Happy Hiking: Green Lake Trail

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After ten days of wildflower hikes in Crested Butte, I changed it up a bit and hiked to Green Lake.  I’m not exactly sure about how I’d rate the 8.5-mile Green Lake Trail.  If I were just walking the second half, I’d probably give it five stars.  If I were just walking the first half, I’d probably give it 1 star.  I suppose that averages out to three stars, but I wouldn’t want anyone to miss Green Lake.

Getting to Green Lake Trail

The Green Lake Trail starts at the Nordic Center in the Town of Crested Butte.  The benefit to this is two-fold.  No driving on dirt roads is required, and quite possibly no driving is required at all.  The wide trail climbs the side of the hill to a dirt road.  The disadvantage is it can get crowded due to its easy accessibility.

The Hike to Green Lake

  • Distance:  8.5 miles
  • Type: Moderate, out-and-back
  • Elevation Gain: 1,814 ft
  • Other: Dogs Allowed
  • All Trails Link

Hikers follow this road through the spread out neighborhood and past a pond. Soon enough a single track-trail connects with the road on the left-hand side.  The trail climbs through intermittent evergreen and aspen forest. 

pond on the way to green lake
aspen on the way to green lake

It turns left up the mountainside as it changes into an old, rocky logging road of sorts.  After about two-miles, the trail connects with the dirt road again.  While the road is private, cars use it and hikers must walk alongside it for almost a half-mile.

Most my readers know I don’t even like hiking on logging roads, much less a road with traffic on it.  Anyway, after about a half-mile, hikers once again, find the trail on the left.  If I could have hiked from this point up to Green Lake, I would have loved this hike. But signs pepper the private road at any potential trail parking and warn, “Private Road. No Parking, Towing Enforced.”

The trail again turns to single track and climbs through intermittent forest and wildflower meadows.  The wildflowers, as always, were lovely, especially in the foggy morning.  Though, if wildflowers is all you want to see, there are much better options such as Trail 403 to Gothic Mountain and Snodgrass Trail.

wildflowers on green lake trail in crested butte

Green Lake Trail, however, is nice for variety…mushrooms and sponges, wildflowers, aspen groves, evergreen forest and a lake.  The trail steepens as it nears the lake.  Annie and I made slow progress as a guy and his dog ran by us and back before we made it there.

Upon reaching a small ridge, I saw the ugliest pond/lake I think I’ve seen in Colorado.  It was dark with tree roots in it.  No way is this it, I thought.  Whew!  It wasn’t.

not green lake

Gorgeous Green Lake

The trail goes to the right, crosses a small drainage and then reaches a field of high willows.  So high, that they hide the lake tucked between them and the mountain peak.

Following the trail to the left, however, ultimately provides wonderful views of Green Lake.  The smooth surface and early morning sun create spectacular reflections.  I was happy to start this hike at 7 am, to have this peaceful setting all to myself.

green lake in crested butte

Because the lake is small and almost a whole side is surrounded by willows, places to sit are limited.  Annie and I, however, found a little perch lakeside with fireweed poking up around us.  We enjoyed some quiet time before retracing our steps.

Annie and our feet at Green Lake
Was just trying to get Annie’s head, but I couldn’t see with glare on phone. We got all our feet and her head!

Upon our descent, we passed three to four pairs of folks nearing the top, and then no one until we came across a kids’ mountain biking camp.  They were young’uns, and to their credit had a lot more gumption than me.  They worked hard to ride over the rocks.  And despite their efforts, Annie and I walked downhill faster than they could ride!  I was happy to get finished when I did and was really glad to see Green Lake.

Alternative Route to Green Lake

Next time, I might consider getting to it from Carbon Trailhead.  This route while steeper, is only 4.9 miles, though it does require a water crossing in the beginning.  ETB

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

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