Hiking Grays Peak

Hiking Grays Peak | An Excellent First 14er Near Denver

Grays Peak is a stunning peak in the Colorado Front Range. It is only a 60-70 minute drive from Denver to the trailhead. Grays is one of two twin fourteeners – the other is Torreys Peak. They are often climbed together but can also be done individually. For those climbing their first fourteener, hiking Grays Peak is a great option on its own without Torreys Peak in addition.

In this guide, we’ll share all the main details you need to prepare for your hike. This includes a route map and description, key facts like distance and elevation gain, the grays peak weather forecast, leave no trace and mountain safety information, directions to quandary peak, and much more. Let’s get started with some key facts and a map of the trailhead area.

New to 14ers? Click here to get started with my beginner guide. 

Hiking Grays Peak: Fast Facts

CAUTION: This Route is Hazardous!

You are responsible for your personal safety in the backcountry.

These peaks can be unpredictable and dangerous. Help is often hours or days away: your safety is primarily your responsibility. Prepare for your trek, understand your limits, be aware of the risks, and equip yourself with the necessary skills and gear.

Hiking Grays Peak - North Slopes Route

First time planning a 14er hike or climb? Start by reading the route description and reviewing the route map. You should use the weather forecasts to plan, along with my gear recommendations. Check the Trailhead info to ensure you know how to get there and have an appropriate vehicle. Stay nearby at one of the camping or lodging options below to acclimatize before your climb and reduce your risk of altitude sickness. Lastly, refresh your Leave No Trace and mountain safety knowledge to protect the peaks and yourself.

There is additional information about the peak, local regulations, plus additional resources and a frequently asked question section. Have a question? Leave a comment at the bottom of the route guide and we’ll reply ASAP with an answer. Cheers!

Your hike up Grays Peak starts at the Grays Peak Trailhead. The access road is a rough, 4WD forest service road that requires high clearance. If you don’t have that, park at the lower trailhead, which adds nearly six miles round-trip. You can also try to hitch-hike a ride up to the trailhead with someone in a truck passing by.

At the trailhead, start out along the trail by crossing a sturdy bridge across the creek. Follow the trail through meadows as it gently rises up the valley. This is a great area for wildflowers in summer, and there are some interesting mining works across the valley to look at too. 

1.5 miles into the hike, you will take a slight right to hike up a moraine – a ridge or hill comprised of glacial deposits. Do not follow people who take a right there to head towards a large ridge that leads to Torreys Peak. This is the Kelso Ridge route, a class three scramble that requires helmets and climbing skills. Continue left and reach the ridge of the moraine after 2.25 total miles.

The remainder of the route is high above the tree line and gets very rocky. Portions of the trail hold snow into July – bring microspikes if climbing Grays Peak in May or June. 

The last 1.5 miles of the route are spent working your way up a series of switchbacks. They start out rather broad but become narrow with more frequent turns as you near the summit. Switchbacks help preserve the trail by slowing erosion. Fight the urge to cut them and stay on the trail to help protect the fragile alpine environment.

RELATED READ: BEGINNERS GUIDE TO HIKING 14ERS

At the summit, enjoy the spectacular views of Mount Bierstadt and Mount Evans to the east, the Front Range to the north and south, and Dillon and the Mosquito and Gore Range to the west. Descend with enough time to reach the tree line by 12 pm-1 pm at the latest to avoid lightning risk.

I hope you found this Grays Peak Guide helpful for your research and planning. Keep reading below for more resources, advice, links, and information. Safe travels on the trails!

This is a topographic map of the Grays Peak Trail. You should never rely 100% on a digital map or GPS app like Alltrails or Gaia. Phones break and batteries die. I recommend printing out a copy of this map and keeping it in your backpack as a spare backup copy. Take time to review it before you head out to the Grays Peak Trailhead for your hike.

Grays Peak Trail Map

The area around Grays Peak is notorious for variable weather conditions all year round. Check the forecast several times and use various sources to get a complete picture of the changing predictions for your climb. Plan accordingly and consider postponing if the weather looks bad.

Grays Peak Open Summit Forecast

Grays Peak Mountain Weather Forecast

Below is the complete National Weather Service forecast for the Grays Peak Trail. Scroll down to review it in its entirety.

Here are several sources to find beta (information) on current conditions on Grays Peak and the North Slopes route. Remember, we do not and cannot verify these reports, so please take them with a grain of salt.

14ers.com Peak Condition Report

AllTrails Grays Peak Page – Reviews & Conditions

The Hiking Project: Grays & Torreys Check-In’s

Getting There: Directions From Denver

Drive west from Denver on Interstate 70 and take the Bakerville exit #221. Drive south on Stevens Gulch Road, County Road 321 for about four miles. This road is rough and may be considered a 4-wheel drive road at times. In the winter, the road is impassable.

NOTE: Parking along the road is not allowed and the Sheriff will ticket you if you do so. If the upper lot is full, you must return to park at the large lower lot. Arrive early (5-6am) to secure an upper spot lot, or visit during a weekday.

