Saturday, December 5, 2015

Green Mountain (via Saddlerock and Gregory Canyon)

Distance: 5.8 miles round trip
Elevation: 5,932 ft - 8,116 ft
Elevation Gain: 2,184 ft gain (cum)
Bathroom at Trailhead: Yes
Dogs: Various leash laws apply
Date Hiked: 18 October 2015
Tags: #Boulder, #peak, #OSMP

View to the north on the way to the Summit of Green Mountain near Boulder,  CO
Green Mountain is one the high peaks overlooking Boulder, CO. There are numerous routes to ascend to this lofty prominence each varying in difficulty. This post describes a clockwise loop hike ascending up the Amphitheater Trail to the Saddle Rock Trail, turning onto the E.M. Greenman Trail to the summit and then descending via the back side of the E.M. Greenman Trail to the Ranger Trail and finally down the Gregory Canyon Trail (see map).

Trail map of the area
This loop is not for those with weak knees or hips. Both the Amphitheater and the Saddle Rock trails have serious step ups that will cause you to grunt and gasp. Even long-legged folks will feel the burn. Additionally, after the 2013 floods a ladder has been installed at one location on the Saddle Rock Trail. While is quite sturdy, it is not for everyone.

The start of the Amphitheater Trail
Saddle Rock, which gives the trail its name is a great spot to overlook Boulder. 
The start of this hike is located at the Gregory Canyon trailhead where Baseline Road turns up Flagstaff Mountain. Be advised that parking is limited and non-locals will need to pay a $5 parking fee or display a mountain parks pass.

Looking down on Boulder
The ladder
The start of the route begins on the south side of the parking lot away from the bathrooms on the Amphitheater Trail. This trail, named for a local climbing area, is narrow and scenic with huge rock formations and over grown shrubs on either side. It travels 540 ft in just 0.5 miles and so is sure to get your heart pumping. The trail dead ends into the Saddle Rock Trail coming up from the Gregory Canyon Trail (starts near the bathroom in the same parking lot).

One of the scramble areas on the Saddle Rock Trail
The Saddle Rock Trail continues for another 0.8 miles and additional 860 ft (1,400 ft total) until it ends in turn at the E.M. Greenman Trail. That is 1,400 ft in 1.3 miles. There are several places enroute that require some simple rock scrambling while others are a pleasant stroll in the forest. The Greenman trail continues unrelentingly for an additional 1.1 miles and 784 ft of elevation gain until it reaches the summit of Green Mountain at 8,116 ft. That is 2,111 ft elevation gain in 2.2 miles. Strenuous by most people's standards.

A flatter segment
The summit is close now
On the summit there are a series of rocks over looking Boulder, CO and a large boulder you can climb for views of the Indian Peaks Wilderness. This rock contains a brick pillar with a small map of the distant peaks.

The summit cone
Looking west from the summit
Heading down the back side, it is 2.8 miles of total distance to the junction of the West Ridge Trail and the Ranger Trail. The latter trail travels 0.9 miles until it joins the E.M. Greenman trail again. After this junction, the Ranger Trail continues straight down a tree lined alley until it reaches the Green Mountain Lodge built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 30s.

At this point, the route travels along a newly reconstructed segment that replaced the trail wiped out in the 2013 floods. This new segment is higher up the hillside and travels much further west than the old route.

Heading down the E.M. Greenman Trail
Approaching the junction of the E.M. Greenman and Ranger Trails
Near Realization Point, the Gregory Canyon Trail splits off. This trail down to the trailhead on both dirt switchbacks as well and rocky outcroppings. Near the bottom are large Apple trees planted in the 1800s.

Green Mountain is a difficult hike, but well worth the effort. Use it to train for harder things or just to stay in shape. Be warned, however that you won't be alone. There will be runners and CU students, hiking clubs and dogs all vying for the title of most energetic.

The Gregory Canyon Trail
Example of a rocky segment on the Gregory Canyon Trail

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