Sunshine Lion's Lair Loop

 43 votes

5.3 Miles 8.5 Kilometers


100%

Singletrack

1,302' 397 m

Ascent

-1,321' -403 m

Descent

6,802' 2,073 m

High

5,523' 1,684 m

Low

9%

Avg Grade (5°)

33%

Max Grade (18°)

All Clear

31 days agoUpdate

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

Megan W

Overview

Some parts of this loop are closed to dogs.
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.
Features: Views — Wildflowers — Wildlife
Dogs: No Dogs

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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4.7 from 43 votes


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Your Check-Ins

Check-Ins

Sep 17, 2017
Rachel Beenken
Gorgeous views at the top! Take some time to rest and enjoy The scenery 5.5mi
Sep 1, 2017
jenni chung
3mi
Aug 21, 2017
Mike Simms
6mi
Aug 18, 2017
Allison Klein
Morning hike with Tiffany
Aug 17, 2017
Chad S
Aug 9, 2017
Dan Timko
5.3mi
Jul 16, 2017
Patrick Csongei
6.5mi
Jul 16, 2017
Katie B
We hiked this trail with Uncle Mark when he was in town. Awesome hike with gradual incline and sweet vies all along the trail 6mi

Trail Ratings

  4.7 from 43 votes

#9

Overall
  4.7 from 43 votes
5 Star
74%
4 Star
16%
3 Star
9%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%
Rankings

#4

in Colorado

#9

Overall
1,221 Views Last Month
11,974 Since Apr 23, 2015
Intermediate Intermediate

3%
17%
54%
26%
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0%

Conditions


All Clear 31 days ago
Dry - Great climb with a wonderful view of Boulder. Downhill was rocky with loose sand.
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