Grays Peak Trailhead Info and Ammenities

The Upper Trailhead has a small bathroom and a few dispersed campsites. There is an information sign about Grays and Torreys Peak, and a bridge that leads to the start of the route up the 14ers.

Click here to learn more about the Grays Peak Trailhead

The right clothing and gear is essential to have a safe and successful asecnt on Grays Peak. Here’s a helpful checklist you can use to pack for summer season 14er hikes and climbs:

Pack the Ten Essentials

  • Navigation: Map, Compass & GPS
  • First Aid Kit
  • Headlamp & Batteries
  • Extra Water (2-3 liters per person)
  • Extra Food (1,500 calories per person)
  • Extra Layers (A puffy coat or jacket)
  • Knife or Multi-tool
  • Fire Starting Kit
  • Emergency Shelter (Emergency bivy or blanket)
  • Sun Protection: Sunglasses and sunscreen

What to Wear for Fourteeners

Other Gear I Recommend:

Camping near Grays Peak:

There are also dispersed camping opportunities along the forest road that leads to the trailhead, ideal for those hiking Grays Peak. In general, this area does not have many formal campgrounds because of all the traffic coming through I-70. Learn more about dispersed camping near 14ers here.

Lodging near Grays Peak:

There are many cabins available via Airbnb and other services in Silver Plume and Georgetown, perfect for those hiking Grays Peak.

Because of how close it is to Denver, Grays Peak is one of the most heavily trafficked peaks in Colorado.

Leave No Trace (LNT) principles are essential for preserving the natural beauty and environment of Colorado’s 14ers. Here are some of the most important LNT tips for hikers:

  1. Plan ahead and prepare
    Research the area, trail conditions, and weather before you go. Make sure you have the proper equipment, clothing, and food for your hike.

  2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces
    Stick to established trails and camp at designated sites. Avoid trampling on fragile vegetation or creating new paths.

  3. Dispose of waste properly
    Pack out all trash, leftover food, and litter. Use established bathroom facilities when available, or bury human waste in a “cathole” 6-8 inches deep and at least 200 feet from water sources.

  4. Leave what you find
    Do not pick plants, disturb wildlife, or remove any natural or cultural artifacts. Leave rocks, plants, and other natural features as you found them for others to enjoy.

  5. Minimize campfire impact
    Use a camp stove for cooking instead of making a fire. If fires are permitted, use established fire rings or fire pans, and keep fires small. Burn only small sticks and twigs, and put out the fire completely before leaving.

  6. Respect wildlife
    Observe animals from a distance, and do not approach or feed them. Store food and trash securely to avoid attracting wildlife.

  7. Be considerate of other visitors
    Keep noise levels down, yield to other hikers on the trail, and follow posted rules and regulations. Respect private property and leave gates and fences as you find them.

By following these Leave No Trace principles, hikers can help protect Colorado’s 14ers and ensure these majestic peaks remain pristine for future generations to enjoy.

Embarking on a hike up Grays Peak is an exciting adventure, but it’s essential to prioritize safety during your journey. Adhering to mountain safety best practices will ensure a more enjoyable and secure experience for both novice and experienced hikers alike.

  1. Plan and Prepare
    Thoroughly research the trail conditions, weather forecasts, and any potential hazards or challenges specific to Grays Peak. Ensure you have appropriate gear, clothing, and sufficient food and water for the duration of your hike. Notify someone of your planned route and estimated return time.

  2. Start Early
    Begin your hike early in the morning to avoid afternoon thunderstorms, which are common in the Colorado mountains. Aim to be off the summit and below the tree line before noon to minimize the risk of lightning exposure.

  3. Understand Altitude Sickness
    Know the symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE), and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE). If you or anyone in your party exhibits symptoms (coughing, shortness of breath, severe headache, confusion), do not hesitate to descend to a lower elevation.

  4. Stay on Established Trails
    Preserve the environment and minimize your impact by staying on marked trails. Not only does this protect fragile vegetation, but it also reduces the risk of getting lost or encountering unexpected hazards.

  5. Hike with a Buddy
    Hiking with a partner or group provides additional safety and support. In case of injury or an emergency, having someone with you can make a significant difference in the outcome.

  6. Monitor the Weather
    Mountain weather can change rapidly, so keep an eye on the sky and be prepared to adjust your plans if necessary. If thunderstorms or other dangerous weather conditions develop, prioritize safety and consider turning back.

  7. Know Your Limits
    Be honest about your physical fitness, experience, and skill level. If you’re unsure about your ability to complete the hike or reach the summit, it’s better to turn back and try again another day.

  8. Be Prepared for Emergencies
    Carry a fully charged cell phone or a personal locator beacon (PLB) in case of emergencies. Familiarize yourself with basic first aid and wilderness survival skills, and know the emergency contact numbers for the area.

Following these mountain safety best practices and advice will help ensure a successful and enjoyable hike on Grays Peak, while also promoting responsible stewardship of our treasured natural landscapes.

