GPS map of the trail using my iPhone. The green arrow represents the start and the red the end. The green marker denotes the trail’s highest point. Note that the iPhone app is not as accurate as a GPS, but close:
Having hiked up some difficult mountains this summer I decided to go with some friends and hike up Bartlett Trail to the summit of the 12,347 feet (3,765 m) summit of Greenhorn Mountain that dominates the skyline to the south of Pueblo. There are actually some more difficult hikes to the summit that start at the base of the mountain, but the friends I went hiking with were beginners and wanted to go on an easy hike which I knew this trail would be. The trail is less than 5 miles round trip and starts near tree line, but still provides a challenge due to the steepness of the trail. However, the challenge isn’t enough to make most beginners want to back out from the hike.
Besides being an easy hike, Greenhorn Mountain also has an interesting history as described in the below the marker located at the Interstate rest stop just off of I-25 in Colorado City near the mountain:
In the 1700’s, this area of southern Colorado became a significant cultural crossroads for the Indian tribes of the high plains. Apaches and Kiowas, Utes and Comanches all pressed in to take advantage of the abundant buffalo and other game. This caused a substantial amount of intertribal warfare that continued well into the 19th century. So intense was the strugggle that even the name Comanche emerged from the Ute word “komantcia” meaning “anyone who wants to fight me all the time”.
By the 1700’s, this area formed the most northern extremity of the Spanish empire. From Santa Fe the capital of New Mexico, Spanish soldiers, explorers, and clergy ventured north to draw the plains people into trading alliances, spread Christianity, and quell the destructive raids on settlements in the Upper Rio Grande Valley.
After driving the Utes and Apaches off the plains in the mid-1700’s, the Comanches began to make ever more destructive raids on the settlements in Northern New Mexico. In 1779, the Governor of New Mexico, Juan Bautista de Anza, led some 600 Spanish soldiers, along with their Ute and Apache allies, north to suppress the attacks, particularly those led by the Comanche chief known as Cuerno Verde (meaning Green Horn because of the headdress he wore in battle).
Although Anza’s exact route is subject to debate, he and his ascended the San Luis Valley, crossed the mountains to reach the Arkansas River, then worked their way east to the high plains. Hurrying south just east of the mountains, they intercepted Cuerno Verde’s band somewhere in this area. A battle ensued at the base of Greenhorn Mountain – later named for Cuerno Verde – and the chief and several of his principal warriors died in the strugggle. Anza then established a fragile peace, and that lasted until the early 1800’s.
To reach the trailhead first travel on I-25 to Colorado City south of Pueblo. From Colorado City take the exit for Highway 165 that leads to Rye.
Continue on Highway 165 past Rye and the beautiful Lake Isabel and then turn left on to the dirt road Ophir Creek Road (CR360). This road features a lot of switchbacks and is quite long so this may be an issue for anyone who gets motion sickness easily. It is however a nice drive through the thickly forested slopes of the Wet Mountains that Greenhorn is the largest peak of:
Once the road reaches the crest of the Wet Mountains a variety of expansive meadows open up with some having incredible views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range to the west:
Eventually Ophir Creek Road will come to a five way intersection where a left on to Greenhorn Mountain Road (CR369) needs to be made. This road leads to the trailhead for the hike to the summit of Greenhorn Mountain. There is plenty of parking at the trailhead so space should not be an issue:
The drive from the start of Ophir Road takes about an hour to reach the trailhead from, so it is quite a long drive on a dirt road to reach the trailhead. At the trailhead is this US Forest Service sign that provides hikers information about the mountain:
Here is a closer look at the map on the sign of the various trails that ascend up to the summit of Greenhorn:
As can be seen on the map the Bartlett Trail actually bypasses the summit of Greenhorn and hikers have to get off the trail and cross the grass and rock on the top of the mountain to reach the actual summit. I plan on eventually hiking up the Greenhorn Trail from Rye to the summit of the mountain which I hear is actually a pretty tough hike even though this is a mountain only just over 12,000 feet high. This trail begins just below treeline which is why it is a much easier option to summit Greenhorn from:
After passing through the treeline the trail then begins to switchback its way up the side of the grassy slopes of Greenhorn that features many wildflowers:
Some these flowers includes Colorado’s beautiful state flower the columbine:
Another wildflower was this strange looking flower pictured below that was quite abundant on the slopes of Greenhorn:
Eventually the grass and wildflowers give way to steep slopes of piled rock:
