Location: Roosevelt National Forest, northwest of Ft Collins, Colorado
Access: From Ted's Place at Hwy 287 x Hwy 14, drive 9 miles west to a well-marked parking lot on the south side of the road. 
Trail: Moderate 7 mile round trip on a loop which leads through ponderosa pine and montane grassland to the summit of a mostly bald mountain from which 360 degree views of the plains, Fort Collins, and the Rocky Mountains. The trail starts at Hwy 14, crosses the Poudre River to the north and climbs up a gentle slope to a split. The north route is called the Meadow trail, and is slightly longer than the steeper southern route. Views of Hewlett Gulch, the next designated hiking trail up the canyon, are visible from along the Meadow trail. I have found that most people take the short route, so if you want a better chance at solitude, take the Meadow Trail.   It's a very nice hike, and is accessible most of the year, though winter ice can make it dicey. The trail is well marked, but the route up the actual mountain is a bit tricky to follow, as it circles around the SE side and over bare stretches of rock. Watch for cairns and trail marker posts marking the way. I've hiked it in all four seasons, and I'd have to decline to say which season offers the best experience since they all have something to offer. Typically, weekends find this trail sustaining very heavy use. 
Trailhead: NAD83 zone 13 475970e 4504912n  Elevation: 5565'
Maps: USGS 1:24K Quad: Poudre Park; Trails Illustrated 1:40K: Cache La Poudre/Big Thompson #101; Trail map
Fees: None
Dogs: 6' handheld leash
Weather: Stove Prairie NOAA weather station     National Weather Service Point Forecast

Myself, Rob and Chuck at the top of Grey Rock, June 1996TRIP #1
My very frist trip up to Greyrock occurred on a bright and sunny June day in 1996, during my first summer in Colorado after my freshmen year at CSU. The only other time I had been up in the mountains was for a campout at Lake Agnes the previous September. Thus, it was with complete ignorance that I stepped out of the car with Chuck (my housemate), Rob and Jen early on that Saturday morning into the cool mountain air. Growing up in the flatland, the steep slopes of dense pine and spruce simply amazed me. Iím writing about this hike almost 7 years after the fact, so I donít recall all the little details. However, I am amazed at what I do recall. The photos I took really help jog my memory. I find that hikes I donít have photos for are as unknown as someone elseís life. Anyway, I know that we took the Meadow Trail on the way up, and stopped at a well-known clump of pines on the south slope overlooking Hewlett Gulch to rest. Near the meadow, in the shadow of Grey Rock, we came upon two shaggy dogs that seemed to like us a lot and hiked with us all the way to the top. Nobody every claimed them or called for them. I assumed they belonged to someone who lived nearby. At any rate, they didnít look worried to be out alone, in fact, they looked like they were loving it.  Jen did not go with us all the way to the top, so my pictures taken on the pseudo-summit (we only climbed to the top of the eastern edge which is lower Rob, Chuck (imitating wild moose) and I on top of Grey Rock, June 1996than the western side) show only Rob, Chuck and I. Two more things I remember vividly from that trip: The hawk that soared so close to where we stood on the summit I could see its eyes clearly, and the gob of pine sap that stuck in my hair while I was trying to hang my camera from a branch to set the timer and take a photo of everyone. After dallying up top and enjoying the scenery, we hiked down. Jen had started back to the car via the short route when we started out up the mountain, so we anticipated catching up to her somewhere along the trail. At some point in a crazy burst of youthful exhuberance, we began to run pell mell down the steep, rocky trail. Itís lucky none of use broke a leg. We stopped to rest and pant at the park bench near the trail fork, then hiked down to the river where Jen was waiting. I soaked my feet briefly in the water, but although it was a hot afternoon, the water was only marginally above freezing. All hiking trips should be as perfect as that one was. 
Rob taking a water break, June 1996
Chuck on the hike, June 1996
Rob and Chuck on the southern end of Greyrock

