8,144 Feet (Ranked 3,566th in CO)
Ranger Trail and E. M. Greenman Trail from Realization Point on Flagstaff Rd.
Road and Ute Trail from Realization Point on Flagstaff Road
February 2nd, 2008
About 6 Miles Roundtrip
Green Mountain in Boulder was given the designation “R” to distinguish it from the several dozen peaks in Colorado with the same name. It provides the backdrop for the Flatirons on Boulder’s iconic skyline. There are several interesting and challenging trails on Green Mountain, and some good opportunities for loop hikes of various lengths. While this peak is not tall enough to rise above the trees, its narrow canyons and numerous rock outcroppings provide pleasant scenery along the way. The panoramic view of the Indian Peaks and several other tall mountains makes the summit a worthy destination.
Flagstaff Mountain is the redheaded stepchild of the Boulder skyline. Its summit is not as lofty as South Boulder Peak, Bear Peak, and Green Mountain. The summit is essentially a mundane wooded plateau. None of the routes to the top offer any particular challenge, although Flagstaff Road is a grueling route for road cyclists. Its saving grace is that it offers some great views of the Indian Peaks to the west and the prairie to the east. It is frequently climbed in combination with one or more of the other mountains on the Boulder skyline.
Green Mountain viewed from Baseline Reservoir
I got an early start, and headed up to the Realization Point parking area on Flagstaff Road. It is labeled as the Gregory Canyon Trailhead on my Open Space map, but the only sign that I could find identified it as Realization Point. My car is not registered in Boulder County, so I had to pay $3.00 for parking. It was ideal hiking weather, with sunny skies and the temperature in the high 20’s. I was not familiar with the route to the summit, so I took the paved road as far as I could (this road is gated in the winter months). I caught some good views of Green Mountain along the way.
Green Mountain as seen from the road to Flagstaff Mountain’s summit
The “summit” parking area was a scant 0.67 miles up the road. The “summit” sign was at 6,850 feet; the true summit was actually 130 feet higher, several hundred yards away.
I found a trail that looked like it might head to the summit, and took off through the crusty snow. There were some good views of the Indian Peaks through openings in the trees.
View to the west from the trail near Flagstaff Mountain’s summit
I reached the summit plateau in a few minutes. Several rock piles vied for the position as high point on the plateau. I found a bit of re-bar sticking out of the ground, and presumed that somebody had marked this as the high point.
The presumed high point on Flagstaff Mountain
I took the Ute Trail back to the parking area. There was a marker for the Ute Trail beside the road just past the parking lot.
Ute Trail marker
When I got back to the parking area, I crossed Flagstaff Road and descended slightly to the start of the Ranger Trail. There was a gate to block vehicular traffic, and there was a sign for the Green Mountain Lodge beside the trail.
Green Mountain Lodge sign beside the Ranger Trail
After about a tenth of a mile, there was a junction with the Gregory Canyon Trail. I bore to the right (south) to stay on the Ranger Trail.
The junction of the Ranger Trail and the Gregory Canyon Trail
The Green Mountain Lodge was at the 0.3-mile mark on the trail. The Long Canyon Trail was on the right (west) side of the lodge, and the Ranger Trail was on the left side of the lodge.
The Green Mountain Lodge
Three-tenths of a mile beyond the lodge, I came to another fork in the trail. The E. M. Greenman Trail turned to the east, and the Ranger Trail continued to the west. Both trails head to the summit; the Greenman Trail is allegedly steeper and more challenging, so I chose this route.
The junction of the Ranger Trail and the E. M. Greenman Trail
The Greenman Trail conditions were less than ideal. The base was a couple inches of ice overlain by fairly fresh snow. The trail was steep and rocky, and the ice made it dangerously slick. I put my Yak Trax on for better traction.
Icy section of the E. M. Greenman Trail
At the 0.9-mile mark, the Saddle Rock Trail split off from the Greenman Trail. I looked down on Saddle Rock and the prairie beyond. The rock formation looked like it would be worth checking out on another hike.
Saddle Rock, North Boulder, and miles of prairie
As the trail switchbacked up the side of the mountain, I passed two significant false summits. Both presented some fun scrambling opportunities.
One of Green Mountain’s false summits
The last section of trail had the best snow cover. The snow was packed hard and frozen, so snowshoes were not necessary.
High up on the Greenman Trail
The trees started to thin out as I approached the summit. A large boulder was the obvious high point. The summit was about 1.8 miles from the trailhead.
Green Mountain’s summit
This was an interesting summit. Even though it is below timberline, the views were largely unobstructed. There was a bronze peak finder on the summit that was placed there by the C.U. Hiking Club in the 1920’s. On a clear day, virtually all of the Indian Peaks are visible, as well as the James Peak Wilderness Area, Longs Peak, Mount Meeker, Mount Evans, Mount Bierstadt, and others. It was snowing pretty hard in the mountains, so my visibility was somewhat limited.
The bronze peak finder on Green Mountain’s summit
James Peak and Mount Bancroft were barely visible through the clouds
James Peak and Mount Bancroft
Mount Evans and Mount Bierstadt barely peeked above a ridge in the distance
Mount Evans and Mount Bierstadt
The storm that was moving through was hitting Mount Audubon and Sawtooth Mountain pretty hard.
Bear Peak was the closest mountain. What it lacks in size, it makes up for with character. I’ve taken three different trails to Bear Peak’s rocky summit, and all of them were excellent hikes.
Bear Peak’s steep summit. The saddle to its right connects to South Boulder Peak.
In spite of the clouds, the view from the summit still impressed me. I set my camera on the peak finder, set the timer, and hoped for a good summit shot…
Summit shot on Green Mountain
I dropped down a steep trail on the west ridge and headed for the Ranger Trail. It was slick and icy. Two-tenths of a mile below the summit, the trail split off in three different directions. The Green Mountain West Ridge Trail headed due west towards Flagstaff Road; the Green Bear Trail headed south towards Bear Canyon (another great trail, by the way); the Ranger Trail headed north, back towards Green Mountain Lodge. I took the Ranger Trail, and jogged back to the car. The remaining 1.4 miles went quickly; my Yak Trax made the ice manageable, and the grade of the trail was not bad.
Heading down the Ranger Trail
The parking lot was full when I got back to the car. It seemed odd, because I had only seen four or five people on the trail all day. There is plenty of room for people to spread out in the Boulder Mountain Parks. Green Mountain was a fun hike from the Greenman and Ranger Trails. The Green Bear Trail is a great one, and I have no doubt that the Saddle Rock Trail would be an excellent way to access the peak. Regardless of the route, Green Mountain is a good diversion when the weather is bad in the high country. Although Flagstaff Mountain is not exactly a destination peak, it can be an interesting side trip along the way to bigger and better mountains.