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Sunshine Lion's Lair Loop

Intermediate

Trail

5.3 mile 8.5 kilometer loop
79% Runnable
Intermediate

Elevation

Ascent: 1,261' 384 m
Descent: -1,282' -391 m
High: 6,800' 2,073 m
Low: 5,530' 1,686 m

Grade

Avg Grade: 9% (5°)
Max Grade: 33% (19°)

Dogs

No Dogs
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Map Key

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

Megan W

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 Trailhead 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 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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Check-Ins

Jan 25, 2020
Andrew Veeder
5.4mi
Dec 7, 2019
Andrew Hewitt
Lions lair trail dry in good condition, sunshine canyon a mess. Great day out though 5.4mi — 1h 29m
Jul 13, 2019
Levi Perigo
Jul 5, 2019
Shweta Bhandare
8h 30m
Jun 30, 2019
David Hampton
1h 05m
Jun 27, 2019
Paige Lane
Jun 10, 2019
Chris Mavricos
5.3mi
Jun 9, 2019
Stefan Suarez
4.9mi — 1h 00m

Trail Ratings

  4.5 from 107 votes

#18

Overall
  4.5 from 107 votes
5 Star
62%
4 Star
27%
3 Star
11%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%
Run Rankings

#8

in Colorado

#18

Overall
428 Views Last Month
37,073 Since Apr 23, 2015
Intermediate

2%
70%
28%
0%

Photos

Sunrise from Mt Saintas
Nov 3, 2017 near Boulder, CO
Rolling on Lion's Lair Trail.
Nov 24, 2015 near Boulder, CO
View looking west.
Jan 3, 2016 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

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