This is a long route that has a large variety of terrain and trail that has a lot of gain in a short distance. There are a couple of creeks and one water fountain to get water from. From November to April, there is usually ice on the higher parts of the route. Microspikes are recommended for these sections.
From the South Mesa Trail
, head up the wide Mesa Trail
as it gradually climbs through open terrain. Turn left onto the Shadow Canyon
connector trail after 1.5 miles and head to the mouth of Shadow Canyon
. From the mouth of the canyon, it's one mile to the top and 1,600' feet of gain, which makes it one of, if not the steepest climb in Boulder. Shadow Canyon
is very rocky and steep until the last few hundred feet, when the canyon opens up a little bit to gentler switchbacks on smooth trail.
At the junction at the top, turn left and for the final 500 feet up South Boulder Peak
on steep but smooth trail. Scramble up the talus to the top. From South Boulder Peak
, head back the way you came back to the Shadow Canyon
junction and continue straight/left to Bear Peak
. Continue on the trail to the north side of the Bear Peak
summit block and scramble up to the top of Bear Peak
. Backtrack to the west side of the mountain and take the Bear Peak West Ridge
trail down some steep rocky switchbacks which eventually give way to buff, perfect singletrack.
Motor along the flowing trail down to Bear Canyon, where you cross a reliable creek. Shortly after the creek, make a sharp left up the Green-Bear trail and head up winding and generally smooth trail to the summit of Green Mountain. From the summit of Green Mountain, head back down to the west and take the Ranger Trail
to the north. After a few steep switchbacks, the trail turns to smooth and wide singletrack that can be easily bombed down.
At the Gregory Canyon
junction, go left up a short ways up to Flagstaff Road. Cross Flagstaff road and take the Ute Trail
just to the left of the gate in the parking area. Follow the Ute Trail
for a few minutes. To tag the true summit of Flagstaff, head off trail to the left to the highest point you can find - a molar shaped boulder. From the summit, head north back to the Ute Trail
and the Flagstaff Amphitheater area (bathrooms nearby). Take the Flagstaff Trail
down for a little over a mile. The trail crosses the road several times and also intersects many climbing access trails, so be careful to stay on the correct trail. The trail crosses Flagstaff road one more time at the Panorama Point
From here, take the Viewpoint Trail
north from the parking area as it descends easy and fast trail down to Boulder. Where the trail ends, take a short dirt road to a roundabout and enter Eben G. Fine Park. Follow the creek path West to an underpass (drinking fountain and bathrooms nearby). Cross under Canyon Blvd. on the bike path up to the Settlers Park Trail. Follow the system of trails north. If you go left, it will take you the easy way over a short hill. If you go right, you'll pass through the Red Rocks
(From here you can go out and back to the summit of Anemone Hill to the West. Typically this isn't included in the Skyline Traverse)
Drop down the other side of the hill and into the Centennial Trailhead parking area. Cross Mapleton road and go to the Sanitas picnic shelter, then left onto the Mt. Sanitas Trail. Climb 1.3 miles of steep, rocky terrain to the summit of Sanitas, finishing the Skyline Traverse. From the summit, the fastest way is to go back the way you came, although you can also go to the East and take the East Ridge Trail
and then the Sanitas Valley Trail
back down to Mapleton Road, which is a half mile longer.