Grays Peak, Torreys Peak And Mount Evans

Zosia Zgolak and I hiked up both Grays Peak and Torreys Peak in the Front Range of central Colorado on 10 July 2019.  We used the standard route via Stevens Gulch as described in Chris Meehan's guidebook, Climbing Colorado's Fourteeners.

Turn off I-70 at Bakerville (Exit 221) about 11 kilometres west of Georgetown or 25 kilometres east of Silverthorne.  Drive south on Stevens Gulch Road for 4.9 kilometres to the signed trailhead for Grays Peak.  This road is not maintained and quite rough; a high clearance vehicle is strongly recommended.  There is a vault toilet at the trailhead, and camping is allowed there.

After camping at the trailhead the previous night, Zosia and I got up early and were hiking on the easy-to-follow trail well before dawn.  There were a few wet areas along the trail as well as a lengthy section that was still covered with snow, but generally, we had no difficulties hiking up the valley to a large cirque enclosed by Grays Peak and Torreys Peak.  As we climbed higher up the trail to Grays Peak, we began encountering more and more hikers and mountain goats.  In fact, goats are so ubiquitous here that, after awhile, it almost seemed passť to point them out.  A significant amount of snow still covered the trail on the northeast slopes of Grays Peak, and although there was an obvious beaten path through the snow, we elected to abandon the trail and climb up drier Class 2 terrain to climber's left.  We eventually found another good trail (possibly the Continental Divide Trail) on the east ridge of Grays Peak, and that led us all the way to the summit without fuss.
Very scenic trail right from the start. With a pre-dawn start, Sonny hikes along the trail to Grays Peak and Torreys Peak which are both visible at the head of the valley.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

It's gonna be a beautiful day in the mountains. The morning sun lights up Grays Peak as Sonny crosses a section of trail still covered by a large snow patch.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Looks like there are still some good lines to ski!

Here is a closer look at Grays Peak and Torreys Peak from further up the valley.


It must have been a very cold night! Torreys Peak is reflected in a partly frozen tarn.
One guy with skis that passed us later on said that he was planning to ski down the couloir on the right! Zosia hikes below the east face of Torreys Peak.
This is where the trail starts to get crowded... The trail initially climbs to the left here before traversing across the northeast face of Grays Peak to the snowy col.
The first of many... A lone mountain goat looks down from above the trail.
There are some people and goats ahead of us in this photo. Zosia approaches the northeast face of Grays Peak.  She would eventually climb up to the left to gain the ridge.
Skiing in July on generally crappy snow...that's hardcore! A backcountry skier passes Zosia along the trail.  Note the mountain goat higher up the slope.
All the goats here have no fear of people. A couple of mountain goats wander down the trail to meet Zosia.

Hey there!

The two goats nonchalantly pass by.  Click here to see Zosia's video of them.


I was surprised that not more people were ascending via this route. Zosia gains the east ridge of Grays Peak.
Get a piece of the rock! Sonny and Zosia stand on the summit of Grays Peak (4346 metres).
At this point, we weren't sure if we would be heading up Mount Evans later in the day. Mount Evans (centre) and Mount Bierstadt (right of centre) are visible to the east.
Aside from Pikes Peak, these are more easy walk-ups that most people don't probably don't bother climbing! Several named peaks can be readily identified to the southeast including Ruby Mountain (bottom right corner), Decatur Mountain (right) and Square Top Mountain (far left).  Barely visible on the left horizon is Pikes Peak.
The snow helps in identifying those distant peaks. Cooper Mountain (left) sits across the basin to the southwest.  Though a bit hard to discern in this photograph, Mount Bross, Mount Lincoln, Mount Democrat and Quandary Peak are all clearly visible on the distant horizon right of centre.
Unfortunately, we had to skip on Mount of the Holy Cross on this trip because it was a bit out of our way. The view to the west includes Lenawee Mountain (right foreground), Dillon Reservoir, the town of Frisco (on far side of the reservoir), and Mount of the Holy Cross (left horizon).
It's hard to pick out in this photo, but you should also be able to see the trailhead from here. This is looking back down the approach valley to the northeast.  Kelso Mountain (centre) is largely neglected due to its close proximity to Torreys Peak and Grays Peak.
After taking a short break on top of Grays Peak, Zosia and I dropped down the steep north ridge to an intervening col before Torreys Peak.  Some lingering snow made one spot a little tricky to descend, but otherwise, we had no other problems.  The climb from the col to the top of Torreys Peak is very straightforward, and it took us about an hour to traverse between the two summits which are of nearly equal height.
Rush hour on the trail! En route to Torreys Peak, Zosia is among a group of hikers descending the north ridge of Grays Peak to the intervening col.
Nothing complicated here. Zosia hikes up the south ridge of Torreys Peak.
Torreys is supposed to be shorter than Grays by about 1 metre. Zosia and Sonny stand on the summit of Torreys Peak (4346 metres).

