Hike Boulder's Skyline Traverse

16.4 miles 6300 ft gain  - Point-to-Point Trail

Added by Ian Glass

Like suffer-fest hikes? Boulder's Skyline Traverse connects the city's five tallest peaks into one hell of a hike.

Have you ever reached the bottom of a hike with some friends and thought, 'That was nice, but I'd still like to hike more... a lot more.'? Then the Skyline Traverse is for you. Instead of hiking just Green Mountain or Bear Peak, the Skyline Traverse links South Boulder Peak, Bear Peak, Green Mountain, Flagstaff Mountain, and Mount Sanitas into one long day. After finishing this 'pleasant stroll' you won't want to think about hiking for at least a few days.

Because you will be hiking all day (8-10 hours) from one end of Boulder to the other, it is recommended that you use a car-shuttle. You will need to have one car at the Mount Sanitas trailhead parking lot and the other at Shanahan Ridge Trailhead (parking at NCAR works too, Shanahan TH is just closer to South Boulder Peak). From here, it's choose your own adventure. You can either hike from Mount Sanitas to South Boulder Peak or visa versa. I would recommend starting at SB Peak for two reasons: 1) You knock off the two toughest peaks early in the day. 2) When you drive back to Shanahan TH to get the second car, you can stop at the Southern Sun for an adventure celebration. Right? Do it.

So starting off from the Shanahan TH (at around 5:30-6am), follow the North Fork Shanahan trail for about 1 mile until you reach the Mesa trail. Take a left (south) on the Mesa trail and hike for another mile until you reach a fork in the path for Shadow Canyon North trail. Take a right onto the Shadow Canyon North trail. The trail will eventually become Shadow Canyon trail, which you will take all the way to the top. The trail will spit you out on saddle between SB Peak and Bear Beak. Turn left on the trail to tag the summit of SB Peak. After a quick celebration dance, double-back and traverse over to Bear Peak.

From the summit of Bear Peak, you want to head down the Bear Peak West Ridge trail (Crucial! Don't hike down Fern Canyon). You'll follow the BP West Ridge trail down into (what I think is) one of the prettiest parts of Boulder. There is an isolate aspen groove with an gentle stream running through it. Great place to string up a hammock... but not today. You still got three peaks to go. BP West Ridge trail reaches a fork and you'll want to hang a left onto Green Bear trail. You will take the Green Bear trail 1.5 miles to the Green Mountain West Ridge Trail, which you'll turn right on and head up to the Green Mountain summit.

Once you've summited Green Mountain, double-back on the trail you took up until you reach the Ranger trail (0.3 miles from the summit). Follow the Ranger trail down for roughly a mile until it forks towards Flagstaff road... which is an actual road (if you've started down Gregory Canyon, you've gone too far). You will need to cross Flagstaff road in order to reach Flagstaff summit. This is where things get a little wanky. There really isn't a clearly denoted 'summit' on Flagstaff AND there is no real trail to take you there. It's just kinda flat with trees everywhere. Just find the highest rock you can and move on. Flagstaff just isn't worth it. I might sound bitter but after you do it, you'll see where I'm coming from.

So, from Flagstaff's non-existent summit find your way to the Flagstaff trail. I don't really have a beta on this except for, just keep hiking North on Flagstaff until you find an established trail. Follow Flagstaff trail down to Panorama/View Point trail which is a large overlook of the city with a parking lot. Skirt the overlook to your left and BAM! you are on View Point trail. This trail will lead you into a neighborhood. Keep walking straight and you will cross over into Eben G. Fine park. Follow the Boulder Creek path (it's paved) left a couple hundred yards and you will reach a bridge that leads you under an overpass. Go through the underpass to the park on the other side of Canyon Rd. You will find the Red Rocks trail. Follow the Red Rocks trail for half a mile and you will reach your first car at the Sanitas parking lot... but you're not done yet.

Cross the parking lot and take the Mount Sanitas trail to the summit. From the summit you can double-back on the trail you hiked up or take the really mellow Sanitas Valley trail back to your car.

Hooray! You did it! Now got celebrate at the Souther Sun!

*Note: This hike can be done all year long but one should be encouraged to use micro-spikes during the winter season.

**Also: Not many photos because I was mid-suffer.

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Tags

Fitness
Running
Hiking
Easy Parking
Forest
Scenic

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

The hike is great, few extra FYI's

This is a tough hike, but I have also known ultra runners to do this 4 times in a day. So... there's that. Few things here, first, and most important... It doesn't matter which way you hike, you will pass Southern Sun either way to get the first car. Also, microspikes aren't just a good idea, YOU WILL slip and fall without them. OSMP has actually had a lot of injuries recently because folks don't bring traction to hike. It is also worth mentioning that while you can hike from south mesa, shanahan, ncar, etc. It hurts going up shadow or fern canyon. Starting with sanitas will allow you to go down these canyons. It isn't necessarily the better option, but I wouldn'thike it any other way. One last thing I should mention, hammocks are actually NOT allowed on open space at all. They can damage trees when set up improperly and we want to protect these beautiful resources, am I right?

Took the Wrong Turn Early On & Had to Abandon the Hike

This started off like a great hike, but I went the wrong direction on Mesa trail and by the time I realized that it was too late to go back because I got a late start and I would not have been able to finish before dark. Tips: -if solo, you can take an Uber between the 2 trailheads, it was like $14 -study the directions and make sure you have a paper map with

Explorer

🥇Top Contributor

about 3 years ago

One Hell of a Hike (In a Good Way)

This hike was awesome! It took us 11 hours to complete, but we were taking our time and thoroughly enjoying every view. This hike gives a comprehensive experience of all the best spots in Boulder and the time flies by with all the beautiful views. At the end I was amazed by how far I had hiked!

🥈 Contributor

about 4 years ago

Incredible views on a full-day hike.

This hike was so fun for my friend an I. I believe it took us around 13 hours (she was really slow :-| ) but damn it was still so good. The views to the west from Green Mountain, Bear Peak, and S. Boulder Peak were amazing. The Flatirons are literally like the door to an unbelievable landscape behind them. Take plenty of water and snacks and possibly trekking poles.

Google maps link

I plan on giving this hike a try early October. I messed around with google maps might not be the perfect route but I think it is pretty close to the explanation that was left on the blog post. Thanks for the direction -Casey https://drive.google.com/open?id=1S5wl2sfCceos0p4Gqv9gR5zuMC8&usp=sharing

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