Ooo, that sweet spot of finding a hike that’s just the right distance, elevation, time, and shade… which has stunning views at the summit as a reward!
During my recent trip to Boulder, Colorado, my friends and I scoured the web for suggestions on the best moderate mountain nearby from which we’d be able to see the Rockies. We sure found it!
I’ll share the play-by-play of the hike here with you for two reasons. First, if you are seeking a similar “Just Right” day hike from Boulder, this is a winner.
Second, if you are seeking no such hike, but simply want to snuggle on your couch and cyber-walk out in nature from these tranquil photos, I’ve got you covered, there, too. We celebrate gazing at greenery for soul healing in whatever way we can.
Either way, enjoy!
The name of the hike is Green Mountain West Ridge Trail, and we found parking on Flagstaff Road near the trailhead, just 15 minutes and 4.2 miles from central Boulder.
The drive itself was luscious with switchback twists and vistas of the Flatiron Mountains. It was such visual excitement for this Massachusetts gal who’s used to the tallest mountain in her state being less than 3,500 feet tall!
Green Mountain is… 8,150 feet in elevation. Yeah, it’s got Mount Greylock beat by double, and then some, without even breaking a sweat as Colorado mountains go.
I’m starting this article with alluring photos of the views from the top of the mountain, to display why the hike is worth it. As you can see, there are two very different halves to the summit’s vista… and a surprise in the middle.
On one side of Green Mountain’s summit stretches the flat pancake of Boulder. I had no idea before flying into Colorado that the region around Denver was so NON-mountain-y!
That view is enlivened, however, by the sharp edges of the Flatiron Mountains, which caress the eastern thigh of Green Mountain.
Now, remember I said there’s a surprise in the middle of the summit? Well, there are a two. First: A gazillion zipping ladybugs! Be prepared for black smudges racing across your photos.
Second: A caramel-colored boulder formation that you can climb atop to pose with the tower made of rocks which rises from it like a chimney! Why is there no photo of me on said boulder? Because I’m a chicken.
Let’s cross to the other side of Green Mountain’s summit, shall we? The western-facing vista offers a pulse-pounding contrast to the flat east: the Rocky Mountains! With their curving gray humps in the distance, that famed mountain range reminded me of sleeping elephants.
In fact, Green Mountain itself is part of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains — an honor akin to being the opening act for a show-stopping band.
Now that we’ve examined the prize your eyes will receive at the summit of the hike, let’s see what it takes to get up there! “Backwards planning,” for all you fellow teachers and curriculum geeks out there.
Working backwards: Know that the half-mile of the trail closest to the summit is startlingly steep.
As you can see from the photo above, which I took from the top of Green Mountain while looking out at the trail we needed to return down, it’s quite a fast drop in elevation! Step carefully and take your time.
That said, you’ll have plenty of time to catch your breath once you get to the middle and near-the-parking section of the hike, because it’s a flat and happy stroll. Check this out…
As for the overall distance and of Green Mountain West Ridge Trail: The “out and back” hike is 2.5 miles total, and it took us less than two hours to complete.
That’s a perfect hike for a Boston gal, if you ask me! It left us plenty of time to eat our way through Boulder afterwards. Burp…
As someone who burns lobster-red at a single ray of sun, it’s my duty to inform you of the shade situation on this hike: Though I brought a hat and used it at times, most of the trail is under a lush vegetation canopy (at least it was in July), meaning sunburns are less likely. Thank goodness!
What about parking and popularity? The great thing about this trail was that there was room for our car and our feet, despite being out on a busy weekend morning. Since Green Mountain is farther out than the more trafficked Flatiron Mountain area hikes, it’s a better bet for avoiding teeming Boulder crowds.
Be sure to double check, if you want to do this 2-hour, 2.5-mile hike, that you are at the trailhead for Green Mountain WEST Ridge Trail. If you mess up and go to the regular Green Mountain trail (without the “West” part), you add some heavy extra miles and hours to your outing! Oof.
Other advisories: Beware of accidentally starting fires, prepare for altitude sickness (go easy on yourself), and be mindful of various other Colorado features such as bears.
Finally, let’s talk about sweat and hydration. Ending Green Mountain West Ridge Trail hike totally drenched in sweat is highly likely, thanks to the steep sections.
Bring ample amounts of water and snacks to stay fresh, and if you are planning on going directly out on the town or to a restaurant after the hike, pack a full change of clothes. Your friends and their noses will thank you.
So what do YOU think? Have you done any hikes around Boulder that you’d recommend, including this one? What do you look for in a hike?
The author, Lillie Marshall, is 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English, fitness fan, and mother of two who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog in 2009, and over 3.7 million readers have now visited this site. Lillie also runs TeachingTraveling.com and DrawingsOf.com. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media!