Climbing Grays and Torreys Peaks

Grays Peak and Torreys Peak

Climb up Colorado's 9th and 11th tallest peaks - both 14ers. Total trek is 8.5 miles roundtrip. Total elevation gain of 3600'Duration: Full day or overnight.

At about an hour's drive from Denver, Grays Peak (14,270 ft./4338m) and its sister mountain, Torreys Peak (14,267 ft./4337m), are two of the most popular 14ers in the state. Because of this, a wealth of information is available on the internet. Rather than go into all the details of the technicalities of the hike, my purpose here is to give you some tips that you might not find elsewhere.

Grays Peak and Torreys Peak are the 9th and 11th highest mountains in Colorado, respectively. The two peaks are connected by a saddle about three-quarters mile distance, making them a perfect two-fer. Located right off I-70, these are the two most accessible 14ers to Denver. They draw not only locals, but a large number of vacationers who are determined to climb a 14er (or two) while visiting the area, as well. Add the irresistibility of checking two 14ers off your list in one day, and well ... no wonder they're so popular!

(Do not mistake their popularity for being "easy" 14ers. This is a strenuous hike and not everyone completes it. Torreys, being a Class 2 mountain, is the more difficult of the two.)

Climbing any 14er presents special weather concerns in all seasons that you may not encounter elsewhere. July and August are your best bet for warmer temperatures, green tundra, and beautiful wildflowers. This is also the busiest season, for those reasons. However, this is also monsoon season and rife with unpredictable weather, especially afternoon thunderstorms, which can be very dangerous when you're exposed at a high altitude. Always check the weather forecast before going and be prepared! Recently, an unexpected, sudden summer storm in the Front Range sent hundreds of hikers running down the mountains, getting soaked and some even hailed on.

In late spring, you'll encounter crusty snow, ice, and mud. Need I say more?

The Road:

From I-70, take the Bakerville exit (exit 221). There's a sizeable parking area on the south side of I-70. Stevens Gulch Rd. is a dirt road marked for Grays Peak. It continues three miles south to the Grays Peak Trailhead. This road is very rough in some places, so use a 4WD vehicle if possible. There is a parking area with bathrooms at the trailhead.

In the summer, the parking fills up very quickly, forcing people to park along the roadside and in the lower lot. Parking in the lower lot adds three miles each way to your already strenuous hike! If this happens to you, try hitching a ride up or down.

***If there is one thing I cannot stress enough, it is GO EARLY. And by early, I mean arrive by 6:00 am or earlier. Besides the weather concerns, you will find the parking situation to be a disaster, especially on the weekends, if you arrive much later than this. This summer, I arrived at 7:30 on a weekday and added an extra 2.5 miles to my hike that I was not planning on!

(Note: Torreys Peak is also accessible from Loveland Pass to the west. In fact, both mountains have several routes, depending on how difficult a climb you want. This article is concerned with the standard Bakerville route only.)

Hike Stats (Grays and Torreys Combo):
  • Summit Elevation: 14,270
  • Trailhead Elevation: 11,280
  • Total Elevation Gain: 3600
  • Route Length: 8.5 miles
  • Trailhead: Grays Peak
  • Class: Grays-1; Torreys-2

Pack List

  • Backpacking gear (if applicable)
  • Food
  • Water
  • Hiking boots
Show More
RT Distance 8.5 Miles
Elevation Gain 3600 Feet
Activities Photography, Running, Backpacking, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Spring, Summer, Autumn
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Bathrooms
Dog Friendly
Groups
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Challenging but rewarding!

We arrived at the trail head at about 6:15. The parking lot was full so we parked about a mile down the road, beginning the hike from the trailhead at about 6:30. We decided to do Torreys first since it is more of a beast than Grays. The hike to the saddle which connects the two peaks was a beast in itself with a challenging rocky uphill climb. The plan was to hike both peaks but as we were climbing Torreys, my mind was made up that there was no way I would climb two peaks today. I was miserable. At the summit of Torrey's we got a second wind after rewarding views, camaraderie and encouragement from fellow hikers, and snacks from our packs. I found the climb down from Torreys unnerving and would recommend hiking poles, which we didn't have. After a group decision and a quick bathroom break (btw - there aren't a whole lot of places "to go" up there except off to the side of the saddle, which has great views;) we decided to tackle Grays which was less challenging than Torreys. After another set of rewarding views and motivation from other hikers, we began the descent which took about 2 1/2 hours. Again I was wishing for some hiking poles to help balance and steady myself on the treacherous rocks that covered the majority of the hike down. The best part of the hike were the views, being in a beautiful area, and sharing the challenge between our group and other hikers. To me, the worst part was the final summit to Torreys and the decent down to the bottom of the trailhead. It was a great time overall and was very glad we did it!

Weekend Crowds + Breathtaking Views

We arrived at 6:15 am to a completely full upper trailhead parking lot, but there was still ample parking along the road. When people tell you to get there early, they're not kidding. Some parts of the trail were so crowded you couldn't even step off to the side to let someone pass. That being said, it was well worth it. As far as fourteeners go, Grays was about as easy as it gets. The trail is well defined and wide the entire way up. The top is wide enough that we didn't feel crowded. In my opinion, the ridge down from Grays to the saddle was the hardest part, followed closely by the snow bank you have to traverse after Torreys (still there on July with no real signs of disappearing). Just go slowly and you'll be just fine!

Beat the parking lot crowds

This hike was especially great when we camped the night before! There is a very small parking lot, so using the free, dispersed campsites completely eliminated the stress of not being certain of a parking spot. We also didn't have to wake up super early to drive to the trailhead!


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