Grizzly Creek


Distance: 8 miles (roundtrip)
Elevation Gain: 1,900'

Grizzly Creek Canyon is one of the largest side canyons within Glenwood Canyon and home of one of the most popular trails for hiking. The creek itself is a significant perennial drainage and is the main water source for the town of Glenwood Springs. What isn’t used for Glenwood’s tap water empties into the Colorado River shortly after crossing underneath a lofty I-70 bridge.

The Hike

The Grizzly Creek Trail is one of the most popular hiking routes in Glenwood Canyon. The four mile trail starts at a small parking lot on the north side of I-70 and follows the creek up to the diversion intake for the town water supply. The trail is good for most of the route, though it does get steep in places. The climb starts at 5,910’ elevation at the trailhead and climbs just under 2,000’ to about 7,818’ at the diversion intake.

The first mile or so of the trail is easy, pretty, and mellow, and, accordingly, this is the most popular section. At about mile 1.8 the trail starts to get steeper, and at mile 2 you reach the first strenuous section. The trail gains the majority of its elevation between mile 2 and mile 3.5, and, except on the busiest summer days, you wont see very many people along this section. At mile 2.9 you will encounter a series of medium sized waterfalls close to the trail after a long section where the creek runs farther away. At mile 3.2 there is a washout across the trail. Look for cairns on the other side to guide you across at the best location. Not long after this, you will be able to see the diversion pipe on the other side of the creek for the first time. Many people hike up here with the aim of crossing the saddle into No Name Canyon. I have done this, and heed this warning if that is your intention: the connecting ridge and corresponding slopes on both sides are overgrown, primitive and loose. The trail is non-existent. I have only done this saddle once and I swore I would never do it again. I still have scars on my legs from thrashing through wild rose and dense scrub oak. If you still feel inclined, I would recommend a small machete to help blaze through the worst of it. Wear pants without question, and don’t bother during runoff; both creeks can be quite challenging to cross.

[img:726056:aligncenter:small:Grizzly Creek][img:726058:aligncenter:small:Raspberry Blossoms][img:726204:aligncenter:small:Canyon area][img:726055:aligncenter:small:Flower up close]

Once you can see the diversion pipe, you have almost reached the end. A few turns later and the trail seems to peter out. If you want to hike up to the diversion dam itself, you can cross a lengthy and annoying scree field. The easiest route actually climbs up the hill away from the creek. Look for a series of cairns to guide you across. At the other end of the scree field is a small clearing. A short bushwhack leads you to the dam. At certain times of the year the wild raspberries here (and other places along this trail) are delicious.

If you want to go beyond the dam you are on your own; the trail ends here. Any farther travel will require a great deal of bushwhacking and route finding. One possible route, I once explored, to circumnavigate the worst of it is to climb up to the base of the cliffs and traverse above the densest thickets, but there is a lot of steep scree, and if you descend too soon you will end up in the gnarly wild rose patch anyway.

[img:726213:aligncenter:medium:Upper canyon][img:726210:aligncenter:medium:Canyon walls]

Rock Climbing

The only established climbing is on the Mudwall, which is on the west side of the canyon about a mile above the trailhead. This obvious cliff is one of Glenwood Canyon’s biggest, and boasts four established routes, all of which are grade IV adventures. The limestone layer which makes up the crag is notorious for being loose and blocky, so as result, the Mudwall is rarely climbed. Those that brave the conditions, however, are rewarded with a surprising adventure climb that is worthy of barroom banter and will earn you a certain degree of respect amongst the local climbing community.

[img:727210:aligncenter:medium:Grizzly Wall Topo]
Original Routetrad?5.9 A2Layton Kor and Bob Culp's original route up the wall. Rarely, if ever, repeated.
Mudflap Girltrad105.10The easiest and most frequently climbed route on the wall. Chossy, Grade IV adventure climbing!
Bear Pawtrad?5.10 A3Just left of a massive roof in the center of the wall. An old Layton Kor route, rarely repeated.
Oranginatrad15.11cA one-pitch, base route that climbs under a massive roof
The Mudwalltrad65.11A difficult Grade IV challenge. Continuously overhanging for more than 500 feet!
Defcon 1trad/sport45.11dA difficult mixed trad and sport route that ascends about halfway up the center of the wall.
The Horse and Pony Showtrad55.11dA Grade III, 5.11d adventure climb on a 700' choss-pile; what more could you want?
Behind the Curtaintrad35.12bA newer route, this is one of the more challenging routes on the Mudwall. Mixed sport/trad.

[img:726053:aligncenter:medium:Grizzly Creek and the Mudwall][img:726057:aligncenter:medium:The Mudwall]

Getting There

Grizzly Creek is located off I-70 in Glenwood Canyon 5 miles east of Glenwood Springs, Colorado. It is found off the Grizzly Creek Exit (Exit 121). The trailhead itself if on the eastern side of the recreation area at the Grizzly exit. The best parking lot is found by turning north just east of where the road crosses the creek into a smaller, more hidden parking area.

Red Tape

Grizzly Creek and Glenwood Canyon are located in the White River National Forest. Please visit the White River National Forest page to read all of their rules and regulations.


The only legal place to camp in Glenwood Canyon is at the Glenwood Canyon Resort; a "campground" that includes cabins, showers, a game room, as well as tent sites down by the river.



External Links

Glenwood Canyon on Summitpost
Jess Weaver Trail (No Name) on Summitpost
White River National Forest information