Popular trails are popular for a reason. They’re close to town, easy to access, and they connect with other equally popular trails. Often they form a loop or allow for a variety of loops. They may lead to an airy summit or a sweeping vista. It’s no surprise how Boulder’s most popular trails became popular. They’re convenient. They’re well traveled. They serve as important thoroughfares for the system. They just make sense.
And then there’s Green Bear. It makes no sense to hike Green Bear just for the sake of it. It’s not at all convenient or well traveled. It doesn’t form a loop of any reasonable length. It can only be hiked as a bizarre out-and-back or as part of a grueling, daylong trek. And that’s all the more reason to go there and check it out.
Green Bear is not a popular trail with most hikers. On a typical day, it sees a handful of ultrarunners and the occasional group of 3- or 5-Peak Traversers. No one even bothered to give it a decent name. It connects Green Mountain and Bear Peak, and so it became “Green Bear.” But what this trail lacks in popularity and a creative name, it makes up for in tranquil beauty, loads of wildlife, and a backcountry feel.
As always, please consult OSMP.org for trail conditions and closures.
The two easiest (though not easy) ways to access Green Bear Trail would be from the Green Mountain West Ridge access point or the NCAR – Bear Canyon access point.
For Green Mountain West Ridge, head west on Flagstaff Road for 5 miles until you pass the “Leaving City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks” sign on your left. The trail begins just past the sign. There is limited street parking.
For NCAR – Bear Canyon, head west on Table Mesa and continue as it winds up to the NCAR campus. There is ample parking. The trail begins just west of the parking lot.
Since there is no obvious way to hike this trail (without investing a whole day in it), check out the map to help plan your route. Here are three options for you.
From Green Mountain West Ridge (4.8 miles total): Take the trail for 0.9 miles to the junction with Green Bear. Turn right or south onto Green Bear. Enjoy the gentle switchbacks through ponderosa pine and meadow. End at Bear Creek and then return the way you came.
From NCAR Trailhead/Bear Canyon (9.8 miles total): Head west on Bear Canyon Trail for one mile through the NCAR area. Turn left or south onto Mesa for a brief 0.4 miles and then turn right to resume hiking on Bear Canyon. Bear Canyon continues for 2 miles as you ascend through a beautiful riparian zone. Turn right onto Green Bear. Enjoy the easygoing switchbacks up Green Bear to its intersection with Green Mountain West Ridge. Consider that your “summit” of the day and turn around to return the way you came.
Put ‘em together (5.8 miles total): It requires a little planning, but starting at Green Mountain West Ridge and ending in Bear Canyon, connecting the above routes, is a fantastic way to enjoy Green Bear. The entire hike is flat or gently descending. Recruit a friend and drop a car off at Bear Canyon ahead of time so you only have to go one way.
If you’d like to use Green Bear for its one and only intended purpose, then plan a hike that includes the summits of Green Mountain and Bear Peak. Green Bear is a welcome respite in between two rather tough climbs. Consult the OSMP map for numerous starting points and route options.
Photo credit: Alli Fronzaglia for Your Boulder — all rights reserved