Page Type Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Location Lat/Lon: 40.03650°N / 105.306°W
Additional Information Elevation: 6863 ft / 2092 m
Sign the Climber's Log


Mount Sanitas belongs to the foothills of the great Colorado Rocky Mountains, which mark an abrupt end to the flat-as-a-pancake (actually flatter: see this scientific analysis ) Great Plains, which stretch for hundreds of miles across the central United States. Mount Sanitas lies in the climbing mecca of Boulder (the summit is actually within city limits), ensuring plenty of activity, in the various guises of frenetic health-obsessed senior citizens and in-shape & attractive college co-eds hiking up the trail, dog-walkers who don’t understand the fundamental concept of “voice & sound control,” and climbers taking advantage of the plethora of bouldering opportunities that abound along the main trail. Easy, year-round access, a beautiful setting, & great summit views contribute to this mountain’s popularity.

Getting to the top of this gentle peak is a simple (the shortest round-trip possibility is under 3 miles), albeit vigorous affair. Those strong of thigh & quick of step can get to the summit in under half an hour, though longer times should be expected for an average pace. The elevation gain for this hike (or run) is approximately 1,200 ft.

Mount Sanitas’ name derives from the Latin “sanitas (surprise, surprise!),” meaning “health.” It was named after the Boulder sanitarium (health spa; think ‘Metallica’) at its base, now the Mapleton Medical Center.

Getting There

Getting to Mt. Sanitas when in Boulder is extremely easy: if going north, take Broadway past the Pearl Street Mall a few blocks to Mapleton (easy to pass accidentally, though- pay attention to the street signs!); if going south, take Broadway south to Mapleton; From here, “Go west, young man (or young woman, old man/woman)!” for .6 mile, past 4th St., to the limited parking immediately past the Mapleton Medical Center (at the beginning of Sunshine Canyon). If this is full, there is limited parking along Mapleton on the other (S) side of the street. Follow one of the numerous subsidiary trails to the official trailhead, where a map & numerous pamphlets (a few of which might be worth perusing) await you.

Red Tape

No parking fees or permits required here. While leashes are not required for dogs, they must be under “voice and sight control.” Though many dog owners on the trail do not understand the basis of this concept, it is explained, fairly understandably (by City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks) as such:

“If your dog runs up to people or other dogs, chases wildlife, or will not consistently come to you immediately upon command, your dog must be leashed.”

For complete rules regarding dogs and their place here, check out this
Dogs on Open Space & Mountain Parks page.


Three connecting trails go along the base, and to the summit of Mt. Sanitas, and combinations of the three leading to the summit range from 2.8 to 3.8 miles, round trip. Any of the trails leading to the summit maxes out at a difficulty of class 2. With such a short distance, the trails provide a great getaway after work or classes, good brief training sessions, or easy access to great bouldering. From its base near the Mapleton Medical Center to the summit, the elevation gain is approximately 1,200 vertical feet. At a fast hiking pace under good conditions, it is possible to attain the summit in under half an hour.

The main City of Boulder Open Space Sanitas trailhead page provides a good summary of what the trail has to offer, rules and regulations, and a trail map.

Mountain Conditions/ When to Climb

Given the moderate temperatures & amount of snowfall in the Boulder area during the winter, this climb can be done year-round. During the summer, bring your own water (there is none available at the trailhead), and dress warmly in the winter (and bring appropriate footwear). After a particularly hard snowfall, snowshoes might help. If you are in Boulder, look to the heavens, & you shall know the weather of Mt. Sanitas. If you’re not in Boulder, look to the magic crystal ball of weather.

Summit Views

The view awaiting those who persevere to the top is superb: Boulder, with it’s many (well, for the West) broad-leafed trees, lack of skyscrapers, & bustle of activity, spreads out below. Looking southeast, the tiny (from this distance!) cluster of skyscrapers composing Denver’s skyline can be discerned through the smog. To the south, the Flatirons, Bear Peak & South Boulder Peak rise stoically from the plains. To the west rise the majestic Rocky Mountains; the Continental Divide is seen passing through the prominent Indian Peaks Wilderness.

Flora & Fauna

Mt. Sanitas, being in the transition zone between the plains & the high mountains, has a wide variety of wildlife. This ranges from plants (Ponderosa pine, cacti, grass, & other plants) to animals (mountain lions {rarely seen, but present in the area}, coyotes, foxes, mule deer, & raptors). The area is also subject to a bewildering number of domestic dogs as well, mostly unleashed, especially during the summer & fall months.


Mount Sanitas is composed primarily of a reddish sandstone, formed as sediment was deposited at the base of the prehistoric sea once covering the area, and uplifted during the formation of the Rocky Mountains. There are many areas on & around the trail where one can view examples of this geological phenomenon- really pretty cool. The quality of this stone (for climbing purposes, anyway) is exhibited by the excellent boulder problems which exist on myriad boulders surrounding the Mt. Sanitas trail. Interestingly, this sandstone was quarried for the original buildings on the CU campus.


For Boulder-area climbers (Boulderers- get it?), Mt. Sanitas is known for it’s quality boulder problems which are in abundance, mostly along the Mt. Sanitas trail. Any Boulder-area bouldering guide should have this area in it. If you don’t possess such a guide, just take your shoes & chalk, and head out there! Most likely, unless the weather sucks, you won’t be alone anyway, & can ask other boulderers for beta. If that fails, follow the myriad chalked holds as a guide- they are impossible to miss. If bouldering, please respect the rules of the park (use the low-impact trails established leading to prominent boulders, & make sure your dog is under control).

Some good bouldering resources include: site to Mt. Sanitas bouldering site to Mt. Sanitas bouldering

Bouldering guide: Colorado Bouldering, by Phillip Benningfield



Children refers to the set of objects that logically fall under a given object. For example, the Aconcagua mountain page is a child of the 'Aconcagua Group' and the 'Seven Summits.' The Aconcagua mountain itself has many routes, photos, and trip reports as children.