Hiking at Sanitas – Dakota Ridge, Boulder, CO

Silver Lake Ditch - Hiking Sanitas - Dakota Ridge Trail, Boulder, CO

The history of Sanitas is fascinating: in the late 1800’s, the Boulder-Colorado Sanitarium and Hospital was established at Mapleton and 4th by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg. As part of an effort to encourage health, trails to the summit were completed by the hospital. Hikers and donkey rides were promoted – with the latter being touted as a spa-like feature to attract new visitors, “A number of trustworthy burros have been purchased, and the patients have free access to them.” Today, operations continue at the facility (now part of Boulder Community Hospital), Dr. Kellog holds a place in history with his mass-marketed “healthy” grain cereals, and the name Sanitas provides a handy gateway into the past.

We’ve hiked Sanitas via the Goat Trail before but on Thursday as part of my experiment to start hiking mid-week, we headed to Sanitas via the Centennial Trialhead. Shortly after starting up the Sanitas Valley Trail, we came across the Silver Lake Ditch, a “beautiful stream”. My daughter plunged into the dry ditch bed, guiding us through tunnels of overgrowth, eventually connecting with the Dakota Ridge Trail that we followed for a short while before turning around and trail running back to the trailhead. A very pleasant way to start the day.

The Adventure!

6:50 AM
We dress with long underwear, fleeces, winter hats, and winter jackets. We leave the house. My plan is to pick up bagels with the hope that we can get to the trial quicker and have more time to hike before needing to head in to work.

7:10 AM
We arrive at the trailhead. Nice and early! I’ve eaten almost all of my bagel in the car on the drive from the bagel shop to the trailhead. I discover my daughter is just half way through hers. She wants to sit in the car to finish eating. Hm. There goes my plan.

7:30 AM
Finally she’s done. It’s good she’s a slow eater. But I want to find a more efficient way to start the mornings that is just as healthy but doesn’t take half an hour or so to eat. As we jump out of the car we discover it is warmer than we anticipated. We remove our jackets.

We hit the trail and run up. Then we discover an empty irrigation ditch, the Silver Lake Ditch. We jump in. It winds up the mountain in slow giant curves. One of the hiking tunes from my childhood makes its way into our morning, “the ants go marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah…”

8:08 AM

Work begins shortly so we turn around. Views to the South afford glimpses of the Flatirons. Here and there we can see a tree in fiery yellows, oranges, and reds. Clouds give way to blue skies. Beautiful fall morning. My daughter grabs a stick. Onward!

We make our way to the Sanitas Valley Trail and run-walk down.

Valley Trail - Hiking Sanitas - Dakota Ridge Trail, Boulder, CO

8:22 AM

We return to the trailhead and load back into the SUV.


We parked on the North side of Mapleton Avenue and began on Sanitas Valley Trail until veering up towards the Dakota Ridge Trail.

(click on the image for interactive route via Strava)

Route - Hiking Sanitas - Dakota Ridge Trail, Boulder, CO



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