Hiking Boulder’s Green Mountain Loop
Green Mountain is the third highest mountain in Boulder at 8,150 ft, and one of the 5 iconic mountain peaks in Boulder. I hiked this loop trail once before in summer when it was lusciously green (no pun intended), but at the time focused more on the hike than documenting it. I knew the views from the summit are amazing, so I decided to take my camera with me to log the beauty of this hike.
FYI – there is an easier way to get to the summit of Green Mountain – via the Green Mountain West Trail – that is only 3.7 miles long with 700 ft elevation gain, if you want to see the summit and not bother with all the elevation gain.
At just over 6 miles long, but with over 2,400 ft elevation gain, the Green Mountain loop hike is strenuous. Indeed, it is often considered a good hike for those who are training for high elevation gain hikes. You start out at the Ranger Cabin, take the Ski Jump Trail or Meadow Trail to the Gregory Canyon parking lot, and after passing through the parking lot and a short bit on the trail beyond, turn left onto Saddle Rock Trail. At the junction with E.M. Greenman Trail, you keep left again and follow the trail to the summit of Green Mountain. To make a loop, you head down the mountain on the trail the opposite way you came to connect with Ranger Trail downhill by turning right. About halfway down the mountain the trail connects with Gregory Canyon Trail to make the complete loop back towards Chautauqua Park.
They have paper copies of the Chautauqua Park at the Ranger Cottage that you can pick up and use to aid your journey.
You start out at the Chautauqua Park Ranger Station. From there, you can either take the Meadow Trail or the Ski Jump Trail. As you head out, you get nice views of the Flatirons –
I ended up taking the Ski Jump Trail because I missed the Meadow Trail. To get to the Meadow Trail you have to take a quick right turn onto the 6th Street Connector. In any case, the Ski Jump Trail is just as good for getting to the next point on the hike.
After passing through the meadow, and a short connection on the Bluebell-Baird Trail, you reach the Gregory Canyon parking lot. It doesn’t look like you can park there in the wintertime, but I think I remember you can park there in the summer. Don’t be alarmed that you don’t immediately see the Saddle Rock Trail. After passing through the parking lot and walking about 0.1 miles on the trail beyond, you’ll come to the junction. By this point you will have hiked about 0.7 miles.
Saddle Rock Trail
At the junction, turn left onto Saddle Rock Trail. Here you will climb approximately 1,400 ft over find 1.1 miles – quite a strenuous ascent. I usually calculate “strenuous ascent” as being 100 ft ascent per 0.1 mile covered, and this goes beyond that measurement.
I went last week before the current warm weather and the entire trail was snow-packed. Microspikes were necessary for the entire hike.
As you ascend, you pass by a lovely gully. Looking up –
And looking down the gully –
Soon after crossing the gully, there is a staircase. In some ways, it was easier to go up now when it’s all packed in with snow than in the summer months when you have to climb the stairs directly.
After passing the stairs, looking back at Saddle Rock –
E.M. Greenman Trail
At about mile 1.9 you reach the connection with E.M. Greenman Trail and veer left. The next 1 mile to the summit covers about another 1,000 ft in elevation gain, making it still pretty strenuous.
Along the way you are treated to this view of the Indian Peaks and Rocky Mountains –
And you can see the destination – the summit of Green Mountain!
Green Mountain Summit
The views from the summit of Green Mountain are some of the best in Boulder. Once you get to the summit, there is a rock you can climb with a great vantage point. You can see Rocky Mountain National Park, including Longs Peak, Mt. Meeker, Pagoda Mountain, and Chief’s Head Mountain to the right. As you pan left, you see the Indian Peaks.
There is a handy marker on the rock that helps you identify the names of all the magnificent mountains that you can see.
It’s fun to try to identify the mountains based on this marker, especially on a clear day.
Since I brought my telephoto lens, I thought I’d zoom in on the peaks you can see from the summit.
From left to right – Chief’s Head Mountain, Pagoda Mountain, Longs Peak, Mt. Meeker –
Mt. Audubon, which we attempted to climb last summer –
More beautiful mountains up close. I had some trouble identifying them because of all the clouds obscuring many of the peaks that day.
To head back down the loop, you go downhill on the opposite side of the summit from where you came. After 0.1 miles you’ll hit the Ranger Trail, and head down it to the right. The Ranger Trail has good views of it’s own looking down at Boulder and the Front Range –
As well as peeks of the mountains that you saw on the summit in-between the trees.
Gregory Canyon Trail
After 1.2 miles on the Ranger Trail, followed by a 0.1 mile connector to the Green Mountain Lodge…
…you will reach Gregory Canyon Trail. This trail is beautiful in it’s own way, following along a sandy and rocky path down a canyon.
There is just something lovely and refreshing about the open space created by the canyon, and the views beyond.
Looking back at Saddle Rock –
Recommended as a Strenuous Hike / Training Hike
Whether you just want to see the excellent views, or to get some serious exercise, or to train for a high elevation gain hike, the Green Mountain Loop has it all. Beyond the exercise aspect, I love how this hike showcases different types of scenery along the way.