Boulder Skyline Traverse

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The Skyline Traverse is an iconic Boulder hike/trail run. There are a number of routes you can take but the essence of the traverse is to summit the 5 highest peaks in the Flatirons. It’s a beast; depending on your route it’s at least 16 miles and 6,000ft of elevation gain.

Going south to north the peaks are South Boulder Peak, Bear Peak, Green Mountain, Flagstaff Mountain, and Mt Sanitas. Doing a car shuttle is an easy 15-20 minute drive. Another option is to take the RTD SKIP. The SKIP runs north and southbound along Broadway. It drops off at the Shanahan Ridge trailhead (our southern starting point) and is about a 10 minute walk from the Dakota Ridge trailhead (our northern ending point). Total bus journey & walking is about 35 minutes.

Since we live in the shadow of Mt Sanitas we opted for the RTD SKIP option. Stepping off the bus we were treated to a nice view of Bear Peak, the first and possibly hardest test of the day. To get to the top of Bear Peak there is almost 3,000ft of elevation gain, about half of the day’s total. We did Bear Peak last summer and it is a great hike on its lonesome if you don’t have the time or energy to do the whole traverse. After walking through the open space the trail ascends the rugged, steep and (thankfully) shaded Fern Valley trail for the first part of the climb. The trail then pops out of the forest onto the Bear Peak ridge for the last 1,000ft of the climb. Peak #1 down!

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To get to South Boulder Peak, the high point of the day at 8,549ft we scrambled down from Bear Peak and onto the short exposed trail that goes across the saddle between the two peaks. Then up and over some boulders to claim the summit. Peak #2 down!

Retracing our steps back past Bear Peak we headed down the Bear Peak West Ridge Trail. I really enjoyed this section of trail with great views of the continental divide to the west.

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We were so taken by the views we almost stepped on a huge snake! After the free shot of adrenaline we made good time down the ridge to the intersection with the forested Green Bear trail that heads up to the Green Mountain West Ridge trail and onto the summit of Green Mountain. Peak #3 down!

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We took the Ranger trail from here which winds its way down hill and comes out at a parking area and the road leading up to Flagstaff Mountain. Two trails the circle the summit of Flagstaff Mountain, neither gets to the actual summit (they do get pretty close though). We took the Ute trail. The summit is covered in trees and there is no actual viewpoint and technically it’s not on the actual trail. We opted to stay on the trail to preserve the grasses since this is a high use area (LNT!). Peak #4 down-ish!

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From here we took the Flagstaff trail down through the trees and saw glimpses of Boulder below. It’s a little confusing as there are a lot of trails but the signage is pretty good. The Panorama trail at approx mile 10.75 is the important one to take otherwise you’ll head all the way down to Chautauqua Park. From here we headed down to Eben G Fine park which has water, bathrooms and good shade along the creek. We stopped and soaked our feet in the creek and took a little power nap before heading on to Mt Sanitas.

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The Red Rocks Trail leads past some big, you guessed it, red rocks and get you to the Sunshine Valley trailhead. The Mount Sanitas trail is deceptively steep and eroded, and the last part of the climb was tougher than we expected. Plus the 1250ft gain was the most we’d had since our initial climb of Bear Peak. After 1.25 miles the top was reached, peak #5 down!

From here we took the East Ridge and Sanitas Valley trail down and turned onto the Dakota Ridge Trail to get back to our neighborhood (and a round of well earned beers).

If you go: