Grays and
Torreys Peaks

excerpts from the book
Incredible Backcountry Trails 
by David Day

home page
 Need more information?

Incredible Backcountry Trails
  • access info for 120 trailheads
  • 90 colorful trail maps
  • 305 full color photographs
  • loads of hiking tips
  • book store price:  $22.95
    buy it here for only


    click to order

    Distance: 9.0 miles (round trip to both peaks)

    Walking time:  7 hours

    : 3,640 ft. gain/loss
       Grays Peak Trailhead (start) 11240 ft
       Grays-Torreys saddle: 13,707 ft.
       Grays Peak: 14,270 ft.
       Torreys Peak: 14,267 ft.

    Trail: Generally well marked and easy to follow.

    Season: Midsummer through mid-fall. The higher parts of the trail are usually covered with snow from November through mid-July.

    Vicinity: near Georgetown

    Grays PeakGrays Peak


    home page

    Links to other sites: 

    Ordering books & Maps/P>

    Comments about this site or our book:


    Grays and Torreys Peaks are the two highest points on the Continental Divide. Torreys was named after John Torrey, an early nineteenth-century botanist who is best remembered for his work in classifying North American flora. Grays Peak was named in recognition of Asa Gray, also a well known botanist in the mid 1800s, whose research on variations in plant species provided important evidence in support of Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution.

    The Grays Peak Trail has recently been designated as a National Recreational Trail, and it is one of the best maintained of any of the fourteener trails. The trail approaches the peak through a gorgeous glacial valley with Kelso Mountain (13,164 ft.) on one side and Mount Edwards (13,850 ft.) on the other. The valley ends at the foot of the Continental Divide below the saddle connecting Grays Peak with Torreys.

    Asa Gray and John Torrey were close friends and associates; hence it is fitting that Grays and Torreys Peaks are only 0.7 mile apart with an easy connecting ridge between them. The round trip distance up Grays, the higher peak, is 8.0 miles, but adding Torreys to the itinerary lengthens the hike by only one extra mile and 600 feet of additional elevation gain. Consequently, they are often climbed in combination.

    The trail begins by crossing the creek at the bottom of Stevens Gulch on a steel bridge. It then parallels the creek as it makes a long, gradual climb along the west side of the valley. Finally, after a distance of 1.4 miles and an elevation gain of 800 feet the trail enters the high alpine plateau that forms the headwaters of Stevens Gulch. This beautiful alpine meadow is devoid of trees but filled with low-lying thickets of Scouler willows; it also offers a magnificent view of Grays and Torreys Peaks.

    You will probably want to pause for a few minutes at this point to study the route up the two peaks. The trail ahead can be clearly seen switchbacking up the northeast flank of Grays Peak. You should also be able to see another obvious trail, marked by a series of 7 large stone monuments, that leaves one of the switchbacks below Grays and goes to the saddle below Torreys. Your route will take you up the switchbacks to the top of Grays, then down the ridge to the saddle and up the other side to Torreys. When you make your descent from Torreys you will be returning back to the saddle again, then taking the connecting trail that goes from the saddle down to the Grays Peak Trail.

    The presence of the switchbacks on Grays Peak make this climb a relatively easy one. The grade is not too steep and the trail is well defined all the way to the top. About half way up you will see a sign marking the junction with the Torreys Peak Trail. If you plan to climb only Torreys you must turn right here, but if you are climbing both Grays and Torreys it is slightly easier to go up Grays first. After another 700 feet of elevation gain up the remaining switchbacks the trail tops out on the crest of the Continental Divide. Turn right here and continue west for another 200 yards to the summit.

    Before you can climb Torreys Peak you will have to descend 563 feet to the saddle between the two peaks. The easiest way to do this is to continue northwest from Grays, following the crest of the Continental Divide all the way down to the saddle. This route is steep near the top, but there is a crude hiker-made trail all the way down. Once you reach the saddle you can continue following the Divide up the ridge to the summit of Torreys. Again, many people have done this in the past, and a crude, hiker-made trail is visible most of the way. The trail generally keeps to the west side of the ridge to avoid cliffs on the east side.

    When you are ready to leave Torreys Peak simply retrace your steps back to the saddle and use the connecting trail to return to the switchbacks below Grays Peak. Once you reach the Torreys/Grays Junction it is 3.5 miles back to the trailhead. Note: the connecting trail does not begin precisely at the bottom of the saddle. Rather, it starts near a large rock monument 50 feet up the ridge on the Grays Peak Side. It starts higher in order to avoid a large patch of snow on the east side of the saddle that never seems to melt.

    There are several great views from the top of Grays and Torreys, including Quandary Peak, the peaks of the Gore Range, and the Breckenridge ski slopes. Silverthorne and Dillon are only 15 miles west of the Grays and Torreys, and you can see a long section of I-70 from the summits. But for me the most impressive sight is of Mounts Evans and Bierstadt and the Sawtooth Ridge between them. There is an outstanding view of these two fourteeners southeast from Torreys with Grays Peak, Mount Edwards, and the Continental Divide in the foreground.


    The book includes more text, more photographs, and trail maps.

    IIf you are interested in a supplemental map of the Grays and Torreys Peaks
    we recommend:
    Idaho Springs, Georgetown  (Trails Illustrated, map #104)

    Click here for DISCOUNTED MAP ORDERS

    [top of page]

    [table of contents]

    [home page]

    [ordering information] 

    © Rincon Publishing Company, all rights reserved