Guide to Grays and Torreys
Start/End - Chimney Lot
Closest Towns: Georgetown, Idaho Springs, Dillon
Shuttles/Public Transit: N/A
Drive to the Bakerville I-70 exit. If you don’t have a high-clearance 4WD vehicle or the upper lot is full, park at the lower Chimney Lot and hike 3.0 mi (1460' gain) from the lot to the upper lot/trailhead. Get there early to ensure parking in the upper lot (like before 4 am on Saturday). Police are ticketing people parked along Stevens Gulch Rd. There is a pit toilet and plenty of camping is available behind the upper parking lot. I’d recommend arriving the night before your hike and camping at the trailhead. There are also multiple pull-offs along Stevens Gulch Rd that can accommodate one to several cars and tents.
Once you’ve either parked or hiked up to the trailhead, start the Grays Trail by crossing the bridge and making a left. Starting at 4am is ideal in summer to ensure there’s parking and to avoid thunderstorms. Cross a stream at 0.1 miles and sign the register found at 0.2 miles. It helps rescue crews if you go missing and secures funding for trail clubs based on hiker numbers, so it’s a good habit. At 0.3 miles, there’s a smaller stream crossing, and the trail begins to steadily ascend. These are the only water sources that run through the summer. At the 0.65 mile mark, turn at what I called “the bad left” and keep climbing for 0.2 miles. “The good left” at 0.85 miles is where the trail levels off. Once you reach the meadow here, the rest of the hike is largely exposed to weather.
Enjoy views of Grays, Mount Edwards, McClellan Mountain and the steep walls connecting it to Ganley Mountain as the trail remains mostly flat for a little over a mile. After a big cairn at 1.25 miles, pass an incorrectly labeled sign that people frequently poop behind. Please bury it or pack it out. It’s gross enough already back there, and it’s right next to a stream. Just above the sign, cross a seasonal stream that runs until about mid-August. There’s no reliable water after this point.
The Kelso Ridge route splits off to the right at a cairn at 1.85 miles. Go straight. Cherish your last moments before the trail turns left and begins to climb again at 2.1 miles. This is where I started to have cell phone service with Verizon, and it’s decent from here up. Cross through a rocky section, then turn left and the trail levels off for a short break in a meadow with great views back towards the trail you came from and Stevens Gulch Rd. Alpine flowers, marmots and pika are common in this area.
Begin climbing again, and pass the start of the gabions at 2.7 miles. The 2020 crew put in these in during the first year of the CFI gabion work on Grays. The massive gabion structure just before the junction of the Grays and Torreys trails at 2.9 mi is where I worked for almost the entire 2021 season. We did a lot of work. If you’d like to read more about that, check this out. Tell all your friends that you’re going so slowly because you want to admire the work.
A landslide created the gully behind the sign; it’s not the trail. There are signs at the top and bottom attempting to keep people out of it, but this was a mostly unsuccessful effort. Please stay out of it. At the junction, take the split to the right to head up to the saddle between Grays and Torreys. I recommend doing Torreys first, so this is how this is written. I spent a season watching hikers up there, and more people seem to go to Grays then Torreys. I prefer to knock out the harder peak first, and you’ll have the bonus of going the opposite way as most hikers do. That usually means less crowded summits. After turning right towards the Torreys Trail, slog about 500’ up over 0.6 mi to reach the saddle between Grays and Torreys. Even in mid-summer, planning to get back down to the trailhead by 2 pm will mean you won’t usually have trouble with thunderstorms, but the saddle is where you’ll start to get views west to make summit decisions based on. If things look clear, note the time, and make another right towards the summit cone of Torreys at 3.5 mi.
The trail the rest of the way up Torreys climbs about 500’ over 0.45 miles. It’s never exposed or overly dangerous, but expect slow going at the altitude. Just under four miles and 3,000’ of elevation gain after the start, you’ll reach the summit of Torreys at 14,267’. Take in whatever you get at the summit, have a snack and some water, and get ready to head back down to the saddle. Do another weather check and make sure the weather is still looking free of thunderstorms before heading straight at the saddle junction to start up the summit cone of Grays. The ascent of the Grays summit cone will take about the same amount of time as Torreys from the saddle. Switchback up about another 500’ over 0.4 mi to the summit of Grays. At this point, you’re done with any substantial uphill.
The hike down is just under 4 miles and takes an average party about two hours, so in mid-summer, this would mean leaving the Grays summit by about noon to have the best odds at avoiding thunderstorms. Always be aware of what’s coming at you and descend if you observe signs of thunderstorm activity. Most days, goats can be seen somewhere on the mountain. They are often spotted in the meadows on Kelso Mountain, especially later in the summer as the crowds increase on the mountain. After descending 0.9 mi from the Grays summit, pass “Goat rock” on the right. It’s a great lookout, and the goats love all the salt in the area. Reach the Grays/Torreys junction again in 0.1 mi, then go down the trail you came up.