Green Mountain, 8144 ft.
Distance: 10.5 miles round-trip
Elevation Gain: abt. 3,000+ feet
View of Bear Peak and South Boulder Peak from the Green Bear Trail
Though sometimes crowded, the Boulder foothills are scenic and unique. The flatirons and other rock formations form a fantastic climbing destination, but the expansive web of trails also allows the everyday hiker any number of possible hiking combinations.
Wanting to enjoy a relaxing spring day, while getting a workout as training for some bigger climbs-to-come, I headed to the NCAR (National Center for Atmospheric Research) Trailhead, destination: Green Mountain. Getting an unusually late start, around 10:45, I would proceed to hike through some beautiful area and on easy walking trails, covering 10.5 miles in just over four hours.
After following the NCAR Mesa Trail, I proceeded to hike the Mesa Trail south to Bear Canyon. The Bear Canyon Trail was pretty much a straight trail going uphill for almost two miles through the serene and narrow Bear Canyon. Having left the crowds of the Mesa Trail, I encountered just a few people in this two mile stretch. I don’t know what it is about that place, but it was very captivating to me. The trail was not very steep, and being surrounded by trees did not let me see more than a hundred yards or so at a time. Somehow, I felt very far from civilization, even though of course I was not.
Finally, I came to a split in the trail. The left branch went to the west ridge of Bear Peak, a view of which was now opening up due to my increasing altitude. To the right, I followed the Green Bear Trail. This path became steeper as it angled up onto the western slopes of Green Mountain. I continued to see wild flowers and some smaller animals, and the snow-covered mountains of Indian Peaks Wilderness and Rocky Mountain National Park appeared as well.
Joining the west ridge trail of Green Mountain, it was one more short but steeper stretch to the summit block. This huge boulder was capped with a giant cemented-cairn, complete with a register and a large benchmark/map plaque atop everything. It was not the most scenic of summits, but it was comfortable tee-shirt weather, and it was great just to be somewhere other than work. I did have some company there, and I had some pleasant conversation before leaving the summit.
It had taken me an hour and forty five minutes to make it to the mountaintop, and I had stayed only fifteen minutes. I figured that since there were trails branching off in almost every direction from the summit, it made perfect sense to follow one of these other paths to see something different on the way down.
Leaving the summit at 12:45, weather still perfect, I followed the rougher and steeper E.M. Greenman Trail over a mile downhill until I met up with the Ranger Trail. Here, the angle and roughness of the trail relented nicely. The half mile walk along the Ranger Trail and then the Long Canyon Trail was a very easy and pleasant one. I also stopped to photograph a stone cabin at one of the junctions.
Before long I came to some more steep downhill along the Gregory Canyon Trail. This interesting trail I followed for over a mile and a half. I began to see some of the eastern rock formations again, as well as some impressive drop-offs along the trail. Also, I encountered some very rocky sections, punctuated by green forest and wild flowers. And... I was back in the crowded areas of trail. I took up running large sections of this trail, to gain some distance and get a better workout, and I saw several others doing the same. Despite the crowds, the upper sections of this trail constituted some of the favorite parts of my Green Mountain tour. For peace and quiet, the Bear Canyon and Green Bear Trails had been ideal.
At the end of the Gregory Canyon Trail, I found myself at the Gregory Canyon Trailhead. I had been here in the past, and I knew I was still a good walk from where I had started: the National Center for Atmospheric Research. But, at least now I was ready to take my turn back to the south. Having covered the south, west, and north aspects of Green Mountain, I was now ready to walk south along its eastern front. This, of course, is the best side of Green Mountain, offering impressive views of the world famous flatirons and other incredible rock formations. I followed the Baseline Trail out into the open plains. The sun still shining without the protection of the trees, I found it a good time to stop and put on my sunscreen. Finally, I arrived at the Mesa Trail, now again very close to civilization. This section of trail was more like a closed dirt road, sitting on the corner of Boulder’s Open Space, a street’s width from a whole line of houses.
Much of the Mesa Trail was uphill, and my legs were beginning to feel it. This was a small price to pay, however, to return to the woods. Before long the houses and crowds were out of sight again, and I was enjoying the scenery and solitude as much as ever.
After two miles on the Mesa Trail, I again came to the junction of the NCAR Mesa Trail. I arrived at my jeep at three o’clock, four hours and ten and a half miles from when I had left it. I sat down, took one last look at the mountains, sighed, and headed back to the highway.
Summary (with mileages): NCAR Mesa TR (0.6) - Mesa TR (0.7) - Bear Canyon TR (1.7) - Green Bear TR (0.6) - West Ridge (0.2) - E.M. Greenman TR (1.2) - Ranger TR (0.3) - Long Canyon TR (0.2) - Gregory Canyon TR (1.7) - Baseline TR (0.6) - Mesa TR (2.1) - NCAR Mesa TR (0.6)
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