Trail Zealot

Colorado hiking, Appalachian Trail thru-hiking, and more...

Dakota Ridge Trail to East Ridge Trail

Mileage2.1 mi
Elevation gain1473 ft
Elevation loss183 ft
Dakota Ridge is an enjoyable, rolling, somewhat shady trail that parallels the wider, sunny Sanitas Valley Trail. Dakota Ridge is the less-traveled of the two, and both approaches lead to Sanitas' steep East Ridge Trail. Some Sanitas regulars skip the summit entirely, and make a loop out of the two valley trails.
Most strict dog regulations: Leash Required
Least strict dog regulations: Leash, or Voice and Sight Control

Route Description

If you TOOK MY ADVICE and parked along Mapleton, walk west on the sidewalk past a few parking spots on the street. You'll come to this break in a wooden fence. Your hike begins here!

You'll know you're in the right place by this sign. It is a bit misleading; it only mentions the Sanitas Valley Trail, but this is a general access point for any of the Sanitas trails you should choose. Boulder's Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) team is extremely diligent about their signage. This sign communicates that dogs are allowed on this trail segment on-leash, bikes are not allowed, and horses are allowed (although I've never seen one here).

Walk though a short wooded section along a ditch. This is perhaps the narrowest part of your entire route. Accordingly, watch out for trail runners and people talking on phones, as they rarely yield, especially when they are near the end of their journey.

In a few hundred feet you will come to a large trail junction. Take the wide trail to the right of this sign. There is a ton of stuff here, and it totally makes sense for you to be overwhelmed by it. You will find: a map of the area's trails, color-coded by dog leash regulations; announcements and other regulations; a sign displaying the dog regulations in the immediate area; temporary signage; free, compostable dog-poop bags; a garbage can for ONLY dog poop in said compostable bags; and a trash can for all other trash, including dog poop in non-compostable bags. Overwhelming? Yes. Helpful? Also yes.

The Sanitas Valley trail does not change much as you gently ascend. This photo gives you the gist of the first mile of your route. Follow the wide gravel trail up the sunny valley floor.

After a short bit on the Sanitas Valley Trail, branch off to the right to head up Dakota Ridge.

Do not take the faint trail that branches off to the left; stay right to remain on the Dakota Ridge Trail, paralleling a stream.

Make a hard left U-turn to stay on Dakota Ridge. If you have a pup who wants to jump in the water, continue straight a short bit to a bridge over an irrigation ditch. Then double back and continue ascending.

Reach a junction with a bailout trail down to Sanitas Valley Trail. Stay right to ascend a steep-ish staircase up to the ridgeline. Once you get up that staircase, though, it is a gently rolling ridge walk.

Stay left at this junction, rather than making a hard right U-turn. The trail to the right is not an official trail. (Also, it does not lead anywhere.)

Keep right at another fork with a Sanitas Valley bailout trail.

From your shady perch on Dakota Ridge, look down on those Sanitas Valley hikers as they are incinerated by the sun.

Here is the view back down Sanitas Valley from its high point. The Dakota Ridge Trail ends as you join the Sanitas Valley Trail and continue to ascend.

Stay left here, as the very steep Goat Trail descends to the right into the neighborhoods below.

Soon, there is another trail junction at which you will stay left. The trail to the right also provides neighborhood access. There is a convenient bear-proof trash can to the right, just a bit off the trail. That trash can is a welcome sight when carrying dog poop.

The trail begins to switchback up Mount Sanitas' east ridge. The steepness increases markedly, but you will the trail remains wide for the time being.

The trail gets rougher as you make your way up the steep east ridge. Stairs like this are interspersed with flatter trail segments as well as small scrambles over rocks.

Behold the crux of Mount Sanitas' east ridge. It looks steeper in a photo than it really is. Stick to the crack on the left, pointing just to the right of the left-most tree. You can see a trail marker sticking up. Just look around for rocks that can serve as steps.

Near the top of this little rock formation. A trail marker indicates to make a left here. Do that; do not pop through the gap in the rocks straight ahead!

You made it! There is a metal pole and a rock with a plaque to commemorate the summit. On the map, the endpoint is a bit off - that marker represents the Mount Sanitas Trail-Lion's Lair Trail junction. Enjoy the views, and chat with the occasional OSMP ranger as well as some of Boulder's fittest people. Plenty of ultra-runners regularly do laps on Sanitas.