Bag a Twofer
Grays and Torreys Peaks are the two highest peaks on the North American Continental Divide, but they are considered to be among the easiest Colorado “14ers” to summit. Located south of Interstate 70, and east of the Eisenhower Tunnel and the tri-cities of Frisco, Dillon, and Silverthorne, they are a great attraction for elevation freaks and mountain lovers of all kinds. The trailhead is about 3 miles from the I-70 exit, at the end of Stevens Gulch Road, #321 (impassable in winter). Getting to the trailhead is not easy but is within the reach (during the summer) of anyone with a vehicle with relatively high clearance. There is one really rough spot about halfway in from the Bakersville exit (#221) off I-70, but there were even a few sedans in the TH parking lot on the mid-July day we were there. The road is not bad after the rough spot, so we regretted not going further since our hike involved an additional 2.8 miles RT and 600 feet of elevation from our parking spot. Its ease of access from Denver means that Grays/Torreys gets a lot of use, even during the week. The number of people on our Thursday hike was somewhere above “moderate” but way less than “hoards”. An early start is a good idea for two reasons: getting off the peak by noon, and finding a spot to park along the narrow road. There is a vault toilet at the trailhead.
The proximity of Grays and Torreys to one another, about 0.9 miles as the crow flies, across a 13,707-foot saddle, makes for an excellent opportunity for fit hikers to bag a twofer. Getting to the second peak involves descending to the saddle, then climbing an additional 600 feet, which is difficult at that elevation. Our group chose not to attempt the Torreys climb because we were spent just getting to Grays, and because hikers had to cross a thawing snowfield coming down from the saddle to rejoin the main trail. No one in our group wanted to climb another 1200 feet (including the 600 feet back to Grays) retracing our steps to get down.
The East Slopes trail from Stevens Gulch is the only class 1 trail (according to 14ers.com) to Grays and Torreys Peaks, and is known also as the Grays Peak National Recreation Trail. The typical Grays/Torreys hike would involve climbing Grays Peak, heading across the saddle to Torreys, retreating back to the saddle then down to rejoin the main trail. A reverse route would also work, and one could do either Grays or Torreys by themselves without traversing the saddle.
You're above the tree line at the trailhead. The trail to Grays is not bad, beginning with an initial short climb along the remnants of the old Stevens mine nestled at the base of McClellan Mountain to the south. This is followed by a gently rising stretch through lots of wetland willows, some water, and lots of wildflowers. The final portion, which involves most of the elevation gain, is a pretty steep and rocky climb up multiple switchbacks to the top. Near the top, expect considerable stretches of rocky trail but no scrambling. The direct approach to Torreys is much the same, but be aware that the snow field below the saddle between Grays and Torreys may survive into early August.
If you have extra energy, you can bag the 13,164-foot Kelso Mountain passed on the way up. Each of the peaks will reward hikers with spectacular views of both sides of the Continental Divide. Lake Dillon and some of Frisco is clearly visible to the west. The valley that contains Fairplay, Colorado is to the south. All in all, climbing either or both peaks (in the summer) is a great day in central Colorado.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.