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Sunshine Lion's Lair Loop

Intermediate
 4.5 (136) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

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


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Map Key

5.3

Miles

8.5

KM

79%

Runnable

6,800' 2,073 m

High

5,530' 1,686 m

Low

1,261' 384 m

Up

1,282' 391 m

Down

9%

Avg Grade (5°)

33%

Max Grade (19°)

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.

Need to Know

In the spring, the Sunshine Canyon Trail is one of the last to lose its icy coating, because it's on the north side of a hill. When in doubt, take traction - and if you use the trail please update the trail status here on the website for others.

Runner Notes

It's very smooth, runnable, non-rocky, and non-rooty on the Sunshine Canyon Trail, Lion's Lair Alternate, and Lion's Lair Trail ascent. It's steep, technical, and rocky on the Mount Sanitas Trail descent.

Description

This loop combines several area trails into a varied, pleasant run. Starting from the Centennial Trail at the mouth of Sunshine Canyon near the toilets, head south very briefly, up the road-width trail, to find the start of the Red Rocks Trail. 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 trail, contouring Sunshine Canyon Trail as it parallels 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 Sunshine Canyon Road. To access the next part of the loop, follow the signage and carefully cross the road (there's a crosswalk). Turn left and head briefly up the road until you reach the first dirt residential road on the right (east) side of the road. From the intersection you can see stairs indicating the start of the Lion's Lair Trail.

The Lion's Lair trail starts up a small ridgeline sparsely treed with fir. After about 1/2 mile you'll pass the Lion's Lair Spur trail, which would take you to Sunshine Canyon and a few parking spaces. Continue on Lion's Lair.

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 grade is never steep, and the surface is smooth. As you ascend, you enter a pine forest, and the views get better and better. Be sure to turn around and enjoy the high peaks in the distance. At the end of the trail, you merge onto the main Mount Sanitas trail for the last few feet of rocky stair-like climbing to the summit. At the summit, 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, and 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 bouldering cliffs popular with 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 pavilion. Signs will guide you. Carefully cross Sunshine Canyon Road and head uphill to arrive back at the Centennial Trail parking area.

Flora & Fauna

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

Contacts

Shared By:

Megan W with improvements by Emily Goodin

Trail Ratings

  4.5 from 136 votes

#27

Overall
  4.5 from 136 votes
5 Star
59%
4 Star
30%
3 Star
11%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%
Recommended Route Rankings

#12

in Colorado

#27

Overall
122 Views Last Month
49,887 Since Apr 23, 2015
Intermediate

2%
2%
68%
6%
23%
0%

Photos

Sunrise from Mt Sanitas
Nov 3, 2017 near Boulder, CO
Rolling on Lion's Lair Trail.
Nov 24, 2015 near Boulder, CO
The top of Mount Sanitas looks out at the beauty of Boulder and the Flatirons.
Apr 12, 2017 near Boulder, CO
Arriving at the summit, just missed the sunrise.
Dec 2, 2018 near Boulder, CO
Looking east from the summit at sunrise.
Dec 2, 2018 near Boulder, CO
View looking west.
Jan 3, 2016 near Boulder, CO

Weather


Current Trail Conditions

Update Conditions
Minor Issues 9 days ago See History
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Check-Ins

Oct 21, 2022
Trevor Edie
Pretty great. 5.3mi
Jul 16, 2022
Bryce Montana
Love this trail but it should be run as an out and back where you don't do the sanitas portion
Jun 16, 2022
Elizabeth Stapleton
5.3mi — 3h 00m
Jun 16, 2022
Brent Rauscher
Killed it!!! 5.3mi — 3h 00m
Nov 26, 2021
Veronica Gruning
Sep 15, 2021
Matt Coghill
Nicked my toe coming down - love running in my sandals, but sometimes they bite! Woohoo! 5.3mi — 0h 56m
Jul 28, 2021
Alex Liethen
4.9mi