Gorgeous scenery!

Here is the view to the northwest from the summit of Torreys Peak.  Mount Sniktau is visible to the right in the middle foreground.


For our return trip, Zosia and I dropped back down to the intervening col, and we subsequently followed the aforementioned beaten path running across the large snow patch on the northeast slopes of Grays Peak.  Neither of us had brought ice axes, and as such, the first part of this descending traverse along the steepest part of the snow slope felt a little unnerving.  Fortunately, the snow was not icy, and we regained our original approach trail without any spills.  The remainder of our hike back to the trailhead was enjoyable and trouble-free, but we stopped frequently to photograph more mountain goats and even some entertaining marmots.  Upon returning to the trailhead, we drove back down the bumpy access road and ultimately stopped in the town of Idaho Springs to do some grocery shopping and eat a late lunch.
I'm glad we don't have to climb back up over Grays Peak! Zosia returns to the col below the north ridge of Grays Peak.
This slope was a little unnerving to cross without an ice axe. Zosia carefully descends a beaten path in the snow across the northeast face of Grays Peak.
That could have been a glorious glissade had I brought my ice axe along! After safely descending from the col, Zosia regains the main trail.
The goats are so common now that they're almost passť! Sonny runs into another mountain goat on the side of the trail.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Need urine? Here is a closer look at the goat standing over the trail.
This trip is turning into a bit of a safari! Besides mountain goats, yellow-bellied marmots are also abundant in the area.

This would be nice place to camp!

Zosia hikes past some shallow tarns on her way back to the trailhead..'ve got dirt on your teeth! Here is a close-up of another marmot.
And we are done at 1:30 PM! Zosia crosses the bridge over Quayle Creek at the trailhead.
This was my favourite 14er hike of our road trip! Total Distance:  13.0 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  8 hours 36 minutes
Cumulative Elevation Gain:  1093 metres

GPX Data

With a lot of daylight left, Zosia and I decided to take the long and scenic drive up to the top of Mount Evans, yet another Front Range "Fourteener".  Although the first 21 kilometres from Idaho Springs to the junction near Echo Lake via Highway 103 is fairly straightforward, the remaining 23 kilometres along Mount Evans Road (Highway 5) is not for the faint of heart.  While the road is paved all the way, there are lots of narrow sections with hairpin turns and precipitous drop-offs especially near the top.  Of course, it is doubly difficult to concentrate on driving when the surrounding scenery is so astounding and when numerous mountain goats, bighorn sheep and yellow-bellied marmots vie for attention along the road.

The summit parking area was expectedly busy with lots of tourists and mountain goats milling about.  When Zosia and I first arrived, we stayed inside my car to wait out a flash rainstorm, but once the rain stopped, we got out and toured the ruins of Crest House, a former restaurant and gift shop that was destroyed by fire in 1979.  We then took a short walk to visit nearby Meyer-Womble Observatory which appeared to be largely ignored by both tourists and goats.  Returning to the parking area, we finally climbed the short trail to the top of Mount Evans.  Rain began falling lightly again when we took our requisite summit photos, but we hung around a bit longer in hopes that the sky would clear for better views.  Shortly after, I stooped to take a look at the summit survey marker when I suddenly felt a buzz in my head.  A woman in a dress was posing nearby for a photograph, and I noticed that her long hair was standing straight up in the air!  Everyone immediately beat a hasty retreat from the summit for fear of being struck by lightning.  Fortunately, no lightning strikes materialized at the top of Mount Evans, but as we drove down the mountain, we saw a few flashes in the distance to the south.
Too bad the restaurant was destroyed. I could go for a hamburger right about now! Here is a view of the parking lot near the summit of Mount Evans.  The ruins in the foreground are that of Crest House, a former restaurant and gift shop that was built in 1941 but destroyed by fire in 1979.
Mount Evans is the only place where I have seen mountain goats and bighorn sheep in the same area at the same time. A mountain goat casually passes by Sonny on the sidewalk as if it were just another tourist.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

The switchback is very long; some people take a short cut and just scramble up the rocks. Despite some ominous clouds hovering overhead, Zosia hikes up the trail to the top of Mount Evans.
I feel a few raindrops... Sonny stands on the summit of Mount Evans (~4348 metres).

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Despite clear skies to the west, these clouds above us just wouldn't budge! Zosia stands near the edge of Mount Evans' precipitous northwest face.  Mount Bierstadt is visible at left while Grays Peak and Torreys Peak are visible on the horizon at far right.
Time to GTFO! Sonny feels a buzz in his head from electricity in the air.  Summit Lake is visible to the north.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

In case you haven't got your fill of goats yet! Mountain goats take over Crest House once tourists have left.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak