Damn, it’s good to be a peak bagging Boulderite. You don’t even need to leave town to get your summit fix. To the west, and still within city limits, Boulder is flanked by a mountain range consisting of five main peaks. From north to south and lowest to highest, they are Mount Sanitas, Flagstaff, Green Mountain, Bear Peak, and South Boulder Peak. Each one is worthwhile and unique in its scenery and its challenges, but Green Mountain remains a local favorite for good reason.
Clocking in at 8,144 feet, Green is considerably higher than Sanitas or Flagstaff but a little more accessible than Bear or South Boulder. Its summit offers some of the best views in town. Bonus: it features an array of trails leading to the top, so you can customize a hike or trail run that suits your needs.
New to hiking, new to altitude, or just short on time? Green Mountain’s West Ridge is the perfect summit approach for anyone who wants a gentler, shorter hike. Ready for a challenge? Head up Gregory Canyon for a variety of terrain and a steady climb. Experienced and looking for a real lung buster? Saddle Rock and EM Greenman provide the steepest, most unrelenting approach.
No matter your route, a hike to Green’s summit offers incredible scenery, wildlife watching opportunities, and the chance to test yourself without leaving town. Read on for everything you need to know about these 3 classic approaches to Green Mountain.
As always, please consult OSMP.org for detailed trail maps, route options, conditions, dog regulations, and possible closures.
Level 1: The West Ridge Approach (2.6 miles round trip, 600 feet of elevation gain)
This is the shortest and gentlest approach to Green’s gorgeous summit. To access the trail, head west on Baseline Road to Flagstaff Road. Take Flagstaff Road for 5 miles. Just beyond the sign that reads, “Leaving the City of Boulder,” the trail begins on the left. There is street parking available on the right side of the road.
At the Green Mountain West Ridge sign, begin hiking east. The trail starts out pleasantly flat and then begins rolling up and down as you meander through pine forest and meadow. Be sure to take in the views of Bear and South Boulder Peaks as you hike along.
Continue past the junctions for Green Bear Trail and Ranger Trail while following signage toward the summit. Just past the junction with Ranger, the trail steepens and begins to switchback. The last 0.3 miles is the toughest part of this otherwise easy-going approach.
After a little huffing and puffing, you’ll be at Green’s sweeping summit. Be sure to scramble up the large boulders to the summit marker, which features 360-degree views and a key to the surrounding peaks.
Level 2: The Gregory Canyon Approach (5.5 miles round trip, 2,300 feet of elevation gain)
This classic approach to Green’s summit begins at the Gregory Canyon Trailhead. To get there, head west on Baseline Road to the point where it turns into Flagstaff Road. Instead of heading up Flagstaff Road, turn left onto the Gregory Canyon access road and continue to the parking lot.
Begin hiking up Gregory Canyon Trail. Almost immediately the trail begins a moderate but consistent climb. This is an excellent spot for birds and other wildlife, so keep your eyes open as you ascend. At 1.1 miles, you’ll reach the junction with Ranger Trail. Turn left to continue up Ranger.
About a half mile later (and after you’ve passed Green Mountain Lodge), you’ll reach a “T” in the trail. The sign here notes, “Both trails lead to the summit.” This is true, but the Ranger approach is gentler. Stay to the right to remain on Ranger.
Ranger eventually ends at a clearing just below the final summit push. Turn left (east) to switchback up EM Greenman Trail for the last 0.3 miles to the summit. Congratulations and enjoy!
Level 3: The Saddle Rock / EM Greenman Approach (4.6 miles round trip, 2,300 feet of elevation gain)
This approach is a little shorter and more direct than Gregory Canyon, but it’s much steeper. It also begins at Gregory Canyon Trailhead (refer to the Level 2 approach for trailhead directions).
Begin heading up Saddle Rock Trail. This steep and unforgiving trail will test you, but the rewards are great. About halfway up, enjoy the super cool ladder that was installed as part of the 2013 flood repairs. At 1.2 miles, Saddle Rock Trail ends at a fork with EM Greenman Trail. Take the upper trail on the left and continue toward the summit.
Follow EM Greenman as it climbs steadily. Please note that dogs are not permitted on this section of the trail. In 1.1 miles, you will arrive at the summit. Savor those incredible views and give yourself a pat on the back for getting there the hard way.
For all of these approaches, you can return to the starting trailhead by descending exactly the way you came. For Levels 2 and 3, you can mix it up returning the opposite way. (I.e. you may choose to ascend via Level 3 and then descend via Level 2 or vice versa.)
Three cheers for three different summit options and happy trails, Boulderites!
Photo credit: Alli Fronzaglia for YourBoulder.com — all rights reserved