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Sunshine Lion's Lair Loop

 4.6 (63)

Length


5.3 Miles 8.5 Kilometers


1,302' 397 m

Ascent

-1,321' -403 m

Descent

9%

Avg Grade (5°)

33%

Max Grade (18°)

6,802' 2,073 m

High

5,523' 1,684 m

Low

Shared By Megan W

Conditions


All Clear 12 days ago
Dry History

Getting forecast...

Great Mount Sanitas views are the reward for this gentler loop in Sunshine Canyon.

Megan W

Dogs No Dogs

Features Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Some parts of this loop are closed to dogs.

Overview

This enjoyable loop sees less traffic than the main attraction in this area, the Mount Sanitas Loop. The other advantages of this loop include a less arduous ascent on a shiny new trail and a quick, efficient descent.

Description

This loop combines several area trails into a varied, pleasant hike. Starting from the Centennial Trailhead at the mouth of Sunshine Canyon, find the start of the Red Rocks Trail heading south from the toilets. Almost immediately, you'll leave the Red Rocks Trail and follow the Sunshine Canyon Trail as it branches off to the west and crosses a small ravine. Follow the nicely bench cut, contouring Sunshine Canyon Trail as it parallels the Sunshine Canyon Road. This section of low angle trail is not steep and has a mostly smooth surface, passing through fields and fir forest.

The Sunshine Canyon Trail ends at a residential driveway, adjacent to the Sunshine Canyon Road. To access the next part of the loop, carefully cross the road and head briefly up-valley until you reach the first dirt residential road on the right (east) side of the road. Hike only a few feet up this road and look for a faint footpath just after the culvert on the uphill side. This is the beginning of the Lion's Lair Alternate Trail.

The Lion's Lair Alternate trail starts up a small ridgeline sparsely treed with fir. It is undergoing a re-route and partial re-build (as of spring 2015) so be aware that the start of the trail may be moved around a bit to include more switchbacks and prevent erosion. Switchback and contour up the western flank of Mount Sanitas, climbing gently past dry rocky outcrops. There are views of the continental divide and down into Sunshine Canyon. The trail is well constructed and features rock steps and good grading. The Lion's Lair Alternate trail eventually joins the Lion's Lair Trail at an early switchback.

Continue uphill on the recently built (completed in the fall of 2014) Lion's Lair Trail. Take gentle switchbacks through the ponderosa forest. The grade is never steep, and at least for now, the surface is impeccably smooth. The corners and water crossings show off just how well this trail was constructed. As you ascend, the views get better and better. Be sure to turn around and enjoy the high peaks in the distance. From the end of the trail, at the rocky summit of Mount Sanitas, all of Boulder is laid out in front of you.

Take a breather before descending the Mount Sanitas Trail. This is a steep, challenging descent down the spine and western edge of Mount Sanitas. Pass over rocky sections and numerous large step-downs. Expect a lot of hiker, runner, dog traffic on this section of trail. There are several rest spots where you can pull off to enjoy views of town and also the snowy peaks to the west. There are a few rutted steep sections with difficult footing. Towards the bottom, you'll pass some short cliffs popular with bouldering rock climbers. After one last series of tall wooden log steps, you'll cross an irrigation ditch and emerge into a small meadow. Keep to your right, crossing a stream and passing through a covered picnic pavillion. Carefully cross the Sunshine Canyon Road and head uphill to arrive back at the Centennial Trailhead parking area.

Flora & Fauna

A suprisingly wonderful variety of wildflowers in the sunny spots- especially in the early spring months (April & May).

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Your Check-Ins

Check-Ins

Aug 8, 2018
Mike Plansker
Jul 31, 2018
Kelli Woolworth
Sunset hike, beautiful weather, clear trail. 3mi
Jul 14, 2018
Jasmin Fresses
5.3mi
Jul 11, 2018
Daylene York
5.3mi
Jul 5, 2018
Brandin Richard
Jul 1, 2018
Greg Amato
5mi
Jun 24, 2018
M B
Caught in a storm at the peak - getting down was a bit tricky 6mi
Jun 8, 2018
Renee Roberts

Trail Ratings

  4.6 from 63 votes

#25

Overall
  4.6 from 63 votes
5 Star
67%
4 Star
25%
3 Star
8%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%
Rankings

#9

in Colorado

#25

Overall
1,180 Views Last Month
23,640 Since Apr 23, 2015
Intermediate Intermediate

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