Miles on the Mountains at Flatirons Vista and Mt. Sanitas | Boulder, Colorado

For the final weekend before my spring training, I had the grand idea of hiking three days in a row. However, after the second hike at Mt. Sanitas, my IT Band let my body know it wasn’t having a third.

Instead of making it to Eldorado Canyon State Park yesterday for the third and final jaunt, I took a hot bath, did some mild stretching and ultimately took the day off. Hey, I saved $8 on the parking fee, so that’s a bonus.

Today, I was able to start my spring training with almost no pain, just some mild stiffness. My hope is that it doesn’t flare up anymore and require a few days to a week off, but it’s definitely better to start my training strong rather than injured.

Even though I didn’t make it through three hikes this weekend, I still got in some quintessential Boulder hikes and enjoyed miles on the mountains before my miles on the road start to quickly add up.

My first stop: Flatirons Vista

I had actually planned to run the day I visited Flatirons Vista, but after spending my morning off getting my car registered in the state for an insane amount and then learning that in Colorado I cannot obtain a license and car registration from the same office, I was too frustrated for a fast run — I needed the mountains to calm me.  (Compared to Maryland, car registration is beyond expensive! At least my tax dollars pay to fund all the open spaces and hiking trails I love.)

To get to Flatirons Vista Trailhead from Louisville, Colorado, I took McCaslin Boulevard into Superior, Colorado, turning right onto Marshall Drive 170. At the end of 170, I turned left onto State Highway 93; the trailhead was just down the road on the left.

The Flatirons Trailhead derives its name from the foothills west of the trailhead, which are called the flatirons because they slope flat (see photos).

For a 3.3-mile journey, I completed the Flatirons Vista Loop, connecting Flatirons Vista South and North; my other option was to make the loop with the Prairie Vista Trail, which adds .1 mile onto the journey — WOW — and narrows the loop.

I expected to go up into the flatirons a bit, but this loop kept me on the plains. Had I wanted to extend the journey, I could’ve taken the Dowdy Draw trail off of Flatirons Vista North. The Dowdy Draw Trail connects Flatirons Vista to the South Mesa, Greenbelt Plateau and Marshall Mesa Trailheads. From Flatirons Vista North, it also connects to the Spring Brook Loop Trails, which lead farther into the flatirons.

Take the Dowdy Draw Trail for a longer hike that extends into the foothills
View of the flatirons from where the Dowdy Draw Trail begins

Despite staying on the plains, it was a beautiful hike. Going west, I had stunning expanses of the flatirons in my view. Heading back east toward the car, I had plains stretching as far as I could see. For an easy, gentle hike — it was perfect. If you have relatives coming to visit or are out here visiting and only have time for something quick, this hike is one to do. The only “hazards” are large stones on the trail (I don’t mean gravel), so hiking shoes rather than tennis shoes would be more comfortable.

The Ponderosa Pines lining the trail at the top of the loop
Consider sturdy footwear before tackling this trail!
The plains and open view stretching to the east

My second stop: Mt. Sanitas

To get to Mt. Sanitas Trailhead from Louisville, Colorado, I took US 36 W from McCaslin Boulevard, heading west via Baseline Road, Broadway and University Avenue. The trailhead is off a neighborhood road called Mapleton Avenue. Expect crowds, especially on the weekend! The trailhead was full by 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, so we paralleled along the street (as did many others). Make note of the no parking signs as they do ticket.

Sanitas is Latin for “health,” “well-being” and “sanity.” All things I seek when heading for the mountains!

Ready for the challenge! That zip-up quickly came off as the ascent began. Look, Harley finally wanted a photo-op!

Guidebooks and websites will tell you that the Mt. Sanitas loop, which is 3.1 miles, is moderate to difficult. I’m here to tell you that if you’re a rather casual hiker like me, it’s difficult.

Pointing to where we came from. My finger is on the Sanitas Valley Trail. Check out the view!

The loop is comprised of the Sanitas Valley, East Ridge and Ridge Trails. If you want out of the valley on the way up or down, you can take the Dakota Ridge Trail instead, which parallels Sanitas Valley Trail. Once I made it up Sanitas Valley and onto the East Ridge Trail, the terrain was increasingly difficult. It went from a dirt to a boulder-covered path. The elevation gain had me huffing as the gain is around 1,300 feet (the highest I’ve hiked yet since moving here). Blake and Harley seemed to find their footing and speed with ease, whereas I was a stumbling mess. The difficulty was worth it, though; the views of Boulder and beyond are fantastic!

I love this one. Father and son looking out over the city.

It was a fun hike, with lots of people on the trails, many with adorable dogs. At times I had to hand the leash over to Blake because Harley was all too eager to greet other dogs while I was halfway up a rocky section of the path.


Coming back down the East Ridge Trail was somewhat easier, but because of its steepness and lack of boulders, Blake and I kept sliding over the dirt! Several times I had to walk sideways. Looking back, all the strange angles and general difficulty of the trail are most definitely what made my IT Band feel sore and overworked.

I saw several trail runners making the ascent via the Sanitas Valley Trail. Every time one passed by I said to Blake, “God bless that person.” As I recently learned, hiking is all I care to and can handle!

How can we not smile after such a great weekend?!

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