14er Peak Rank #9/53

Grays Peak is the highest peak in Colorado’s Front Range at 14,270′.  Featured on 14ers Maps 1 of 16, a summer weekend trip to Grays will assure large crowds to contend with, but also sweeping views from the highest point of the Continental Divide at the summit. Coupled with Torreys Peak – a 14er summit about 3/4 mile away – these peaks make for great introductory 14ers hiking due to the ease of the routes.

Trail to Grays Peak

Grays Peak, Photo Credit: By XnatedawgxOwn work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

The first recorded summit of Grays peak was made by British-American Charles Parry in 1861, a botanist who trained under mentors Asa Gray and John Torrey – for whom he named these peaks. Gray himself traveled to Colorado a decade later in 1872 and later in 1877, where each time he climbed his namesake peak. Early mining activity around that time included the discovery of the Baker Mine deposit on nearby Kelso Mountain by John Baker, William Kelso and Dick Irwin in 1865. Later the Stevens mine was built close to what is now the Grays Peak trailhead and is visible today.

Early climber on summit of Grays Peak 1865-1885
Early climber on summit of Grays Peak

Early climber on summit of Grays Peak 1865-1885

Today the route up to the mines though Stevens Gulch is the road to the upper Grays Peak Trailhead – the main approach most hikers will use to access Grays and Torreys Peak. Taking the Bakerville Exit off of I-70 will lead one quickly to Stevens Gulch Road, which is an unimproved dirt road 3 miles before the upper Grays Peak Trailhead. Most low-clearance vehicles will park shortly after the road begins due to large ruts, but most higher clearance vehicles should get one to the upper trailhead at 11,250′. From there it is a 3.6 mile one-way Class 1 (trail walking) hike to the summit of Grays along a well-worn trail starting right below the tree line, gaining a little over 3,000′ in elevation.

Rock cairn on Grays Peak Trail

Main Grays Peak trail with large rock cairn, by XnatedawgxOwn work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Grays peak can also be accessed from the south by a trailhead at the end of Peru Creek Road (County Rd 260), which follows the Continental Divide Trail north up past Argentine Peak 2.6 miles to Argentine Pass where it then turns west along the divide over Mount Edwards (13,850′) and meets Grays Peak 2.5 miles after reaching the pass – about 3,160′ of elevation gain from the trailhead.  Another less worn path would be to take the 4WD road up Chihuahua Gulch (off Peru Creek Road) to the Chihuahua Lake Trailhead and take and old road east of the creek eastwards 1.5 miles to an abandon mining area where a gentle Class 2 (more difficult hiking) route follows a ridgeline from the south up to Grays peak 1.4 miles after the old mining area – about 3,080′ elevation gain from the 4WD trailhead.

Though it is immensely popular, please take seriously safety precautions while hiking Grays Peak. In the winter, a section of the main trail travels right under an avalanche path on the flank of Kelso Mountain, and summer thunderstorms pose a hazard to those who don’t start early in the day and try to be off the summit by lunchtime.  Be prepared, know your limitations, watch the weather, drink plenty of water, and as always don’t forget your 14ers Maps. Grays Peak is one of four fourteeners featured on Outdoor Trail Maps Colorado 14ers Series Map 1 of 16

Directions to Trailheads:

The most popular trailhead is from the north off the I-70 Bakerville (exit 221).  Take Steven Gulch Road (left after exit) as far as your vehicle’s abilities (park at the beginning of road for low clearance or drive 3 miles to the main trailhead for high clearance vehicle).

From the south, take Montezuma Rd (County Road 5) off of US Hwy 6 (Loveland Pass Road) at Keystone Ski Resort for about 4.5 miles to a bridge over the Snake River in a bend in the road.  Take the left turn on unpaved County Road 260 on your left 2.2 miles to a trailhead on the right side of the road for the Chihuahua Gulch route (or if you have a 4×4, you can turn left onto the road FS 263.1 there and drive 2 miles to the Chihuahua Lake 4×4 trailhead).  Once there, on the other side (east side) of the creek is an old road blocked to vehicles that will lead you to the mining runs after 1.5 miles of hiking before taking the primitive route up to Grays Peak. 

Instead of taking the Chihuahua Gulch route, you can drive another 2.4 miles past the Chihuahua Gulch 2×4 trailhead to the Argentine Pass CDT trailhead just before the gate in the Peru Creek Road.  Walk 0.4 miles up the road past the trailhead and find the trail on the right side of the road.