Green Mountain (6,857′), Rooney, Hayden Loop | William F. Hayden Green Mountain Park
Lakewood, CO | 05/02/19 | 6.82 miles | 871′ gain
I unexpectedly have another 4-day weekend, and although Kyle and I have a lot of things to get done, we wanted to get out on a shorter hike today for some exercise. I picked a hike off my list that I didn’t think would be too exciting, and would just be an opportunity to get some miles in. Many reviewers complained about trail conditions, bikers, and less than exciting views. We really weren’t expecting much.
As we approached the park, we realized we’d driven by countless times in the past and had no idea this park even existed. It’s right off the junction of two major highways (I-70 & E-470), right on the outskirts of Denver. The Hayden family (for who the park is named) has donated and sold most of the 2800 acre park to the City of Lakewood since the 70s. Now the park hosts a network of multi-use trails and provides important habitat for wildlife and plants.
The route I’d found on AllTrails had us start at Forsberg Park, which is across the street from an access point to William F. Hayden Park. I had seen a crossing on Google Maps, but recent construction has changed things and this no longer exists, so we ended up darting across the road with Bob & Toby on our heels. (Note: on the way back to the car, we saw a tunnel underneath the road that we’d missed on the way in. This is the safest way to access the park.)
We thought the park was gorgeous from the start. Rolling green hills with no trees so you can see everything in all directions. Our plan was to create a loop from the Green Mountain, Rooney Valley, and John O. Hayden Trails. We ended up going clockwise. There are numerous other trailheads and trails, we could easily do a completely different loop if we came back!
As we continued along the nearly flat Green Mountain Trail, we started to notice wildflowers in bloom amongst the green grass.
I stopped to take pictures of most of the flowers. (Hover over the pictures to see the species name, click to enlarge.)
The trail narrowed slightly as we left the Green Mountain Trail and set off up the Rooney Valley Trail. This trail was particularly commented on with the recent construction in that they’d made the trail more mountain bike friendly; bumps, banked corners, etc. It’s still a multi-use trail and the valley looked gorgeous so we decided to take it anyways and just deal with the mountain bike features.
The Rooney Valley Trail did get a bit steeper than the near flat Green Mountain Trail we started on, but was still pleasantly gradual, increasing the 800 or so feet of elevation over about two miles.
As we climbed up out of the valley, we started to see some incredible views.
So far we hadn’t seen many people, but as it was getting a bit later in the day, it was becoming busier. We stopped to pull over for a biker and noticed a herd of mule deer on the hillside.
At this point we could see that the summit was very close, but the new trail switchbacked up the mountainside unlike the old route, which was more direct. The switchbacks were so gradual and wide that it felt like a century before we made it to the top. This was the only new feature from the recent construction that we found a bit irritating. None of the other biking features (bumps, banked corners, etc.) were really noticeable as a hiker, and all of the bikers we encountered were super friendly and courteous.
We eventually summited, took in the views, and had a quick snack break before we headed down the opposite side of the mountain.
There were a ton of flies at the top and the dogs had fun chasing them. Strangely, they didn’t land on us or bug us at all. (I hate biting flies!)
To make a loop, we went down a different way than we’d come up. From the summit, we were back on the Green Mountain Trail, and then turned off on the John O. Hayden Trail, which is just a shorter alternative to get back to the car. It did end up being pretty scenic, however!
We crossed numerous drainages and slowly wound our way down the mountain. Once again everything was pretty gradual. As we turned a corner, we smelled something flowery, and then saw a little flowery passage along the trail.
The rest of the hike seemed to take forever as the car ended up being farther away than we thought. (AllTrails listed the hike as 5.6 miles but with the new trail construction, this loop is now over a mile longer!) But finally we saw Forsberg Park. We weren’t looking forward to running across the busy road again but as we got closer, we saw a brand new tunnel underneath the road! We passed through and followed the now paved trail into Forsberg Park. There was even a dog park! We will have to remember that for next time!