Most summit hikes in Boulder County demand both time and effort. The view at the top comes only to those who have earned it. And while it’s satisfying to work for something so worthwhile, this can be prohibitive to hikers of varying levels and ages. Not everyone is in a position to huff and puff their way up to the summit of Bear Peak or even Mount Sanitas. Fortunately, there is one summit that’s attainable for most hikers and its views are just as good, if not better, than any hard-earned Boulder peak.
Presenting Sugarloaf Mountain, located in Roosevelt National Forest just 7 miles west of Boulder. This 8,917-foot peak, with its distinctly conical shape, can be seen from many locations in town. Its windswept summit provides 360-degree views from the plains to the Continental Divide, and the hike to the top is a mere ¾ of a mile with approximately 500 feet of elevation gain. This makes Sugarloaf an ideal summit hike for most levels.
New to town and still acclimating? Planning a hike with kids or out-of-towners? Looking for a fantastic picnic spot in exchange for minimal effort? Get thee to Sugarloaf Mountain where you can enjoy expert views on a beginner’s trail. Read on for your guide to this lesser-known gem in Boulder County.
Please be mindful of the rules and regulations while hiking in Roosevelt National Forest. Dogs are permitted on Sugarloaf Mountain but must be kept on leash.
Head west on CO 119. Approximately 4.5 miles from the mouth of the canyon, turn right onto Sugarloaf Road. Continue on Sugarloaf Road for 4 miles and then turn right onto Sugarloaf Mountain Road (located at the top of the road). Take this dirt road for about one mile to the large parking area for the Switzerland Trail.
This hike begins at the eastern most point of the Sunset to Eldora leg of the narrow gauge railroad known as the “Switzerland Trail of America.” The railroad, in operation from 1883 to 1920, connected Boulder to several nearby mountain towns including Ward, Nederland, and Eldora. Today, the Switzerland Trail is a multi-use jeep road that is very popular with trail runners and mountain bikers. Photos and information about this historic trail are posted on the trailhead sign.
The trail to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain begins on the east side of the parking lot by the old metal gate. Begin hiking up the trail and enjoy the emerging panorama as the forest gives way to a sparsely vegetated hillside. There are some very gnarly trees lining the trail that make for great photos. Keep your eyes open for wildlife, too – deer, moose, bears, and mountain lions make their home here.
About 2/3 of the way up, you’ll encounter a bench that is perfectly positioned to showcase the endless sea of mountains and valleys spreading to the south and the west.
This is a great pit stop for younger hikers or flatlanders who want to catch their breath. It’s a breathtaking scene and worth lingering on. From the bench, the trail turns west and toward the summit for the final stretch. Continue hiking to the summit, where you’ll find a wind shelter and views for days.
Savor the unobstructed 360-degree views along with some well-deserved peace and quiet. Sugarloaf is often subject to high winds, so don’t hesitate to take advantage of the shelter if needed. Take plenty of photos and share a snack or a picnic lunch. (Pro-tip: This is also an unbeatable sunset viewing spot.) Sugarloaf’s airy summit is truly one of the best in the Boulder area. The fact that it doesn’t require strenuous work only means that more can enjoy it.
Happy trails, Boulderites!
Photo credit: Alli Fronzaglia for YourBoulder.com – all rights reserved