town.
When to go: Year-round; carry traction devices after the first snowfall.
Pre-hike fuel: There’s no shortage of coffee joints in downtown Boulder, but to start your hike with the best vibes, pit stop at Bitty and Beau’s on Pearl and 15th streets for a breakfast burrito and a latte. The cafe, which is less than a mile and a half from the trailhead, is staffed primarily by folks with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Post-hike buzz: You could throw a dart at a map of downtown Boulder and hit a perfect spot for après. One can’t-go-wrong option: the Sophomore. Boulder’s newest sports bar, tucked on the corner of Pearl and 11th streets, serves up an array of $5 sliders, pub staples like wings and tots, and local beer. And even with a sweat-stained T-shirt and muddy trail-running shoes, you’ll fit right in.
Restrooms: Find a bank of vault toilets near the junction between the Sanitas Connector and Sanitas Spur trails, right off Mapleton Avenue.
Dogs: Allowed on leash

A viewpoint toward the Indian Peaks along the Mt. Sanitas Trail in Boulder.
Looking at the foothills of the Indian Peaks at a viewpoint along the Mt. Sanitas Trail. Photo by Maren Horjus

Even in a place revered for its wealth of close-to-home hikes, Mt. Sanitas stands above the rest. The parking is plentiful, the route is straightforward, the terrain is fun—and the views? Well, for starters, there are plenty along the way, so hikers pressed for time or regretting their earlier ambitions can turn around after snapping their Instagram banger. And the vista at the pinnacle is a showstopper: Emerge from a forest of ponderosas and firs to score an eyeful of the Front Range, from Fort Collins south to Pikes Peak. It’s like being born into the sky.

There are a few ways to tackle Mt. Sanitas, but for new scenery every step, connect the Mt. Sanitas, East Ridge, and Sanitas Valley trails to create a 3.4-mile, clockwise loop. To begin, park along Mapleton Avenue or in the satellite parking area for the Sunshine Canyon trailhead just west, then pick your way to the beginning of the Mt. Sanitas Trail.

The Mt. Sanitas Trail, affectionately known as the StairMaster among locals, draws people like flies to honey for its pink-colored, two-story-tall boulders, its peek-a-boo views over Boulder, and its directness to the peak—it gains roughly 1,300 feet of elevation in 1.4 miles to the summit post. Skirt past other dayhikers and rock climbers as you high-step over rocks and roots, wending past some of the most storied boulder problems in the area. Score periodic vistas into the Indian Peaks to the west and time your water breaks for the four east-facing pullouts for photo-ops along the way, where gnarled ponderosas frame views of the red-roofed buildings of the University of Colorado Boulder campus. A couple of staircases make easy work of a few sections of trail that had eroded into dusty slip-and-slides before the new infrastructure was installed in 2023.

After the fourth photo-op—you’ll recognize it as a false summit—you’ll tunnel into a thick forest of mixed ponderosas and firs for the final push: a 100-foot, quad-burning climb. Burst above the trees to a 270-degree view that includes the summits of Rocky Mountain National Park to the northwest all the way to the pocket of skyscrapers comprising Denver to the south and beyond.

The summit post on Mt. Sanitas in Boulder.
The summit post on Mt. Sanitas in Boulder. Photo by Maren Horjus

To return, climb off the summit block toward Boulder and pick up the East Ridge Trail, a steep, rocky flume that plunges down the scrubby flank of Mt. Sanitas. You’ll need to use your hands in a few sections as you scale ramps and sandstone slabs before hitting a set of pleasant switchbacks etched into red clay. Near mile two, you’ll meet up with the Sanitas Valley Trail, a wide, gravelly path with a view like a gunsight to the Flatirons, which look like sky-kissing towers from this vantage point.

Reach the starting trailhead near mile 3.4.

Getting there: From Denver, take I-25 north to U.S. 36 west. From there, follow U.S. 36 14 about 20 miles to Baseline Road. Exit U.S. 36, and then turn left onto Baseline Road; follow it 0.3 miles to Broadway. Veer north onto Broadway and drive 1.8 miles; turn left (west) onto Mapleton Avenue. After 0.6 miles, look for street parking or continue a quarter of a mile to the Sunshine Canyon trailhead.

Read more: Our Favorite Close-to-Home Hikes