Boulder 5 Peak Traverse

The Boulder 5 Peak Traverse, also known as the Boulder Skyline Traverse, is a classic trail run in the Boulder area. At 16.3 miles and 6300 ft of elev gain, it’s not exceedingly long but it’s got a fair amount of climbing, and ranges in altitude from 5400 to 8500 ft. Coming from sea level, I could feel it.

A couple days before doing the Traverse I’d done a loop up Mt Audobon, which unexpectedly offered great views of the 5 Peak Traverse and got me even more excited about the route.

Five peaks of Boulder on the far horizon, as seen from the flanks of Audobon. From left to right, Sanitas, Flagstaff, Green, Bear, and South Boulder.

I’m not super familiar with the trails around Boulder and therefore was happy to find this Hiking Project write-up of the Traverse. In my opinion, it was worth downloading the app (especially since the app is free)! I carried a paper map as well.

Although the route traditionally starts from the South Mesa trailhead, I started from my parent’s house, which is directly adjacent to the Lehigh Connector. This added approx 1 mile to the route, for a total of 17.1 miles and 6300 ft. Close enough.

Boulder 5 Peak Traverse

The weather in Boulder had been hot and sunny all week, so I started in the dark, about an hour before sunrise, to avoid the heat and to make sure I was down low before any afternoon thunderstorms rolled through. I was happily surprised when the morning turned out to be cool and overcast. It rained a bit but there was never any thunder or lightning. Just like home.

By mid-morning the sun was out and it had started to warm up. I collected water at Boulder Creek (treated with MSR Aquatabs) and also filled my bottles at the drinking fountain in Eben G. Fine park. I had a 1 liter carrying capacity, and if the day had been any warmer I would’ve wished for more water…

I was blissfully alone on South Boulder and Bear Peak, and only saw one person on my way up Green Mountain. By the time I reached Flagstaff the trail was getting busy, and Sanitas was downright crowded, which I suppose is to be expected on a sunny Friday in Boulder.

All in all, this is a great route and an excellent way to get a taste of Boulder trails!

Sunrise as I made my way up Fern Canyon
Summit of Bear Peak: one down, four to go!
Denver skyline in the distance
Red sky in morning…
Sunrise lighting up a rock on the trail (no post-processing)
South Boulder Peak: two down, three to go!
View to the south from South Boulder Peak
Fall colors already starting to show on Bear Peak West Ridge trail
Green Mountain: three down, two to go!
Flagstaff – barely a summit. Four down, one to go!
Mount Sanitas. Looks so harmless.
Sanitas. Steep little trail that packs a punch, especially at the end of this traverse.  Five down, zero to go!


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