Trail Review: Grays Peak

For mountain enthusiasts, Colorado’s “14ers” are a must-do. Colorado has 58 peaks with summits above 14,000′, which are referred to as “14ers.” Many of these peaks are accessible as day hikes.

Gray’s Peak looms large above.

|| Grays Peak ||

Standing at 14,278′, Grays Peak is a great option for those looking for a non-technical 14er near the Denver / Boulder area. The trail leading up to Grays can be accessed from I-70, a few miles west of Idaho Springs, around an hour or so from the greater Boulder area. When conditions permit, the trail can be accessed via the Stephens Gulch Road; otherwise a long road walk is needed just to get up to the Grays Peak trailhead.

The trail up to Grays Peak is very well maintained (from my experience in early August). For the first few miles the trail is several feet wide, with a well-maintained surface. Once the trail gets up above 13,000′ it starts to become more treacherous, yet still very manageable. The well-maintained trail makes Grays Peak a popular day hiking destination. Don’t be surprised to find the trailhead parking lot full starting before sunrise.

Switchbacks lead up to the summit, and at times they can be covered in a light layer of snow. In late summer conditions, however, this layer of snow melts out extremely fast. At 7 AM snow was visible on the switchbacks, yet at 10 AM, when I reached the switchbacks, the trail was dry and snow-free.

The climb, while non-technical, can be physically demanding. Starting from the trailhead, the trail climbs over 3,000 vertical feet in just over 3 miles. Altitude illness can become a major issue for those who are not acclimated to the high altitude environment. Be aware of the signs and symptoms of altitude-related illnesses before you attempt this hike.

Grays Peak is conveniently located next to another Colorado 14er: Torreys Peak (14,275′). Before switchbacks start up to Grays Peak there is a fork: a right turn takes you up to Torreys Peak, a left up to Grays Peak. Ambitious hikers attempt to bag both peaks in the same day.

Looking down over the Continental Divide

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