.:Getting to the trailhead:.
From Denver, head west past Idaho Springs and Georgetown. About 5 miles before Loveland Pass & the Eisenhower Tunnel is the Bakerville exit (exit 221). This is about 50 miles from the west end of Denver. Take the Bakerville exit and turn left over I-70. The dirt road immediately in front of you takes you to Stevens Gulch. The dirt road is usually a little bumpy, and the road condition can vary depending on the year and usage. Best to use a 4x4 or high-clearance 2wd. Also, the last ~1.5 miles along the road before the trailhead are private property. The trailhead parking is obvious and spacious, and includes bathroom facilities!
Grays (and Torreys) are popular climbs in part because of the excellent trails that have been established. From the trailhead, cross the creek on the well-built bridge and continue south along the wide trail. There are a couple switchbacks in the first mile, and then further south into the basin on the north side of Grays and east of Torreys. The trail for Grays winds obviously up the north slopes of the mountain, with signs and cairns to guide the way to the summit.
In winter conditions, the summer trail is often lost once the climb up Grays' north slopes begin, but you can pretty much pick a line to your liking, aiming for the summit.
I thought Longs Peak was a crowded affair, but that was nothing compared to this hike! Actually,I attempted this trip a few weeks ago with my girlfriend, who is attempting to get into this hiking thing. Unfortunately, she just couldn't handle the altitude, and we aborted about a quarter mile below the Grays summit. Kudos to Penny for trying, though (there are several amusing stories that accompany this trip, including the goats, the small rabbit, and the dead car-alarm battery (don't think dirty!), but I'll dedicate a separate page for those at another time).
So anyway, Friday afternoon I journeyed to the Grays trailhead. It's really convenient (which explains the popularity) to get to - just head west on I-70 until the Bakerville exit (halfway between Georgetown and Loveland Pass), and then turn left onto the dirt road marked with the Gray's Trailhead sign. The trailhead itself is an extremely nice little parking area about 3 miles up the road, complete with a gravel parking lot, bathrooms, and lots of camping space. The forest service folks have done a fantastic job on this site!
After a pleasant evening of camping, I set off at about 6:20 the next morning. The trail leads south across a brand spanking new bridge and maintained trail for a couple dozen yards to the register. Continuing along the trail, one finds oneself in a pleasant valley with Kelso mountain to the right, the Stevens Mine in the ridge to the left, and Grays and Torreys straight ahead, the former to the left of the latter. This morning was bright and clear and warm, and this early there were only a handful of people on the trail. The valley continues for about a mile and a half before the trail rises to the right and crests into the cirque between Grays and Torreys. The conventional trail bears left to Grays, but it is also possible to climb the ridge between Kelso and Torreys and follow it to the Torreys summit (which is considerably less crowded). It looks a lot nastier than it is, and only holds moderate scrambling and a little exposure.
The summit of Grays had a population of seven - three people, three hungry mountain goats, and one very vocal pika. The popularity of Grays could be reflected in the fact that these goats were completely used to humans, coming right up to us with an almost demanding look, 'Hey, where's the FOOD?!'. The pika, likewise, seemed to be squeaking for a handout, too. After cutting a path through the goats (who were not going to be moved from their perch), I signed the register about 8:20, sat down to a Clif Bar and banana, and was off to Torreys...,
, easily reached along the connecting saddle, one-half mile north and comprising a 500-foot drop. The ascent to Torreys seemed a lot steeper, and I was heaving when I reached the top, where there were no goats, but 4 other guys, all reverently (which I was heartened to see) taking in the view. Loveland Pass in visible directly to the west, and Keystone, Breckenridge, and Dillon all comprised the landscape. A-Basin was tantalizingly close, just on the other side of an adjoining ridge.
As I started down the ridge, a glance down to the trail revealed a conga-line of people working their way slowly up the mountain. I probably passed 200 people getting back to the trailhead, and they considerably slowed me up (I was practicing the art of trail-running, and my quads were not happy about it). Since I've made lots of nasty comments on other pages about the crowding of mountain trails and subsequent erosion and other environmental-unfriendliness, I'll just sigh and go on. At least people are getting out and enjoying the wilderness. Anyway, I hit theparking lot at 10:40, and grabbed a quick bite of lunch as I made my way down to Georgetown to head up Guanella Pass for Mount Bierstadt!