The second time I got to the top of Grey Rock was two months after my first trip. In mid-August, Rob and I decided to backpack to the top and camp up there. At that point in time, I had absolutely no backpacking equipment. The only piece of camping equipment I owned was a heavy flannel-lined Rob at the campfire. August 1996.Coleman sleeping bag that I bought for $20 at Savers thrift store. Nevertheless, I loaded up my school bookbag with a can of soup, some granola bars, a couple of water bottles and some clothes and attached to that my sleeping bag and the tent poles from Chuckís tent using my belt looped through the shoulder straps. Primitive, and painful on the shoulders. We hiked up around mid day, and I recall us sitting on the bench near the trail fork discussing what type of pine tree was populating the slopes. I have since come to learn that these are Ponderosa pines, but at that point I was ignorant of all Colorado trees. We took the steeper, shorter trail up to the mountain, scrambling off the trail at one point while some nut came running down the trail with a live rattlesnake in his hand. We reached the base of the mountain, then wove our way up following as best we could the trail of cairns until we reached the grass and tree oasis at the top. Another party was camped in the trees so we pitched our tent as far away as possible to be neighborly. A fire pit was already in place, and we quickly had a fire going to cook our dinner of hot dogs and soup. This was fun, primitive camping with no dishes, and nothing but sticks for roasting skewers. Soon after we set up camp, a fellow came over to chat and we found out from him that there was a large meteor shower tonight. Good, serendipitous timing on our part. As evening progressed, we hiked up the small slope to the very tip-top of the mountain on the western edge, where I had never been before. We watched shadow creep over the city to the east, and the beautiful afternoon light turn orange and then red over the ocean of jagged peaks stretching out to the west like an impossible maze. The sun finally dipped below the horizon, and the sky to the east turned blue, then black as we sat on the mountaintop and chatted. Rob was a good friend that summer, and we hiked and fished a lot. Seems like friends come and go, and thatís too bad in a way. I hardly ever even see Rob these days. 
Rob on top of Greyrock Mt. August 1996.
Sunset from Greyrock. August 1996
As the sky grew darker, we began to pick out the streaks of meteors in the sky. The darker it got, the more dramatic were the trails. I was amazed at the frequency of the bright streaks coming several per minute. We tarried up there watching the show late into the night, then slowly and painstakingly made our way down (we didnít bring a flashlight). Back at camp, we crashed. Rob woke me up in the middle of the night whispering, ďI think someoneís out there.Ē I was too tired to care. He got up and kept saying he heard footsteps right outside the tent. He finally got out of the tent and started talking out loud to anyone who might be around to go away. I was still too tired to take much interest. If someone wanted to come and steal the tent from over us, I think I wouldnít have minded as long as they didnít wake me up. At some point he was satisfied that the perimeter was secure, and went to sleep. I attribute the events of the evening to a  unique curve of the rocks that was amplifying and throwing sound from the camp 60 feet away. At any rate, when I woke up just at dawn the next morning, all our stuff was still around. I took my camera to the eastern hump of the mountain to watch the sunrise. I narrowly missed it (I seem to do that a lot) but was impressed by the view nonetheless. Rob slept much longer than I thought he would, and I spent the hours identifying the trees with my new Audubon Trees of North America Western Edition, and watching the ground squirrels explore camp. I hiked the entire perimeter of the mountaintop, which is shaped something like a bowl with trees and grass in the middle, and rocky rims on the edge. Rob got up near 11. I remember it because I had been up for so long waiting. We packed up camp and then went back to the western peak to watch for Chuck, who said he would come up to meet us around lunchtime. We waited up top for an hour or so, then gave up and ate our own lunches without him. Finally, we surmised that he must have decided not to come, so we went on down to hook up with the trail back to the car. We took the short way down, as we had coming up, and made it back in a very short time. Near the beginning of the trail, just past the park bench at the trail split, we met a young couple with perfectly spotless clothes looking much too fancy for hiking activities, with their picnic basket open, looking worn and exhausted in the shade. The guy asked if they wre pretty close. Rob chuckled as if the guy was making a joke needing an acknowledgement, then said, ďWhat, are you serious?Ē The couple apparently thought the top of the mountain was just around the corner, but unfortunately for them it was still about 4 miles away. When we got to the river I wanted to try out the iodine tablets that I had not needed on our trip, so I filled up my thermos with clear, cold river water and dropped in a tablet and let it set. I had read that iodine makes the water taste terrible, but I could hardly tell a difference. Plus, I didnít get giardia. When we got to the car we were very shocked to see Chuckís black Chrysler LeBaron in the lot. I donít recall waiting for him, so we must not have. Later on we learned that Chuck had arrived at the mountaintop to find it empty at around the same time we were on our way down. There is no set trail going up to the top, so we must have missed him on the way down, or in the trees on the very top. To add insult to injury, Chuck sprained his ankle on the way down. Still, missing your friends and spraining your ankle while hiking makes a better day than working, right? 

