There are 58 mountain peaks in Colorado that reach further than 14,000 feet into the air. Most are concentrated in Colorado’s western slopes, but there are towering peaks scattered along the Rocky Mountain ranges. When Taylor moved to Colorado, she decided to tackle 10 before the end of the calendar year. To start the task, she and I took a day hike to the tops of Grays and Torreys Peaks.
An early start helps ensure favorable weather while hiking up and back down any 14’er, so Taylor and I left Denver with our dog Maria and headed for the Grays Peak Trailhead at 4:20AM. Roughly an hour later, we exited Interstate 70 and began to climb Stephen’s Gulch Road. The two mile road is steep, rocky, and narrow at times, but we parked at the trailhead after Taylor skillfully maneuvered the dark, bumpy road.
Sunrise colored the sky deep purple as we crossed the footbridge spanning Stephen’s Gulch and began our first journey to 14,000 feet. From the trailhead to the summit, Grays Peak Trail is 3.5 miles long with 3,000 feet of elevation gain. Nearly every step we took after the footbridge was a step up, but every step was filled with beautiful sights.
As the sun erupted over the McClellan Mountain Ridgeline, wildflower colors burst from the grassy sides of Grays Trail. Reds, pinks, and lavenders lay among numerous white and yellow patches on a lush, green canvas for over two miles of the trail. Quayle creek cuts through the vegetation and its source marks the beginning of a different landscape.
The ascent routes to the summits were unmistakable as Taylor and I climbed into fields of broken and strewn rocks. The path was littered with hikers, but the traffic could not affect their majesty against the blue morning sky.
Thankfully, the traffic didn’t affect several snow white mountain goats either. A watchful mother, several fluffy little ones, and a few distant loners made appearances as we climbed higher looking for a suitable place to have ‘lunch’ at 8:30 AM.
After a short break, one half mile of switchbacks through the mountain’s shed rocks led us to the payoff we’d been anticipating. The top of Grays Peak is a platform where hikers were relaxing, chatting, taking photos, and gazing over the vast range of Earth.
After marveling for ourselves and determining that Keystone was the visible ski area, Taylor and I began descending to the saddle between Grays and Torreys to approach our second peak of the day. A 500 foot ascent from the saddle led to the more pointed Torreys Peak.
Our first experience taking the dog down steep slopes was a bit difficult, because she gets anxious around heights. A pulling dog does not mix well with a trail littered with large stones and loose gravel. We made the descent more quickly than we should have, but we made it safely.
It took us roughly an hour to go from Gray's peak to the top of Torrey's. The climb to the top of Torreys was a bit more crowded and much more steep. The switchbacks were shorter and more narrow. Everyone on the trail was moving at the slowest pace of the day.
When we got to the top, weary hikers crowded at the area soaking in their accomplishment and the warm sunshine. We sat and soaked in the views until the wind made Taylor chilly. We considered taking a class three trail back to Grays Peak Trail, but we quickly reconsidered while watching climbers traverse the spiny and icy path.
The hike down Torrey's Peak Trail leads across Grays and Torreys Saddle and across the eastern face of Grays before tying back into Grays Peak Trailhead. A small patch of slushy ice and the rocky descent into the Stephen’s Gulch were the last difficult segments of our day.
In the noon sun, the fields of flowers, grasses, and shrubs of the gulch were even more vivid than they had been that morning. Taylor and I bubbled with wonderment and pride as we discussed the beauty and difficulty of our first two 14’ers.
Talkin' 'bout Tacos:
I'm Taylor, aka Tacos! I am sharing my journeys and experiences from across the world hoping to inspire travel and adventure in all who read!