Located only a few miles from Interstate 70, Grays Peak, usually climbed along with close neighbor Torreys Peak, is one of the most popular in Colorado. On summer weekends, Denverites ascend its gentle slopes like a line of ants. It’s only 3.5 miles from the trailhead to the summit of Grays, which is usually climbed first. Because of its proximity to the interstate, it’s also a popular hike/ski for winter 14er enthusiasts.
I have never experienced crowds on a mountain like the first time I tried to climb Grays Peak. An unending column of hikers, marching single-file like soldiers up the meandering terrain, stretched before me, plodding through lingering snow and heavy clouds. My wife’s boots were bothering her. I was grumpy about the crowds. Sometimes you need to know when to call it a day, and we turned around to get warm and enjoy a strong drink in Idaho Springs. But we came back later that summer and climbed it from the backside, camping in Chihuahua Gulch. We didn’t see a soul until cresting the summit.
- Take stock of the weather, your food and water supply, and how you are feeling before moving on to Torreys after summiting Grays. This is your bailout point.
- Avoid crowds by hiking one of the lesser-known routes, such as Chihuahua Gulch or even from the top of Loveland Pass.
- If you have a passenger car, prepare to park near I-70 and hike 3 miles up a road to the trailhead.
Recommended season(s): Summer-fall for hikers, winter for backcountry skiers.
—R. Scott Rappold