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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 complete beginner guide!

Hiking Grays Peak: Fast Facts

TAKE CARE & STAY SAFE!

You are responsible for your own 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!

Grays Peak Route Description

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!

Grays Peak Maps

Route Map

This map shows the route and elevation using topographic contour lines. I recommend saving it on your phone and bringing a backup copy.

Elevation Profile

This elevation profile shows how much elevation you will gain and lose while hiking up and down Grays Peak. There is also information about the slope angle, tree cover, and other details along the route.

Grays Peak Elevation Profile

Current Conditions

Conditions along the trail on Grays Peak vary dramatically throughout the year. Use the sources below to check for recent condition updates or post a request for an update from other climbers.

In the climbing world, current condition information is called “Beta.”

Where to Find Condition Reports

Each website allows users to post condition or trip reports with photos and descriptions of what they experienced while hiking Grays Peak. Check them before you start making posts asking about conditions, or you may get scolded by accident.

Where to Ask About Recent Conditions

If you cannot find any recent condition or trip reports for Grays Peak using any of the sources above, you can try posting on one of the social media groups or forums below to ask if anyone has been near the peak recently and can share some beta.

Weather Forecast

The National Weather Service forecast below for Grays Peak provides everything you need to know to plan ahead for your climb. Additional weather forecast resources include Mountain Forecast.

Grays and Torreys Trailhead

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

14er Gear List

Climbing any of Colorado’s 14ers requires careful preparation and the right gear to ensure safety and enjoyment. Here’s a comprehensive gear list for hiking Grays Peak:

Essentials:
Optional Gear:
Winter Gear:
Clothing:
Footwear:
Communication:

Where To Stay Near Grays Peak

The area near Grays Peak has great options for camping, motels, and airbnbs. Here are some of my recommended places to stay near the trailhead.

Where to Camp near Grays Peak:

Here are two excellent campgrounds for overnight stays before or after hiking Grays Peak.

 

There are also dispersed camping opportunities along the forest road leading to the trailhead perfect for those hiking Grays Peak. Learn more about dispersed camping near 14ers here.

Hotels and Lodging near Grays Peak

Here are five good motels and hotels near the Grays Peak Trail:

 

There are many cabins available via Booking.com and other services in Leadville. They’re ideal for those hiking Grays Peak. 

Leave No Trace

When setting out to hike the Grays Peak Trail, integrating Leave No Trace (LNT) principles is crucial for preserving the delicate alpine environment of this Colorado 14er.

The following section offers guidance on how to minimize your impact while enjoying the great outdoors:

Plan Ahead and Prepare

  • Understand the regulations and special concerns for the area you’ll visit.
  • Check the weather forecast, and be aware of the terrain challenges you might face on Grays Peak.
  • Preparation reduces the likelihood of resource damage and contributes to your safety.

Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

  • Stay on established trails and avoid cutting switchbacks, which can lead to erosion.
  • In the alpine tundra, plants take years to grow and mere seconds to be destroyed by trampling.
  • If camping is part of your trip, use designated campsites at lower elevations to minimize impact.

Dispose of Waste Properly

  • Pack out all your trash, leftover food, and litter.
  • It’s essential to carry a bag for collecting waste.
  • For human waste, dig a cat hole 6-8 inches deep at least 200 feet from water, trails, and camp. Cover and disguise it when finished.
  • Pack out all toilet paper and hygiene products.

Leave What You Find

  • Preserve the past; examine, but do not touch, cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
  • Leave rocks, plants, and other natural objects as you find them.
  • Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species by cleaning gear and boots before and after your hike.

Minimize Campfire Impacts

  • Campfires can cause lasting impacts in the alpine environment.
  • Use a lightweight stove for cooking and a lantern for light.
  • If fires are permitted, use established fire rings, keep fires small, and burn all wood to ash.
  • Put out fires completely and scatter cool ashes.

Respect Wildlife

  • Observe wildlife from a distance and never feed them. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
  • Control pets on a leash at all times, or leave them at home.

Be Courteous to Others Outdoors

  • Respect other trail users and protect the quality of their experience.
  • Use headphones, not bluetooth speakers, and keep your noise down.
  • Give uphill hikers the right of way.
  • Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
  • If stopping, move off the trail to allow others to pass.

Incorporating these LNT principles into your Grays Peak adventure is a commitment to conserving the mountain for future generations to experience and enjoy. By acting as stewards of the land, we can all contribute to the sustainability of the natural beauty that draws us to these heights.

Learn more by reviewing our complete Leave No Trace Guide for 14ers.

Safety Tips

Grays Peak, standing tall at over 14,000 feet, offers a majestic experience but poses unique challenges. It is a very difficult class hike in rugged terrain, and people have been seriously injured there in recent years. 

