When it comes to outdoors bragging rights, Boulder’s incredible mountain hikes may be the crown jewels in a city featuring a wealth of natural beauty. The highest peaks stand guard over the iconic Flatiron rock formations and top out over 8,000-ft in elevation. From their lofty summits, views extend from Denver’s metropolitan skyscrapers to the airy summit block of 14,255 ft. Longs Peak.
At 8,144 feet Green Mountain is the most accessible of the “big three” Boulder summits (the others being 8,461 feet Bear Peak and 8,549 feet South Boulder Peak). The standard trailhead for a hike up Green is located in town at the base of Gregory Canyon on the perimeter of Chautauqua Park. While none of the trails that lead to the top are technical (they are rated class 2), there is 2,278 feet of elevation to be gained in a compact 3.2- mile route (6.4 miles round trip). The wickedly steep Amphitheater Trail is an instant lung-buster, featuring a quarter mile start of well-maintained stone steps that get your heart rate racing before you’ve left sight of the parking lot. Thankfully, the namesake amphitheater rock formations are at the beginning of the trail and make for a nice excuse to take a photo -- and catch your breath.
A second option starting from Gregory Canyon is the Gregory Canyon Trail, a suspiciously flat path that offers a brief warm up before matching the rugged steepness of the neighboring Amphitheater Trail. Both trails are decorated with gorgeous rock formations, shady woods and humble, seasonal creeks. Eventually, the two paths converge and join up in a burly path to the summit. There are several excellent viewpoints along the way, including great spots to look down upon the University of Colorado campus and 6,843 ft. Mount Sanitas .
The final push to the top twists through one final rock garden before concluding at a welcoming, flat summit. A crowning boulder rises above the gnarly pine trees and affords 360-degree views; on a clear day, you can see from Pikes Peak in the south to the Medicine Bow Peaks of Wyoming to the north. A summit register and a brass disk showing a 3-D chart of the neighboring mountains give added value to the great views. In late summer, don’t be surprised to see a living armor of ladybugs clinging to the rocks.
From the top of Green, you can return via the Gregory Canyon trails or continue on along the southwest side of Green along the Green-Bear trail, so named because it connects Green Mountain and Bear Peak, not because of the presence of green bears. This is Green Mountain’s secret side, a less-traveled place that is notorious for fields of brightly colored alpine flowers. Even on busy weekends, this tends to be one of Boulder’s quietest places. There’s also a good chance of spotting some of the local wildlife: black bears, mountain lions, peregrine falcons, elk, deer and coyote all call these foothills home. Eventually, this trail connects to the popular Mesa Trail , a well-traveled 6.7-mile path that skirts the base of the high peaks from Chautauqua Park to Eldorado Springs. From here, you can continue on to Bear Peak (and beyond) or circle back to Chautauqua and make a hearty loop.
Because of its easy access, Green makes a wonderful hike in any season. Winter is a special treat, not only for the serene, brisk atmosphere but also for the opportunity to look out upon Colorado’s scenic landscape adorned in its winter palette. Summer treks offer an escape from heat, gradually getting cooler at higher elevations. You may see locals jogging up Green or training with overloaded backpacks -- it’s a favorite destination for those aiming to get stronger. It’s a tough hike, but certainly doable by anyone with a modest level of fitness and a little bit of perseverance. And despite being within city limits, you’ll feel like you’re a world away, immersed in the piney, rocky wilderness.
A round trip out and back hike of Green via the Gregory Canyon trails takes about 3 - 4 hours, though as previously mentioned, it’s possible to continue the adventure and connect all three of the high Boulder peaks (a long day with mileage between 9 and 14 miles, depending on if you are making a huge loop or going point to point). And despite being a truly local mountain, Green is still a “real” summit that will give you a good mountain workout, complete with Rocky Mountain grandeur and grit.