Hiking a recently reopened trail in Rocky Mountain National Park devastated by the East Troublesome fire yields stunning surprise

From wildfire to wildflower abundance, Green Mountain trail comes back to life with a riot of color

John Meyer
The Denver Post
The Green Mountain Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park, pictured on on July 20, 2022, has recently opened agin for hikers after the East Troublesome fire ran through the area two years ago.
RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post

ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK — Hikers arriving at the recently reopened Green Mountain trail on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park know they can expect to see vast swaths of devastation wreaked by the East Troublesome wildfire two years ago. There’s certainly an enormity of that.

But there are wonderful, mindboggling surprises as well: Spectacular stretches of wildflowers along the trail that cover the ground with vibrant green and riotous eruptions of pink, yellow and white flowers, telling a story of new life and renewal against an apocalyptic backdrop of blackened and charred timber.

Hundreds of lodgepole pines lie where they were toppled in the conflagration that occurred on Oct. 21, 2020, when 100-mph winds drove the fire into the park near the Grand Lake entrance. Other lodgepoles remain standing, mostly stripped of their branches. Most of those are charcoal black, but some are a light tan color, having been denuded of their bark when Colorado’s second-worst wildfire blew up from 18,550 acres to 187,964 in less than 24 hours.

Among the burned-out stumps and fallen trees with exposed root systems that were violently yanked out of the ground by hurricane-force winds when they blew down, vibrant colors proliferate along the trail. Stems of enchanting pink fireweed bloom among bushes festooned with yellow and white blossoms. In some places, mosses grow in hues of orange, yellow and green where there is moist ground.

The contrast of death and new life is sure to stir the emotions of all who come.


Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.

Summit Daily is embarking on a multiyear project to digitize its archives going back to 1989 and make them available to the public in partnership with the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection. The full project is expected to cost about $165,000. All donations made in 2023 will go directly toward this project.

Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.