The Mountains of Colorado •
Grays Peak • Highpoint: Clear Creek & Summit Counties
• Highpoint: Front Range
• Arapaho National Forest

Grays Peak

Me at the top

Date: June 2, 2002 • Elevation: 14,270 feet • Prominence: 2,750 feet • Distance: 6 miles • Time: 5 hours • Gain: 3,050 feet • Conditions: Clear, bright blue skies and mild temperatures


Grays Peak is close to Denver and one of the easier 14,000-foot peaks to climb in the state. There is a good trail, it's not too long, and the hiking is straightforward. Given its relative ease, it's also very popular, so crowds would be expected.

Two days ago, I hiked West Spanish Peak and Greenhorn Mountain, both down by Pueblo and at above 12,000 feet for both, a chance to get some conditioning in at high elevation. Yesterday, I drove up and partially hiked Pikes Peak, mainly for the tourist aspect, but also for another chance to spend some time at 14,000 feet. This would be my first time at 14,000 feet since 1997, not counting yesterday's leisurely visit up on Pikes Peak.

I spent last night (and this morning) in the scenic town of Georgetown along Interstate-70, which put me close to the Grays Peak trailhead. Early today, I drove to the Bakerville exit, then bumped up the dirt road to the parking lot at the trailhead. Even at this early hour, nearly all spots were taken; I was lucky to find a marginal spot where I shoe-horned my truck. I was hiking by 6:30 a.m.

After crossing a footbridge, I followed the trail as it contoured east and south of nearby Kelso Mountain, a 13,164-foot peak awash in green grass and wildflowers. The trail itself is well maintained and I was able to make good time. I hiked with an older gentleman who was taking it kind of slow, himself not certain he'd make the summit. We passed a few people and were passed ourselves.

We kept to the trail, through high meadows and rocky plains up to about 12,500 feet, where it abuts the main mass of Grays Peak. Parts of the trail were in shadow and in a few spots, covered in ice. Needless to say, some parts were slippery. The guy and I took a break here. After a short rest, I got moving again, but the guy stayed behind. I never did see him again and I suspect he just hiked back out to his car.

From this point to the summit, the trail switchbacks up the north-facing slopes of Grays Peak, making long sweeps hither and yon, all the while above tree line. The views were marvelous and I had a great time. The fine trail also expedited my progress, and I summitted at 9:15 a.m. in clear, cool, brisk conditions. Given it was early June, there was little snow: the summit was bare, and I only had a few patches coming up.

I spent a little more time than usual on the summit, enjoying the views and the people-watching. Yes, it got crowded but I knew this would happen, and it was a cool bunch. In the saddle below Grays Peak and nearby Torreys Peak, there were people glissading down the snow slope back to the basin and the trail we had all come up. It was fun to watch, and certainly a fast way to descend. Some people were better at it than others. There were also runners, people running from one summit to the next, apparently fitted with a third lung somewhere inside their body. Me, I was just happy to walk at a good pace at 14K.

The hike down went well, and the hordes of day-hikers never abated: I passed group after group coming up, and when I got back to my truck, was amused to see probably another 60 vehicles parked everywhich-where, many illegally, a lot lining the access road. I changed back into my "driving clothes" (shorts, sandals, tee) and exited back to Interstate-70. I was happy to have summitted Grays, but I also had a lot of driving to do, aiming to be in the middle of Utah by day's end.

(c) 2002-2020 Scott Surgent. For entertainment purposes only. This report is not meant to replace maps, compass, gps and other common sense hiking/navigation items. Neither I nor the webhost can be held responsible for unfortunate situations that may arise based on these trip reports. Conditions (physical and legal) change over time! Some of these hikes are major mountaineering or backpacking endeavors that require skill, proper gear, proper fitness and general experience.