Solitude is often a treasured component of hiking; finding a trail where you aren't constantly passing or being passed by other hikers can be difficult. This is especially true when time doesn’t allow you to drive for an hour or more to get away from the city. The Anemone Trail looped with Lions Lair and Mount Sanitas Trail can make that goal much more of a reality than many Boulder locals realize. Anemone Hill was closed for several years due to a wildfire in 2010, and it has been quietly reopened relatively recently. Anemone and Lions Lair both end up getting neglected due to the nearby Flagstaff Mountain and Mount Sanitas trail systems. This loop allows you to summit Sanitas with far fewer people than you may otherwise see.
Starting at the Centennial Trailhead, which does fill up on parking relatively early, begin your hike by climbing the Red Rocks Trail or Red Rocks Spur Trail toward the interesting formations on the hill between Flagstaff and Sanitas. The Anemone Trail begins at the saddle between Sunshine and Boulder Canyons and continues uphill with Red Rocks at your back. Much of the Anemone Trail is devoid of any markers or signage, so it would be a good idea to bring your phone to use GPS in case you miss a turn or get lost.
After about a 650-foot climb, the Anemone Hill ridge offers a flatter scenic meander westward into the mountains. Views extend north to Sanitas, south to Green Mountain and Flagstaff, and as far west as parts of the Continental Divide. There is no formal summit, but after about half a mile of walking the ridge some rocky outcroppings and a wire fence mark the end of the Open Space. From the wire fence, turn right to start downhill toward the Sunshine Canyon Trail. It can be quite steep, and ice or snow can linger for longer than you’d expect since this is on the north face of the ridge. At any intersection on the way down, keep to the left; once you cross under the power lines, you know you’re on the Sunshine Canyon Trail.
Stay on this trail until the end where it terminates into a private driveway. Turn right and then left on Sunshine Canyon Drive, and after about 100 feet you'll find the Lions Lair Trailhead on the right. The Lions Lair Trail is relatively new and is off limits to dogs and bikes, which turns this trail into a paradise for runners and hikers because of the decreased foot traffic. Some open areas near the top of Lion’s Lair rival the views of Sanitas, and they give you a more open view of the snow-capped Indian Peaks to the west. After summiting Sanitas from the north, two options can get you back to your vehicle quickly. The main Mount Sanitas Trail and the Santias Valley trails are both viable and scenic ways to get back down quickly. Be courteous to the many people likely hiking up at this time, and don’t let the secret of the Anemone Trail get too far.