Prioritize your safety with these essential tips:

  • Acclimate to Altitude: Spend a day or two at a lower elevation near Grays Peak to get your body used to the altitude. Altitude sickness can be a serious concern and can strike regardless of fitness level.

  • Check the Weather: Mountain weather is notoriously unpredictable. Before you set out, check the local weather forecast and be prepared for sudden changes. Start early to avoid afternoon thunderstorms common in the Rockies.

  • Stay Hydrated: At high altitudes, your body dehydrates faster. Carry plenty of water — a minimum of 2 to 3 liters per person — and drink regularly throughout your hike.

  • Research Your Route: Take time to review trip reports, route descriptions, maps, and photos to help you navigate in the field and know if you are on the right track.

  • Dress Appropriately: Layer your clothing to adapt to the variable conditions. Include a moisture-wicking base layer, an insulating layer, and a waterproof and windproof outer layer. Don’t forget a hat and gloves, even in summer.

  • Stay on the Trail: For your safety and the environment’s protection, stick to designated trails. Shortcuts can lead to erosion and habitat destruction and can also put you at risk of getting lost or injured.

  • Know Your Limits: The Grays Peak Trail’s terrain can be challenging, with loose rocks and steep sections. If you’re not an experienced hiker or if you’re feeling unsure, consider hiring a guide or joining a group.

  • Emergency Plan: Have a plan in case of an emergency. Inform someone of your route and expected return time. Carry a whistle, a mirror, and a small first aid kit. A satellite messenger or personal locator beacon (PLB) is advised for remote areas where cell service is not reliable.

  • Bring a Buddy: Never hike alone. Use the buddy system to ensure safety. If one person gets injured or sick, the other can go for help.

  • Share Your Itinerary: Tell someone dependable back home that you are climbing Grays Peak and share as much of your plans and itinerary as possible. Tell them you when you will check-in with them, and who to call if you fail to do so.

Respecting these safety guidelines will help ensure that your climb up Grays Peak is memorable for all the right reasons. Stay alert, stay safe, and enjoy the grandeur of the Rockies. 

Learn more by reviewing our complete mountain safety guide.

Permits, Regulations & Guidelines

There are no permits or reservations required to hike Grays Peak, however, parking can become difficult to find during busy summer weekends. Arrive early or the night before to secure a spot.

The route is located within the San Isabel National Forest.

San Isabel National Forest Rules

Much of the route falls on USFS land in Pike-San Isabel National Forest. Follow their land management guidelines to limit your negative impact on the land and protect public access for the future.

Audio Devices: Keep the volume of audio devices low to not disturb others. Permits are required for public address systems.

Business Activities: All commercial activities require permits.

Campfires: Follow fire restrictions. Use established fire rings or stoves. Fires must be completely extinguished before leaving.

Camping: Camping is allowed with a 14-day limit. Vehicles must be parked in established sites. Remove all personal property and trash upon leaving.

Fee Areas: Fees are required for certain developed sites and must be paid in advance.

Fireworks and Firearms: Fireworks are prohibited. Firearms can’t be used near residences, roads, bodies of water, or where they may cause injury or damage.

General: Removing or disturbing natural resources requires a permit.

Geocaching: Permitted in general forest areas without causing resource damage or vandalism. Must not interfere with other permitted activities or historical sites.

Operation of Vehicles: Obey traffic laws and signs. Avoid damaging the land or vegetation. Parking only in marked areas.

Pets and Animals: Pets must be leashed in developed sites and are not allowed in swimming areas.

Property: Do not damage live trees or any historic or archeological resources. Respect private properties.

Public Behavior: Quiet hours are 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Keep noise at a reasonable level.

Sanitation: Dispose of garbage in provided containers or pack it out. Keep lakes, streams, and other water bodies clean.

Wilderness: Motor vehicles and motorized equipment are not allowed. Preserve the wilderness – “Leave only footprints, take only pictures.”

Learn more about these USFS guidelines and rules for visitors.

About Grays Peak

Grays Peak is one of the closest 14ers to Denver. Here is information about its history and some fun facts about the mountain.

History of the Peak

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.

Photos

These are a collection of photos of Grays Peak. You can also find additional pictures in our route description above.

Additional Resources

Looking for more information for planning your visit to Grays Peak? Here are some additional resources and websites with more info to continue your research online:

Grays Peak Links and Resources

News Articles about Grays Peak

FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions

Have a question that we haven’t addressed below? Email us at info@thenextsummit.org and we can provide an answer and more details.

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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In 2018, I watched in disbelief as dozens of people hiked into a storm on Longs Peak, unaware of the extreme danger. Soon after, I started The Next Summit to educate and empower the public to safely and responsibly explore America's mountains.

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