OverviewGray's Peak is the 9th highest mountain in Colorado and is the county high point for both Clear Creek County and Summit County. It is also the highpoint of the Front Range, the highest point on the North American divide, and the highest peak visible from the Great Plains.
The easiest route to climb is from the Stephens Gulch Trailhead and is Class 2. The peak is usually climbed the same day as Torrey Peak. Usually Gray's Peak to the east (left) is climbed first and then the climber descends to the saddle between the two mountains and climbs the other side up Torrey. Both can be climbed with little more effort than to just climb one of them. This twin peak combination can be a day trip out of Denver. Most noteworthy is that its an easy walk up. It is a good mountain to get started on the Colorado 14ers. Don't forget your camera... mountain goats are all over this mountain.
Getting ThereFrom Denver go west on I-70 to exit 221 Bakerville. Turn left over the Interstate and take the dirt road south about 3 1/2 miles to the parking lot at trail head. The dirt road is in poor shape and very marginal for cars without good clearance. I would not recommend doing it in a 2WD car when the road is wet. There is a small parking area before you hit the dirt road and just after crossing I-70. Use this area to park if you dont want to chance dinging your car. Fellow SPer Taylor1024 suggests parking in the lot at the I-70 exit and mountain biking up this trail. See his post under more information for this section for more details.
Three and a half miles up the dirt road there is a parking lot at the Stephens Gulch trailhead. Cross the iron bridge near the parking lot and follow the switchback trail for about 3 miles to the large cirque between Gray's and Torrey's Peak. The climb gets steeper at this point and at about 13,500' the trail forks. Take the left turn up the ridge another half mile or so to the summit. The trail is pretty well marked. After bagging Gray's, just go down the saddle and up the other side to get Torreys Peak. The return route is back to the saddle and return the same way as the ascent. As always, weather can be a factor, so plan to start early. This route is about 4.3 mile and has a vertical gain of 3500 feet. There is a 500 foot drop between Gray's Peak and Torrey's Peak.
Aaron Johnson offers this alternate approach: Grays can be approached from the Keystone Ski area. Proceed up the Snake River drainage, east out of Keystone on the road bound for Montezuma. A turn-off to Peru gulch takes you further east and eventually northward into Horseshoe Basin. The road requires a high clearance vehicle but is not difficult. Park in the basin in a spot off the road to allow vehicles to get by, at a spot you would choose to begin your climb of Grays, visible to the northwest. Climb west toward the south ridge of Grays up a long and steep tundra ramp. Once the ridge is gained, climb north along the ridge to the summit. Uncrowded and wild, this high altitude approach is a very pleasing and a quiet alternative to the standard route-and it's faster! Torreys can also be climbed, returning back over Grays to Horseshoe basin.
Andy adds, and I agree: Not all passenger cars can make it to the trailhead, even under optimal conditions. About 1.5 miles from the trailhead, there is a really rough section of deep ruts. I tried to make it over two different ways, but ended up scraping the bottom of my Saturn SL2 both times. After my two attempts, I gave up and parked there on the side of the road. At 6:30am there was already one car who had done the same thing. When I got back at noon, there were about ten cars parked along the side of the road. Apparently there were others who also couldn’t make it.
Mountain Bike Approach Courtesy of taylor1024
This road to the trailhead is indeed very rough in one spot in particular. In fact a couple weeks ago I saw a passenger car drop their transmission on that spot (not too environmentally friendly). During that trip I tried an alternative approach to the trailhead and I think that is going to be my preferred approach from now on.
I parked at the I-70 exit and mountain biked to the trailhead. It was a nice ride rather than driving 5 miles per hour and getting beat up on the rough road. The climbers that were walking this approach also voiced their appreciation of the lack of noise/exhaust as I pedaled by silently. The ride took about 45 minutes in and 25 minutes out. Remember though that you cannot ride your bike on any of these trails - only the *road* to the trailhead.
Another Approach Courtesy of edlins
If you are climbing from the Keystone side and don't have the vehicular clearance for Horseshoe Basin, want something longer, or are trying in winter, consider Chihuahua Gulch. Park 2.2 miles up Peru Creek from Montezuma Road (or at the turnoff in winter) and hike 5 miles and 3810 feet up Chihuahua Gulch to Ruby Gulch to Grays southwest ridge.
