Climbing Gray’s Peak, Colorado

Gray's Peak, Cr-wikipedia

Gray’s Peak, Cr-wikipedia

Grays Peak Trail rises 3,000 feet in a little over three miles up to 14,270 foot Grays Peak, the highest point in Colorado’s Front Range.

The three and a half mile long trail to Grays Peak begins in Stevens Gulch eight miles west of Georgetown and three miles south of Exit 221 off Interstate 70. There is no other way to get here other than by private car, and there is parking for twenty five or so cars. The starting point of Grays Peak Trail is 11,280 feet above sea level. Hikers should sign the register at the trail head in Stevens Gulch. The best times to climb Grays Peak are early July through early September.

Snow Can Come Anytime During the Summer Above 14,000 Feet

Be aware that it can snow, especially above 14,000 feet at any time. The worst times to climb this peak would be from mid-September through very early July.

There are no made man hazards on the trail, but the hiker should be wary of sudden snow squalls and/or thunderstorms. Once the hiker is under way, he will cross a wide bridge over a gushing stream in Stevens Gulch at tree line level.

Lush Growths of Colorful Subalpine Flowers

As one hikes the trail, he cannot help but notice the jagged rocky face of Stevens Gulch rising high above. Within a mile or so there is an information sign about climbing in high country. Just beyond this point the trail passes through tall willow bushes and a dense growth of subalpine flowers including Colorado columbines, paintbrush, harebells and monkshood. Shorty after this point, the trail goes over very rocky terrain where the hiker can see clearly both Grays Peak to the south and Torreys Peak (14,267 feet) to the southwest.

See Shaggy White Mountain Goats

As the hiker climbs above the rocky zone onto a dirt trail that zig-zags back and forth, she may spot some mountain goats grazing on the lush tundra coating the north side of Grays Peak. Take frequent rests up here well above 12,000 feet as the higher one climbs, the thinner the air gets. Occasional dwarf willows and spruce trees can be seen growing along side the winding trail. If a person were to bore the miniature trunk of a dwarf spruce tree up here, the hiker would be surprised to learn that the compressed tree rings may count as high as one to two hundred, meaning that this tiny dwarf trees at your feet are up to two hundred years old!

Getting Up to the Rock-Sheltered Summit

At 13,000 feet the air is thin and the soil is sparse and stony. Pay attention to the miniature ground flowers including delicate purple patches of alpine-forget-me-not. At this point the hiker may wish to add a parka or sweater as it is much colder up here than at the trail head. Even though Grays Peak may seem insurmountable, it can be climbed with a slow but steady grind skywards.

Sweeping Views of the Colorado Rockies

At last one will approach a circular rock shelter at the very summit of Grays at 14,270 feet! Enjoy the sweeping views of the Collegiate Range to the south, Mounts Evans and Bierstadt to the east, Longs Peak to the north and Quandary Peak above Breckenridge to the west. The hike takes three-quarters of a day (or all day if one descends to the saddle of Torreys Peak and climbs to its summit on a well-marked trail). with a vertical gain of 2,990 feet. Bring sufficient water as there are no water sources along the trail nor are there any restrooms (except at the trail head). You can get a trail map by downloading quad topographic map #104 from the USGS web page.

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