Me on top of Grey Rock. September, 1996.I was really enamored with Grey Rock after the summer, and decided that my good friend Dave Burns just had to see it too. I donít think at that point he had hiked it, despite living in Fort Collins the same amount ot time as I had. This time it was early October 1996 when we made the hike. I remember the aspen were changing at the time and the cool fall air made everything extra crisp and clear. I donít remember much from this trip, and I donít know the route we took, though I think we took the shorter route. There was a group of boy scouts climbing the south face of the mountain when we passed. Seemed to be having a good time. We didnít dally up top too long since it was pretty cold as best I can recall. It was a pretty nice day to be hiking. Nothing is better than hiking in the mountains on a clear, brisk fall day. 

Dave on Gray Rock. September, 1996.

Frozen pond on the north end of Grey Rock. March, 1997.I met Andra in July of 1996, but it wasnít until the spring of 1997 that we started hanging out together (a practice that has continued up to the present day). We got together on March 2 for a hike up Grey Rock, and I guess you could call this our first date, although she remained maddeningly aloof. We hiked up and down the shorter route through some fairly deep snow. I donít ever recall seeing so much snow at Grey Rock since then. The day started out clear and sunny, but gradually turned overcast and by afternoon the sky was dull white with unbroken high cloud cover. The top of the mountain had significant snow pack, and the ponds were frozen. The hike took most of the day as we talked and walked pretty slow.
Andra on Grey Rock. March, 1997.
Andra on Grey Rock. March, 1997.

Mom and I on Grey Rock in nasty weather. May, 1997.A couple of months later, in late May 1997, my Mom flew out from New Hampshire to visit. The entire week she was here it rained, and I was very frustrated at the streak of bad weather. Towards the end of her trip, we decided to just go hike in the rain since it was obvious the rain intended to stick around. Andra came with us on this hike up Grey Rock through a cold, spring rain. We all got drenched, despite ponchos and hats. The rain just seemed to come from all directions. Mom was very intimidated by the first sight of the mountain after we had hiked 4 miles to get there, and it took some convincing to make her believe that we truly intended to reach the top. With visibility so low, one couldnít see the surrounding ridges and mountains, so Grey Rock looked like a soaring spire that would require ropes to climb to the top. We made it up alright, although the wind was strong up top and it chilled us all. We were, admittedly, not well prepared for the cold. We hiked quickly down the short route in the rain that was intensifying as the day wore on. 

Dave at the top of Grey Rock. March 2001
So, after hiking Grey Rock 5 times in less than a year, I stopped for a long while. Over the next few years I concentrated on hiking the upper areas of the canyon, and continued to drive right past Grey Rock. Not until March 2001 did I hike it again, after a lapse of 4 years. This was after Dave had moved off to New York and I was finishing up grad school. He came out to visit his folks and came up to Fort Collins to see the old college town. We took a nice spring day-hike to the top just as we had in the fall of í96. This time I had Frank, and it was the first time Frank made it to the top. The day was very pleasant, and I remember how still it was sitting on top and surveying the surrounding terrain.
Looking northwest over Grey Rock Meadow. March, 2001.
Poudre River from the bridge on the trail. March, 2001.

The next Grey Rock hike I recall for certain occurred in December 2002 when I took Frank, and Andraís young pointer pup, Makenzie, all the way to the top on a brilliant winter day. I took the meadow route, which was by far the least-traveled route for me. I enjoyed the day very much, encountered very few people, and had a good time with the dogs. They enjoyed it too, as they do every hiking trip. 
December morning at Grey Rock. 2002.
Makenzie on Grey Rock. December, 2002.

The most recent hike didnít even make it to the top, although this was by design. Andra, Frank, Makenzie and I hiked up the Meadow Trail in 2003 just far enough to get to a nice rock outcropping that provides a good view of the western side of Grey Rock Mt. A western wind howled that day, and made the 50 degree air feel much colder. At the outrcropping, I set up my tripod and took sunset photos of Grey Rock, like the one shown at the top of the page. The dramatic red and orange hues I was hoping for did not materialize due to high clouds on the western horizon. On our hike down, however, those same hazy clouds were really lit up by the setting sun and I got some great tree-silhouette shots. 
Andra on the Meadow Trail on a very windy day. January, 2003.

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Page created July 26, 1999
Updated December 1, 2008
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