Our 1st 14er: Hiking Grays Peak
After the great experience hiking Mt. LeConte in June, hiking a 14er was on of our main goals during our trip to Colorado this summer. Nate did a fair amount of research on Colorado’s 53 14ers and we settled on summiting one of the “easier” ones, Grays Peak. Initially we had hoped to summit both Grays and Torreys Peaks (they’re right next to each other). While Torrey’s extra 500′ climb didn’t sound like much on paper, it was a little more than we were ready to handle on this hike.
- Scenery: 5.0
- Difficulty: 4.5
- Length: 7.6 miles
- Dog Friendly Factor: 3.0
- Convenience: 1.0
- Bonus Funtimes: 3.0
Trail Map of Grays Peak
A Few Tip on Hiking Grays Peak
- Give yourself a few days to get acclimated. If you’re a “flatlander” visiting Colorado, be sure to give a few days to let your lungs get used to the thinner air. We hiked Grays on our 4th day in Colorado – and we’re glad we didn’t rush it.
- Get started early. We got to the road leading up to the trail around 7:00 a.m. and were on the trail around 8:00 a.m. – and we’re glad we started early. By the time we were descending, the wind was picking up and ominous clouds were rolling in, so getting started early is highly advised.
- Pick the right vehicle for your drive to the trailhead. For the most part the drive up to the trailhead isn’t too bad, but there are parts that are rough for cars – a vehicle with high clearance is a wise idea if you plan to get past some of the bigger ruts that are in the road. You can park and avoid the ruts, but it will add more hiking to your trip.
- Layer up & bring your gloves! We knew it’d be cool to start the hike and that it’d be chilly at the top, but wow was it colder than either of us expected for late July. We were both very glad to have layers — and I even lucked out and found a pair of gloves in my backpack that came in very handy when we were at the top.
Scenery (5.0 out of 5.0): Nothing beats the view from the summit of a mountain… especially one that provides so many sweeping panoramic scenes. While the scene from the top is phenomenal, the start of the trail isn’t too shabby, either. An idyllic creek runs along the first mile and mountain wildflowers and shrubs line the well-kept trail.
As you pass tree line, the surroundings become more rocky and sparse, but that’s if you’re just looking at the trail in front of you. Take in a few minutes every few hundred feed to look back down the valley and at the surrounding mountains. Also, Grays and Torreys are lined up right along the Continental Divide – it was impressive to see the rugged division line of mountains while hiking up to the peak of Grays.
While the hike is full of great scenery, nothing beats the view from the summit. The 360 degree view of mountain ranges is breathtaking. We could also see a couple of mountain lakes and even Pike’s Peak way off in the distance.
Difficulty (4.5 out of 5.0): Grays Peak is noted as one of the easier 14ers in Colorado, but for us flatlanders, this was a doozy… certainly not impossible or dangerous, but the hike up to Grays Peak demanded a good amount of stamina and patience. There were people of all ages on the trail – we saw a couple of 9-year-old troopers in the mix with people of all ages all the way to 70-year-olds.
When Nate and I started the hike, we were both wheezing a little more than either of us anticipated. The first mile was a steady climb – not overly difficult, but our hearts got to pumping and legs got quick primer on the climb that was to come. After the first mile, we could also make out the various trail paths that have been distinctly cut into the mountain side. It helped to be able to visually identify the parts that were going to be extra difficult and see that there were a few flat(ish) spots, too!
We followed the Eastern Slopes route up to the peak at Grays. The most difficult part was between mile 2 – 3 when the climb became the steepest. At this point we were climbing over boulders and maneuvering through very rocky terrain. A few times we opted to take advantage of the large boulders and stop for a breather. Stopping for breathers frequently was key to maintaining our stamina, it’s amazing how much a 30 second breather can help settle down a racing heartbeat – then you can easily get going again.
The last mile up to the summit consisted of switchbacks up the mountain side. It’s only during this switchback phase that the trail can get a little tricky. We kept an eye out for the cairns that are the markers for when to redirect your path, but there are a few that aren’t as obvious. Just keep an eye out for what your fellow hikers are doing (there are likely to be a lot of them on the trail with you) and try your best to stay on the right path.
Once we were atop Grays Peak, the next decision was whether to make the trek to Torreys. I was the one who opted us out of this addition to the hike… I felt that 16 weeks pregnant was not the time to start pushing my luck with scaling too many mountains in one day… and Nate felt that not abandoning his pregnant wife on a cold mountaintop to make a solo climb up Torreys was the best way not to push his luck too much, either Were I not pregnant, we would’ve sucked it up and made the climb up Torreys, but the baby in the making decided one 14er was good enough for the day!
Length: 7.6 miles – it took us about 5.5 hours
Dog Friendliness (3.0 out o 5.0): There were a few dogs on the hike to Grays Peak. If your dog is in shape, just make sure to bring plenty of water. Mogley was the dog of a pair of hikers that we kept pretty good pace with – he seemed to handle the trail great. At the top of the trail his owners put some booties on his paws to protect him from the rocks, but there were a few people who had dogs running up the trail off leash unfazed by the terrain.
Convenience (1.0 out of 5.0): From Nashville, this is not the most convenient trail to hop on. However, if you’re just about anywhere in central Colorado, Grays Peak is easily accessed just off of I-70 between Idaho Springs and Breckinridge.
Bonus Funtimes (3.0 out of 5.0): There are several different paths you can take to summit Grays and Torreys, but aside from hiking there’s not a lot going on around this trailhead. However, just drive a few miles down the interstate in any direction and you’ll stumble into all kinds of Colorado bonus funtimes!