When To ClimbJune to August is the best time for mountain conditions as there is the least amount of snow at this time. However, it is also the most crowded time on the mountain. Try to climb during a weekday if possible to avoid the crowds. The close proximity to Denver and the ease of the climb make this a popular peak for climbers of all skill levels.
The Grays Peak trail is usually benign, but given the slightest snowfall, foot traffic will turn it into an ice rink. The northeast face of Grays doesnt get much sun, so if there's a September snowfall (and there usually is), chances are it'll stay ice until the winter. This can be a nasty surprise if you go up Kelso Ridge and expect to descend the Grays Peak trail.
CampingThere is abundant space for free camping in the area. Some people choose to camp at sites near the parking lot or uptrail a bit.
Mountain ConditionsA well marked trail leads to the summit and there is usually little, if any, snow and just a bit of scree to encounter during the summer months. Storms are common, especially in the afternoons, so be prepared for anything. Try to be off he summit by noon is a good rule of thumb. The latest local weather and avalanche mountain conditions can be heard on a recorded line by calling 303-275-5360. Thanks also to
for the additional information: US Forest Service, Clear Creek Ranger District
101 Chicago Creek Road
Post Office Box 3307
Idaho Springs, CO 80452
Phone (303) 567-3000
TTY: (303) 567-3009
Fax: (303) 498-3021
Conditions on this mountain, like all Colorado 14ers, are subject to change rapidly- especially during the prime climbing summer season. The mountains are their own weather system, and weather forecasts from nearby towns often have little to do with actual mountain conditions. You can generally count on clear to partly cloudy in the morning, and heavy clouds and thunderstorms in the afternoon during the summer.
There is no substitute for getting an early start, and getting as much of the mountain "behind you" as early in the day as possible. Keep a good eye on the sky as weather conditions can deteriorate rapidly. The greatest weather danger is from lightning strikes, and climbers are killed almost every summer in Colorado by lightning strikes. July seems to be the most deadly month for lightning.
Two mountaineers were killed by lightning in Colorado within a couple days of each other during the summer of 2003. I think the following important information from Gerry Roach's book "Colorado's Fourteeners From Hikes to Climbs" bears repeating. Added here with permission from Gerry Roach:
Colorado is famous for apocalyptic lightning storms that threaten not just your life, but your soul as well. This section will have special meaning if you have ever been trapped by a storm that endures for more than an hour and leaves no gap between one peal of thunder and the next. The term simultaneous flash-boom has a very personal meaning for many Colorado Climbers.
1. Lightning is dangerous!
2. Lightning is the greatest external hazard to summer mountaineering in Colorado.
3. Lightning kills people every year in Colorado's mountains.
4. Direct hits are usually fatal.
1. Start early! Be off summits by noon and back in the valley by early afternoon.
2. Observe thunderhead buildup carefully, noting speed and direction; towering thunderheads with black bottoms are bad.
3. When lightning begins nearby, count the seconds between flash and thunder, then divide by 5 to calculate the distance to the flash in miles. Repeat to determine if lightning is approaching.
4. Try to determine if the lightning activity is cloud-to-cloud or ground strikes.
5. Get off summits and ridges.
1. You cannot outrun a storm; physics wins.
2. When caught, seek a safe zone in the 45-degree cone around an object 5 to 10 times your height.
3. Be aware of ground currents; the current from a ground strike disperses along the ground or cliff, especially in wet cracks.
4. Wet ropes are good conductors.
5. Snow is not a good conductor.
6. Separate yourself from metal objects.
7. Avoid sheltering in spark gaps under boulders and trees.
8. Disperse the group. Survivors can revive one who is hit.
9. Crouch on boot soles, ideally on dry, insulating material such as moss or grass. Dirt is better than rock. Avoid water.
The following link is also helpful: Lightning Safety and Crouch
Also see this report by nchenkin It will make you really think about lightning safety: Struck By Lightning!
External LinksCOLORADO 14ERS INITIATIVE LEARN MORE ABOUT COLORADO 14ERS AND VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES
Leave No Trace
Check out the web site of LNT and learn some important minimum impact hiking tips.
Colorado Mountain Club
CMC’s web site will tell you all you need to know about Colorado’s largest and oldest hiking club.
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- Lost Rat Couloir (06/05/2004)
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- Grays Peak with a first-time fourteener hiker
- 14ers.com - The Home of Colorado's Highest Peaks
Fourteener Photos, Route Descriptions, Forum, and more...
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