Grays Peak and Torreys Peak are a pair of heavily trafficked “14ers” located about an hour from the Denver area. Hiking Grays Peak and Torreys Peak are an easier pair of “14ers” when comparing them to Mt Evans & Mt Bierstadt, but still requires a high fitness level and experience at high elevation. The popular pair of mountains get very busy though (think I-70 traffic at 3PM on a winter Sunday).
Grays Peak and Torreys Peak
Grays Peak and Torreys Peak Trail Rating: ★★★ (3/5 Stars)
Distance: 8 Miles RT
Elevation Start: 11,253 ft
Summit: Grays – 14,278 ft, Torreys – 14,274 ft
Total Elevation Gain: 3,560 ft
Estimated Time to Complete: 5-6 Hours RT
(2-3 Hours Up to Grays, 30 Minutes to Torreys, 2-3 Hours Down)
Difficulty: Moderate What does this mean?
Class: Class 2 – What does this mean?
Season: July – October (Expect Snow Outside of this Period)
Directions to Grays Peak & Torreys Peak
Trailhead: Grays & Torreys Peak
Getting Here: From I-70, take the Bakerville exit and continue on to Stevens Gulch Road. The upper trailhead is 3 miles from here staying left/straight at all intersections. This road is a complete wildcard. In some months/years, most passenger cars can make it to the upper TH. In others, you need a high clearance 4×4 car. It all depends on the road conditions. Clear Creek County does maintain this road, but your guess is as good as mine as to how frequently that happens. In winter months (December – May usually) you will have to park right off I70 and walk to the upper TH.
Parking: Free parking is available at the Grays Peak and Torreys Peak trailhead. There are two small lots and they generally fill up around 5AM. There is parking available along the road, but even this fills up pretty quickly and much of it is blocked by private property. My advice, get there very early (4AM) and hike in the dark or later in the afternoon (2-3PM) and keep an eye out for afternoon thunderstorms. There are bathrooms available at the trailhead (they do not have plumbing).
Dogs: Dogs are allowed on Grays Peak and Torreys Peak and it is not a terrible hike to bring your pet on. Be sure to bring water as there are no sources outside of the stream next to the parking area. Terrain-wise, the hike up to Grays Peak is almost all packed dirt but the ridgeline and hike up to Torreys Peak can be a bit rocky. I would not say its “tough” terrain for a dog’s paws, but just something to keep in mind if your dog is not used to hiking in the mountains.
Camping: There are a few camping spots at the upper TH. Once the hike starts, camping options are very poor and much of the road up to the hike is lined with private land. There are a few dispersed camping spots along the road which will be fairly obvious. Alternatively, if you drive down CR 319 there are a few camping spots in this area as well. This isn’t the best spot to camp, but if you are lucky, you can make it work.
Make it a Loop: Grays Peak and Torreys Peak is generally a lollipop loop. However, if you are looking to make the hike a complete loop, try hiking the Kelso Ridge up to Torreys Peak. This ridge is very similar to the Sawtooth between Mt Evans & Mt Bierstadt, but is a far less popular way to summit Torreys Peak.
Trail X Factors: Two 14ers Under 10 Miles
Besides the sheer beauty of the area, one of the main reasons Grays Peak and Torreys Peak are such a popular hike is the ability to summit two “14ers” in under 10 miles with relatively little elevation gain. Comparing Grays & Torreys to Mt Bierstadt & Mt Evans, it is a much easier hike (fewer miles, less elevation gain and no Sawtooth Ridge). If you are visiting Colorado or beginner hiker, Grays Peak and Torreys Peak are a great “two-for” to hike.
Hike Tip(s): Grays Peak and Torreys Peak is an extremely popular hike, especially during the summer months. If you plan on hiking during a weekend, I would recommend a very early (4-5AM) start. If you do not want to get up wicked early, you can always camp near the trailhead and avoid the early morning drive. There are a few areas to camp along the access road and a larger selection at the trailhead parking lots.
Best Views: Grays Peak and Torreys Peak is a relatively short hike and a fantastic opportunity to take stunning landscape photos of the beautiful valley. If you start early enough, you can snap the stars and sunrise to the east on your hike. There are several areas (about 1-2 miles in) to do both. Views from the summit of Torreys Peak are best north and Grays are best west.
