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Dakota Ridge and Sanitas Valley (G.2)

Description: Dakota Ridge and Sanitas Valley are two trails which defy urban trail status.  They are well within walking distance of downtown, but you'd be hard pressed to know you were anywhere close to a city while hiking.  This is attributed to Sanitas Valley, which is positioned between Sanitas Ridge and Hogback Ridge, protecting these trails from the east and the west.  That said, there are great views of North Boulder from the upper lookout and and plenty of photo opportunities of the Flatirons and Boulder's Red Rocks outcrop.  Dakota Ridge is a popular early morning hike/jog with locals and for good reason.  We are pretty sure you will like it too.

Difficulty: Moderately Easy (G.2), 2.6 Miles, 494' Elevation, 1.5 Hours.  Dakota Ridge is a bit of a rocky descent which is really the only reason this hike achieves greater than the easiest challenge rating.  The uphill on Sanitas Valley is smooth and gradual.  It is best hiked in the morning during summertime when the sun is low and temperatures cooler.  On sunny days the exposure on Sanitas Valley can make for a hot hike, so take lots of water, a hat and sunscreen.

Walking Directions: 32 Mapleton Ave Boulder, CO 80304.  This hike can easily be reached by foot from downtown, especially if you are staying west of Broadway.  The benefit here is that you can walk up Mapleton to the top of Mapleton Hill, probably the most historic and beautiful area in Boulder.  If you are west of Broadway (4th - 11th St) just head north to Mapleton and the left (west) past the old Boulder County Hospital to the trailhead.  If you are east of Broadway, make your way to Broadway and head north to Mapleton.  Head west on Mapleton past 4th St and the Boulder County Hospital to find the trailhead.  Google Map directions here...

Parking and Trailhead: Parking is always a scarce commodity around Sanitas because of the popularity of the trails with Boulderites, or as we like to call us, Boulderonians.  There is pull-in parking in front of the trailhead, parallel parking on parts of Mapleton and 4th St., and a small parking area just west of the trailhead at Centennial Trail.  There is more than one entrance to the Sanitas Valley trail, so if you park at Centennial you can use the westerly entrance.  The main trailhead is just behind the hospital in the trees on Mapleton.  Look for the green trail sign that says Sanitas Valley Trail.

Click image for Google Maps detail

Click image for Google Maps detail

Trail Guide: Sanitas Valley to Dakota Ridge is a skinny lollipop hike that rises on wide, smooth Sanitas Valley and returns on the shadier, albeit rockier Dakota Ridge.  If you don't want to deal with the rocky descent on Dakota, just return down Santas Valley after you rest at the top of the trail.  Many people who hike the Sanitas area are headed to the top of Mt. Sanitas.  This is a great hike, but a difficult (D.7) hike that rises up the spine of Sanitas Ridge to the top of Mt. Sanitas and down the rocky, switchbacked east slopes to the top of Sanitas Valley.  I have hiked Mt. Sanitas, but have not yet included it on Beyond Boulder, mainly because there are so many books and websites which document this hike due to it's popularity.  If you are interested in hiking up Mt. Sanitas, check out the Boulder County Map and Mt. Sanitas links below.

However you enter the Sanitas trails, make your way to the map board at the intersection of Sanitas and Sanitas Valley trails, about 0.1 miles from your entrance on Mapleton.  From here head up the wide boulevard of Sanitas Valley, which will rise 1 mile to the intersection of Dakota Ridge, Goat, and Sanitas East Ridge trails.  Look for the bench to the right at a nice overlook spot.  From here you can rest, get some great views of the prairie and North Boulder, and watch people as they come up the rugged Goat Trail below you.

Once rested look just to the right of the bench (as you are sitting) and you will see a trail heading back the way you came that parallels Sanitas Valley.  This is Dakota Ridge that runs just east of the top of Hogback Ridge.  Your guess is as good as mine as to why this trail isn't more appropriately called Hogback Ridge, but there you go.  Continue straight on Dakota Ridge until the 1.8 mile mark where you should see a small trail that heads up and left toward a gap in Hogback Ridge.   Here you can walk up a short distance and get a nice overlook to downtown and take another rest on a rock in the shade.  Return to Dakota Ridge and continue downhill always paralleling Sanitas Valley.  You will merge with a couple of trails coming up from the valley floor, but just continue on Dakota until it meets with a group of other trails in an area of wood rail fencing at 2.2 miles.  Here, you will turn right, following the wood fence, back toward Sanitas Valley.  The water ditch to your left at this point is a fairly significant waterway, Silver Lake Ditch, which has been supplying Boulder with irrigation water since 1888.  Reconnect shortly with Sanitas Valley where Silver Lake Ditch passes under the trail and turn left, returning to the trailhead and Mapleton. 

Map Resources: EveryTrail Map, Boulder County (Sanitas) Map, Boulder Mt. Sanitas Hike

Après Hike:  Well, we can't very well hike in the shadow of Mt. Sanitas without recommending the great beers at Sanitas Brewing, one of the new breweries in Boulder.  Sanitas is located at 3550 Frontier Ave. Unit A, Boulder, Colorado 80301

Picknicking:  There are three picnic tables located just across Mapleton in the Centennial parking area.

Restrooms: At the Centennial parking area.

Dog Friendly: Yes.

Cell Sevice: Pretty good in most places.