At 14,270′, Grays Peak is one of only two fourteeners that actually sits on the Continental Divide. The ninth-highest mountain in Colorado has a well-defined trail to the summit and its proximity to the slightly lower Torreys Peak (14,267′) make this a popular mountain destination, especially on summer weekends, so start your hike early. We started at 3am.
Getting to the Trailhead
The trailhead to Grays Peak and Torrys Peak is about an hour from Denver, and just over 10 miles from Georgetown off Interstate 70. Take exit 221 from I-70 west and follow Stevens Gulch Road. The road is a rough, gravel road that travels three miles to the trailhead. While there were plenty of sedans at the trailhead, I recommend a high clearance vehicle and, in wet conditions, 4WD.
Another option is to park at the beginning of Stevens Gulch Road and hike in to the trailhead, though this adds a total of six miles to the trip. Get turn-by-turn directions to the Stephens Gulch Trailhead via Google Maps.
Hiking to the Summit of Grays Peak
Early starts are always advisable, especially on popular 14ers like Grays Peak. You’ll get parking and you will summit before noon to avoid afternoon thunderstorms. We hit the trail at 3am, hiking by headlamp.
It was a clear sky, and the Milky Way was visible to the naked eye (but sadly, not my iPhone). The trail up the valley is clearly marked and easy to follow, even by headlamp. You will likely see other flickering headlamps bobbing up and down the trail in the distance.
The first three miles of the trail head straight up the valley with only a few switchbacks. When you reach the end of the cirque, the grade gets steeper but well-engineered switchbacks keep the climb steady and manageable. We hit patches of snow and ice in early July, easily manageable without traction devices.
The real payoff for the Alpine start? The sunrise views.
At 3.5 miles you reach the junction with the trail from the saddle. This is used for the return from Torrys Peak. Bear left at this junction, and continue following the switchbacks and occasional cairns to the summit.
The summit of Grays Peak is surrounded by a small stone wind shelter. The views? Epic.
[vr url=https://socalhiker.net//wp-content/uploads/2017/08/USNN3845.jpg view=360]
The return route is simple. Just retrace your steps. Keep an eye out for mountain goats on the way. Can you find the mountain goat we saw on our return in the photo below?
Many people combine a trip up Grays Peak with Torreys Peak (14,267′). From Grays Peak, there is a faint trail down the ridgeline to the saddle, and up the ridge to Torreys Peak. Coming down, return to the saddle and take the connector back to the main trail down to the trailhead.
Adding Torreys Peak to the trip adds 0.9 miles to the total distance and another 894′ in vertical gain.
Grays Peak Trail Map & Elevation Profile
Grays Peak Tips & Resources
- Check out Michael Restivo’s blog post for this hike. He joined me to help scout the trail.
- Grays Peak is a Colorado Mountain Club Classic. For more details, check out Colorado Summit Hikes for Everyone (affiliate link).
- At the time of writing, no permits were required.
- Bring plenty of water, sun protection, and the other ten essentials. This hike is entirely above the tree-line.
- Keep an eye on the weather forecast, and plan to summit by noon. Afternoon lightning storms are a very real risk.
- DID YOU KNOW? Grays Peak and Torreys Peak are the only fourteeners that lie directly on the Continental Divide.
Silver Plume Weather Forecast
The Colorado Rockies Six-Pack of Peaks Challenge
Grays Peak is part of the Colorado Rockies Six-Pack of Peaks Challenge, a self-paced hiking challenge that takes you up six, iconic peaks–each one a bit higher and tougher.
It’s a challenge in itself, or great training for still bigger adventures. Learn more and sign-up here.
Originally hiked on July 2, 2017. Thanks to Michael Restivo for joining me.
David Wiese says
Jeff! Long time no see! Are you living in CO now?
Jeff Hester says
Hey David! No, but my dad lives outside of Denver. I’m splitting time between Oregon and California.
Great information, and I love the photos! I scoured the internet for posts like this when my sister and I took a walking holiday in Britain. This is exactly the type of thing I was looking for then, and if I make it out to your neck of the woods, I’ll definitely be consulting your blog!
Great photos! Thanks for all that you do Jeff!
Beautiful! What time of the year was this? I am doing this hike mid August and am hoping there’s still some snow left at the summit.
Jeff Hester says
Hi Laura! Look closely at the bottom of the post and you’ll see I hiked it on July 2, 2017. There will likely be some snow year round, especially on north-facing slopes, but how much depends on this year’s snowfall and weather. Have fun hiking this in August!
Steve Keith says
Jeff … this was awesome …. thank you very much for creating all of this. I have a question I am not certain you can answer …. but a little context before my question.
I am taking some people on their first 14er …. so the road into Grays Peak Trailhead …. its sounds like a 4×4 is optimal and a person would not want to take their Lexus Sedan or Kia Soul on a road like this … is that a correct assumption?
Is the trail pretty well marked or intuitive enough to get a person unfamiliar with the area up to Grays Peak? … especially early in the morning (we are climbing first week in Aug) … I am a little concerned of taking a wrong turn in the dark
Jeffrey Hester says
First of all, thanks for the kind words. Second, 4×4 is not required to get to the trailhead, but the road is bumpy and you’ll want to take your time. If you look at my photo of the parking lot, you’ll see at least one sedan and a whole lot of Subarus.
The trail itself is pretty clear to follow, even via headlamps. Check with the ranger station about current road and trail conditions before you head out.
Kavitha Vemuri says
we were going to do this in april. picked this as we are preparing for everest base camp trek 5/26 based on alltrails sayinf april to september are good months. yours says otherwise. plz advise. want to pick the right hike. thx much in advance.
Tim C Truemper says
I am a “back east hiker” *NC resident) who occasionally comes out west. Trips to Washington State and Colorado are planned. for this summer. Found your labor love blog while reading about Grays Peak (featured in Backpacker magazine). I’d like to subscribe but am already overloaded with notifications, But have bookmarked your page and will be following it. Great info and good site,
Thanks for guiding us and opening up door for newbies like me to try it out. God bless you.