#208 / 13,574' Mount Parnassus

Range › Front Range
Quadrangle › Grays Peak
Summit Location › Peak Route Icon N 39° 43' 13.06", W 105° 49' 20.45" (Not Field Checked)
Neighboring Peaks › Peak Icon Bard Peak Peak Icon Engelmann Peak

Peak Summary

For Front Range peakbaggers, this is an easy, class 2 day hike with a short drive to get there. Best done in combination with Bard Peak with a two-car setup if possible or make it a longer day and include Engelmann Peak, 2 miles north of Bard.

Watrous Gulch Approach Route

Class 2
Medium Day // Take a Lunch
RT From Herman Gulch/Watrous Gulch TH: 7 mi / 3,275'
  • Trailhead
    • Herman Gulch/Watrous Gulch TH

      Drive west up I-70 from the Denver metro area and approximately 2.9 miles past the Bakerfield exit, turn off the interstate at Exit 218 and park at the Herman Gulch trailhead parking area on the north side of the highway. On weekends, this popular trailhead can be very crowded and a parking spot may come at a premium. Plan on early arrival. The two trails share a common start. Watch for the turnoff to Herman Gulch after about 1500 feet.


      Camping

      No designated camping is close by. You may be able to get away with sleeping in your vehicle in the parking lot if you can tolerate I-70 traffic roaring by all night. There are private residences on a road above the parking lot. If you really need a place to spend the night, drive back to the Bakerfield exit and you can locate a few spots near some designated parking on the south side of the highway.

      The other possibility is to backpack into the area around Herman Lake where you may be able to find some good camp spots on the tundra near the lake. Please respect Forest Service rules regarding how close to the lake you may camp.

    Peak Icon Route Map Photos

    Route Info Watrous Gulch Approach

    Route Description

    Year Climbed: 1988

    From the parking area, head up the Herman Gulch trail and then turn right after about 400 feet onto the marked, Watrous Gulch trail. The trail gains steadily into Watrous Gulch which it intercepts after about 1.25 miles. Once in the gulch, you'll emerge out of the forest into some avalanche debris and open tundra slopes. In 1988, the trail began to fade out here, but now, a trail continues all the way to the Woods Mountain/Mt. Parnassus saddle. If you want to put the mind in neutral, just keep walking up the trail and enjoy the largely tundra stroll. At the saddle, turn right and gain the final 1,100 vertical over increasing chiprock, etc. For those wishing to take a more direct approach, once in Watrous Gulch, turn up the prominent SW ridge with a branch of Watrous Creek just to the right. Follow the steep ridge NE for about 1,000 vertical feet before the angle begins to relent some and gradually turn more to the east for the final summit approach. Route covers grassy tundra that gives way to more chiprock, rock, etc., as you approach the summit.

    For a return, simply retrace your ascent route. For the more ambitious peakbaggers, it's highly recommended that you continue class 2 hiking over to Bard Peak, about one mile east, adding just over another 600 feet of gain. From Bard, it's possible to descend directly south toward the Bakerfield exit on I-70, picking up a climber's trail that leads in that direction. If you don't locate the trail, this could lead to some serious bushwhacking.

    For yet even more brownie points, the truly dedicated peakbagger can add Englemann Peak to their list for the day. From the summit of Bard, you'll need to walk north, descending the north slope of Bard to no-count Robeson Peak and continue north over mostly tundra to Engelmann. Then you'll need to reverse your route to get back to your vehicle(s), heading back over Bard. This is all easy and fast, tundra hiking. Adding Engelmann will increase mileage by 4 and elevation gain by about 1,600 ft. making this a much more ambitious day.

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