Mount Parnassus is a wonderful peak with awesome views from the summit and it's just an hour drive up Interstate 70 from Denver. It's the 208th highest peak in Colorado at 13,574 feet. On the Watrous Trail you will encounter freeway noise for the first few miles of the hike but once you get further up into the gulch the noises will dissipate and you will feel like you are away from the daily noises. Here are the main routes for this peak. Watrous Gulch via the Herman Lake TH: The standard route is from the Herman Gulch parking lot and is also the easiest approach. This trailhead also allows year around access to the peak. From the parking lot start on the Herman Gulch trail after about 400 feet the trail splits and there is a trail heading to the east and a trail heading west-northwest.
Go on the trail heading east there is also a sign at this trial junction. Hike for approximately 1,000 feet to the first open area if you look around at this point you will see numerous downed trees from avalanches over the years. If you are hiking this in the winter this is the area you need to be aware of avalanches. Keep on the trail all the way to the saddle between Woods and Parnassus at 12,500'. From here follow the broad ridge heading to the east for an additional 1,075' to the summit. The days hike entailes 7 miles round trip and 3,300 feet of elevation gain. Here is another excellent route from the Herman Lake TH here South Slopes via Bakerville: This would be the most direct approach but is also the steepest approach and there will be allot of bushwhacking involved.
Park in a small parking lot on the north side of I-70 follow the creek to timberline from there head for the saddle between Parnassus and Bard at 13,037. From there go west for an additional 550 feet to the summit. The trip entailes 7 miles round trip and 3,800 of vertical elevation gain.
Herman Gulch: From Denver at I-70 and C-470 drive west for 42 miles to exit 218. There will be a parking lot on the north side of the freeway this is the Herman Gulch Trailhead Park here. There is a restroom facility at the parking lot. Here is an excellent description from Heman Gulch TH. Bakerville: From Denver at I-70 and C-470 drive west for 39 miles to exit 221. Turn right and find a place to park. The trailhead about a hundred feet down the on-ramp to westbound I-70. USGS 7.5' map - Grays Peak Colorado
No red tape or permits. Clear Creek County and Arapaho National Forest. Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests Supervisor (970) 498-1100 The area around the Urad Mine is private property so follow the signs. Arapahoe National Forest web site
From the Herman Gulch Trailhead Parnassus can be climbed year round. There are a couple of avalanche areas near 11,400 feet so be careful in the winter. Ruby Creek should be done in the summer months. Bakerville should be done in the summer months.
Camping is allowed in the area, but I'm not sure about camping at the Herman Gulch parking lot. Call the local forest service for infomation. I'm sure the Urad Mine doesn’t allow camping on their property, but there are numerous places to camp in the area.
Climbing and hiking is dangerous and approach this peak with caution. The conditions may vary depending on the time of year. It is up to the climber in making good decisions and safe climbing techniques for themselves.