The switchbacking walk up this piled rock provides some excellent views of the Sangre de Cristo Range that lies across the Wet Mountain Valley to the west from Greenhorn:
You can see some great views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains from my prior hikes in these mountains:
Here is the view looking northwest across the rounded and heavily forested slopes of the Wet Mountains:
The trail eventually reaches the top of the rocky slopes at a saddle between two rounded dome peaks that offers the first views to the east of the Great Plains:
From the saddle the trail is not as obvious to follow due to being overgrown by a lot of grass and the fact there is a lot of rounded peaks here that makes finding the actual summit a little confusing. As we walked to the south we eventually spotted the actual summit of Greenhorn that we needed to walk to. Something else we also spotted was the twin summits of the Spanish Peaks:
You can read about my hike to the summit of the 13,626 foot (4153 m) at the below link:
Here is a picture of the ridgeline we followed that led to the 12,347 foot summit of Greenhorn Mountain:
Here is a closer look at the summit of Greenhorn Mountain:
Hiking up the side some of the rounded peaks to get to the summit was tiring for the beginner hikers I had with me, but I felt fine since the altitude was below 13,000 feet. For whatever reason when I get above 13,000 feet that is when the altitude really begins to bother me. Below 13,000 feet my body usually feels good unless I haven’t gone hiking in quite some time. Soon enough though the pile of rocks that marks the summit of Greenhorn Mountain became visible in the distance:
After just over two hours of hiking we were on the rounded grassy summit of Greenhorn Mountain:
Though Greenhorn may not be as high as many other mountains in Colorado it still provides some of the best views to found in southern Colorado from its summit despite the partly cloudy weather we experienced. Here is the view looking south towards the Spanish Peaks:
Here is the view looking southwest towards the 14,345 ft (4,372 m) Blanca Peak in the distance that is considered one of the most difficult mountains to summit in Colorado:
The views to the east was of the Great Plains that cover eastern Colorado and extends all the way across neighboring Kansas to the Missouri River:
Blanca like the neighboring Spanish Peaks to the south and Pikes Peak to the north sticks out into the plains by itself which makes it a highly recognizable peak for anyone traveling to southern Colorado from the east. In fact from open areas in Colorado Springs, Greenhorn Mountain is highly visible in the distance. Here is the view looking towards the southeast of Greenhorn where a green line can be seen that represents a tree lined creek that flows from the Wet Mountains and into the plains:
Something I noticed while taking in the view was that in recent years a forest fire appears to have taken out a huge swath of trees just below the summit of the mountain:
Something else I noticed it that it appears that a gravel mine of some sort once operated up here on the high slopes of Greenhorn Mountain:
It was kind of interesting to see that under all the rock below our feet the mountain tops were composed of yellow dirt. After eating lunch on the summit we decided to quickly head back down the mountain due to the large rain clouds that had been brewing that day:
During the summer months in Colorado you can almost always count on afternoon thunderstorms in the mountains and this is why most hikers always hike up high mountains before lunch and then descend before the rain hits in the afternoon. The walk down was quite easy and soon enough the Greenhorn Mountain Road that we drove to the trailhead on became visible:
Before reentering the tree line I made sure to take one last look at the beautiful wild flowers on the slopes of the mountain:
After about an hour of hiking we found ourselves reentering the tree line and were soon back at the trailhead:
In total we spent about 3.5 hours hiking round trip and this was at the speed of the beginner hikers that I brought with me. An experienced hiker should be able to complete this hike in under three hours. We spent over 30 minutes on the summit taking in the views which made for a nice 4 hour outing on Greenhorn Mountain. My companions had a great time on the hike and this is why I highly recommend Greenhorn Mountain for people who want to try out hiking for the first time. It is a short, but challenging hike that most people should be able to complete. The peak also offers outstanding views of the Sangre de Cristo Range and the surrounding plains from its summit which should serve as a great reward for anyone hiking up to the summit of the mountain. For those looking for a more challenging hike, like I mentioned before the Greenhorn Mountain Trail begins at the base of the mountain which would provide a hike of about 5,000+ feet in elevation gain. So Greenhorn Mountain may be far from being one the biggest mountains in Colorado, but that doesn’t stop it from offering a little something for all level of hikers to check out.