My Trip to Grays Peak and Torreys Peak: August 2016
Grays Peak and Torreys Peak are one of the biggest hype beasts in Colorado and since my personality is type capital A, I wanted to make sure that I arrived to the mountain early. When talking to friends about my planned arrival time of 2AM, they looked at me like I had three heads. I have made it pretty clear over past hike guides, that I go on hikes to get away from people and society and I will generally do whatever it takes to avoid crowds when possible.
As I drove through the stars to the Bakerville exit, I was a bit nervous about the summer access road which I had read mixed reviews about its conditions. However, I had almost no problems on the 3 mile dirt road with my low clearance Subaru Legacy and reached the upper parking area right around my planned arrival time. Surprisingly the lot was not empty and I actually saw other hikers heading up the trail as I was parking. I noticed my car thermometer which read 41 degrees and I got a little nervous. I had packed several layers to stay warm, but at this temperature my usual plan of wearing shorts was not going to fly. I stepped out of the car to snap some pictures of the stars and realized that I made a huge mistake…
Forgetting layers, especially pants, is a day 1 on earth, rookie, never been hiking in Colorado bone-head mistake. I was so pissed at myself and considered driving back home to snag pants, but the fear of crowds steered me away from that idea, it was a Sunday after all. I began digging through my bag to see what I could come up with and remembered my quick dry towel and duct tape I had in the bag. I decided to wrap the towel and an extra long sleeve shirt around my legs and duct tape them down to keep them from falling off. That past sentence is not a joke.
After “Michael Scotting” my pants, I hit the trail under the bright stars on my way to bag two more “14ers”. For the first hour or so the trail was very straight forward and I did not see another living thing in site. My pace was extremely slow. I was not sure if it was due to the duct tape pants I had fashioned or the lack of sleep, but it was certainly much slower than my normal speed.
My fashioned pants were helping, but there was no way of getting around it, I was cold. I stopped to snap some pictures of the stars and seriously considered turning around. However, I am very stupid and stubborn and knew that it would warm up significantly once the sun came up. I pushed on.
My initial plan was to hike the Kelso Ridge but as the sun started to rise, I noticed that the dew on the rocks was extremely slippery so I decided that taking that Class 3 trail was not the best idea. (The truth was that I had a hard time finding the trail in pitch black and given my duct tape/leg situation, I wanted to be able to turn around quickly if I needed to.)
I was about 3.75 miles up to Grays Peak and the hardest part was the last ½ mile which involved some fairly steep switchbacks. As I neared the summit of the mountain I had stopped to take off my “pants” since A. I had warmed up quite a bit and B. I was thoroughly convinced the people who had noticed my fashion, thought I was a serial killer.
I snapped a few photos, chugged some water and moved on towards Torreys Peak. The ridge line was very straight forward and I just missed a family of mountain goats searching for their Sunday breakfast. It took me about 30 minutes to get from Grays Peak to Torreys Peak but the incline up to Torreys was MUCH steeper than anything on Grays. (Note: If you plan on only hiking on of the two peaks, Grays is much easier.)
When comparing views, Torreys Peak was slightly better than Grays Peak but both offered tremendous views on a beautiful sunny morning. As I looked down towards the parking area, I noticed a line of ants which turned out to be a massive line of people working their way up to Grays Peak. It honestly looked like the line stretched from the top of the peak all the way to the parking area. It turned out the hype about the mountain crowds were real.
Hiking during the night has become one of my favorite things to do for many reasons one of which is the lack of awareness of what you initially hiked up. This makes hiking down a new experience because it is the first time seeing the landscape and area surrounding the trail. From the time I left Torreys Peak, it took about 2.5 hours back down to the car where both lots were completely full and it was only 10AM. As I drove out back to I-70 I noticed about a half mile of cars parked along the road. Although it was a very early morning, I was extremely happy that I did not have to deal with that large amount of people.
Grays Peak and Torreys Peak was a beautiful hike I will certainly do again and understand why it is so popular. I was disappointed that I was not able to take Kelso Ridge, but very grateful I was able to think on my feet to stay warm and complete the hike.
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