Beautiful Boulder is home to 45,000 acres of protected open space and 155 miles of trails. This includes a series of five peaks extending from north to south along the western edge of town. Not only do these mountains provide a beautiful backdrop to daily life in Boulder, but they serve as the ultimate playground for a myriad of hikers, runners, bikers, and climbers who live, work, and play here. Each of the five summits offers unique challenges and dramatic views, but Green Mountain (8,144 feet) might be the most classically Boulder. It’s neither the tallest nor the most popular, but its location and iconic summit make it a highly coveted prize among Boulder locals & visitors alike.
Green Mountain looms over Chautauqua meadow, smack in the middle of the Bounder range. The famous flatiron rock formations are nestled within its eastern flanks. It is the most recognizable and most photographed of Boulder’s peaks. There are several approaches to the summit and most are rated difficult. But, once at the top, the hardy hiker or runner is rewarded with jaw dropping 360-degree views and a one-of-a-kind summit marker.
While most of the routes to the summit of Green are quite arduous, there’s one that is accessible to most: Green Mountain West Ridge Trail. This sweet trail offers a shorter, gentler approach with all the same rewards. It’s ideal for families, out-of-towners, new hikers, or anyone on a time crunch. With Green Mountain West Ridge, you can bag this classic Boulder summit in about 2 hours with minimal huffing and puffing.
There’s one more reason to love this approach: Green Mountain West Ridge recently received a total makeover from Open Space and Mountain Parks. The trail has been repaired and rerouted (some work remains to be completed) and now it’s better than ever. So read on for your guide to the new and improved Green Mountain West Ridge Trail.
Before You Head Out
Be sure to check the OSMP website for temporary closures and trail conditions. Dogs are permitted on this trail and may be off leash if they have a Voice and Sight Tag. Please adhere to Leave No Trace while visiting Boulder’s open space and heed the local rules and regulations.
What to Wear and Pack
For any trail outing in Boulder, wear comfortable trail shoes and dress in layers. It’s always wise to stash a waterproof jacket in your pack just in case. Bring plenty of water and a hearty snack or two. In colder months, foot traction may be desired as this trail can be icy and snowy.
The trailhead for Green Mountain West Ridge Trail is located about 5 miles up Flagstaff Road, west of Boulder. The trail begins on the lefthand (south) side of the road, just past a sign that reads “Now Leaving City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks.” There is street parking available but please be mindful of private property.
Recent Trail Restoration and Rerouting
After years of visitation and increasing popularity, the original Green Mountain West Ridge Trail needed some attention. The trail was suffering from heavy erosion and widening. It also weaved close to private property and featured some unnecessary elevation gain. OSMP trail crews have been restoring and rerouting the trail to address these issues. The new and improved trail (to be completed by end of summer 2019) is more sustainable and provides a better visitor experience. If you loved Green Mountain West Ridge before, then you’ll love it even more now. And if you’ve yet to experience it, then you’re in for a treat.
This moderate hike is approximately 3.2 miles roundtrip with less than 800 feet of elevation. Begin hiking Green Mountain West Ridge Trail from the trail sign located just steps from the road. It’s a gentle start through ponderosa pine forest. About a half mile in, the trail begins to roll up and down while skirting the ridge and providing dramatic views to the northeast.
As the trail tucks back into the mountain, be sure to look for Bear and South Boulder Peaks to the south. This is one of the few spots where you can see both peaks plus their connecting saddle and it’s a gorgeous sight. At one mile in, you’ll pass the junction with Green Bear Trail. Continue on Green West Ridge until you hit the saddle at 1.3 miles total.
The saddle is the perfect spot for a little break. You’ll notice Ranger Trail extending to the east. This, and EM Greenman Trail on the other side, are part of the steeper, longer routes to the summit. Enjoy a snack and soak up the views before this last stretch. The final section is only 0.3 miles but it’s the toughest part of the route.
Continue toward the summit as the trail steepens and begins a series of short, rocky switchbacks. As you ascend, you’ll pass the junction for Sacred Cliffs. This is a great spot for scrambling but please heed the seasonal closures for raptor nesting.
When you reach the summit, be sure to climb up the large boulder for full 360-degree views. The unique summit market at the top features a peak finder to the surrounding mountain ranges. On a clear day, you can see all the way from Mount Evans to Longs Peak. Once you’ve had your fill, return to the trailhead exactly the way you came. Then it’s time to pat yourself on the back and head to lunch in town! Happy trails, Boulderites!