Click here to read our comprehensive mountain safety guide.

Grays Peak is a prominent Colorado 14er located in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, approximately 40 miles west of Denver. It is the tenth highest summit in the state, with an elevation of 14,270 feet (4,350 meters). Grays Peak is often hiked in conjunction with its neighboring 14er, Torreys Peak, as they are connected by a saddle, making it possible to summit both peaks in a single day.

History and Facts:

  1. The peak was named after Botanist Charles C. Parry, who named it in honor of his colleague Asa Gray. Asa Gray (1810-1888) was a prominent American botanist and considered one of the most important figures in 19th-century American botany.

  2. Grays Peak is part of the Arapaho National Forest and is protected within the Roosevelt National Forest, ensuring that its natural beauty and resources are preserved.

  3. Grays Peak and Torreys Peak together form the “Continental Divide,” which separates the watersheds of the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean in North America.

  4. The standard route to the summit of Grays Peak is the Grays Peak Trail, which is about 8 miles round trip, with an elevation gain of around 3,000 feet. The trailhead is accessible via Stevens Gulch Road (Forest Road 189), which may require a high-clearance vehicle.

  5. Grays Peak is composed primarily of Pre-Cambrian granite and gneiss, which are some of the oldest rocks in Colorado, dating back more than 1.7 billion years.

  6. The area surrounding Grays Peak is home to diverse flora and fauna, including alpine wildflowers, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, marmots, and pikas.

  7. Due to its relatively easy accessibility and moderate difficulty, Grays Peak is a popular hiking destination for both experienced hikers and those new to climbing 14ers.

When hiking Grays Peak or any other 14er, it is essential to be prepared, respect the environment, and follow Leave No Trace principles to help preserve these incredible natural landmarks for future generations.

 

There are no fees or permits required to climb Grays Peak at this time.

The route and trail is on United States Forest Service land, part of the Arapahoe National Forest. Please follow Leave No Trace practices to respect the land and public access to the area.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

A: The time it takes to hike Grays Peak depends on factors such as hiking experience, physical fitness, and weather conditions. Grays Peak is a relatively accessible 14er in Colorado, with the standard route starting at the Grays Peak Trailhead.

The standard route is about 8 miles round trip, with an elevation gain of approximately 3,000 feet. For most hikers, it takes between 4 to 7 hours to complete the round trip hike. This estimate includes time for breaks and enjoying the views at the summit.

A: Grays Peak is considered one of the more accessible 14ers in Colorado, making it a popular choice for beginners or those with moderate hiking experience. The standard route up Grays Peak, which starts at the Grays Peak Trailhead, is a Class 1 or Class 2 hike (on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the most difficult). This means that the trail is well-defined, with a mostly gentle incline and no technical climbing required.

However, it is essential not to underestimate the challenges associated with hiking any 14er, including Grays Peak. The hike involves an elevation gain of around 3,000 feet over the course of approximately 4 miles (one way), and the high altitude can make the hike more strenuous than it might appear. Altitude sickness, weather changes, and proper physical conditioning are factors to consider.

A: Grays Peak, located in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, has an elevation of approximately 14,278 feet (4,352 meters). It is one of the 58 fourteeners in Colorado, which are peaks with elevations of at least 14,000 feet. Grays Peak is a popular destination for hikers due to its accessibility and relatively moderate difficulty.

A: Grays Peak is approximately 60 miles (96 kilometers) west of Denver, Colorado. The driving distance between Denver and the Grays Peak Trailhead is around 1.5 to 2 hours, depending on traffic and road conditions. The trailhead is located off Interstate 70, followed by a drive up Stevens Gulch Road, which can be rough and may require a high-clearance, 4-wheel-drive vehicle.

A: Dogs are generally allowed on Grays and Torreys Peaks, as both peaks are located within the Arapaho National Forest, which permits dogs on trails. However, it is essential to follow the U.S. Forest Service guidelines for pets in the area. Keep your dog on a leash or under voice control at all times, and be sure to clean up after your pet.

It’s important to consider the difficulty of the hike for your dog as well. Ensure your dog is physically capable of handling the altitude, distance, and terrain. Be mindful of your dog’s health, and make sure to provide them with adequate water and breaks during the hike.

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Notice: The material presented in this route guide may not be comprehensive or precise and should not be solely relied upon when planning your climb. Inadequate experience, physical fitness, supplies, or equipment may result in injury or fatality.

The Next Summit and the author(s) of this hiking guide offer no guarantees, neither explicit nor implied, regarding the accuracy or dependability of the information provided.

By utilizing the information herein, you agree to indemnify and absolve The Next Summit and the hiking guide author(s) from any claims and demands against them, including any legal fees and expenses. 

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Alex Derr, Founder of The Next Summit

Alex Derr is an Eagle Scout, climber, and environmental policy expert located in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. Follow him on Linkedin or Twitter or click here to contact him.

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