Trailhead: Herman Gulch Trailhead
Ascent Route: Watrous Gulch Tr
Descent Route: Bard Creek Tr
I'll preface this trip report by saying that I wish I had taken more pictures during this trip, but it was crazy windy, kinda cold, and I left my gloves at my family's house in Buena Vista the day before.
I'll also preface it by saying "thank you" to our servicemen and women. I wanted to get out to the mountains on Memorial Day in order to reflect on their sacrifices and the mountains provide the best setting for me to do so.
I enjoyed a rare traffic-less drive up I-70 to exit 218 and the Herman Gulch TH. There was only one other vehicle in the lot at the time, and I headed up the trail just before 7 am. At the first trail split just shortly after the trailhead, you'll take a right and follow the less-traveled Bard Creek Trail. This trail gains some elevation as you hike parallel to I-70 for close to a mile.
Torreys in the early morning sun
Makeshift bridge just before Watrous Gulch Trail
At the next trail split, you'll want to take a clearly marked left at the sign for the Watrous Gulch Trail. The other trail is your return route from Bard. The trail will head up Watrous Gulch for a while until it splits again, this time without a sign. Here you will want to take a right and start heading up the tundra slope if your goal is Parnassus. Being the foolish youngster that I am, I left my house without printing out a map and didn't really know which way to go. The path to the left looked like it had seen more traffic, so I gave it a shot. Not realizing until about 12,400 that I had taken the wrong turn and was heading toward Woods Mt. instead of Parnassus, I didn't really want to turn around, so I decided to just head up Woods Mt. first. After about twenty minutes of moderately annoying scree climbing, I reached the summit of Woods Mt. and high wind gusts greeted me upon my arrival. These winds would pepper me for the next two hours or so. I'm not great at judging wind speeds, but I would say gusts got to 45-50 mph.
Bard and Parnassus from Woods Mt
The route up Parnassus is very self-explanatory from here. Head down to the saddle between Woods and Parnassus, and then begin a long but not very steep tundra walk up to the summit.
Grays and Torreys from Mt. Parnassus summit
Bard from Parnassus summit
From here, stay to the right (south) of the ridgeline to Bard and downclimb the easy class 2 terrain to the saddle. I got a nice reprieve from the pounding winds on the eastern slopes of Parnassus. Bard has a similar tundra walk as Parnassus, but it's a little shorter because the saddle between Parnassus and Bard is at a higher elevation. The summit of Bard provides excellent views of the entire Front Range (although I was left wondering why Roberson even has the distinction of being named).
Parnassus from Bard summit
Grays and Torreys from Bard summit
Evans, Sawtooth, and Bierstadt from Bard summit
The best route down is to head into the drainage on the south side of the saddle between Parnassus and Bard. Stay to the right (Parnassus side) until you reach a small boulder field just above treeline. From here, head up about 300 ft on a faintly marked trail to gain the southern ridge of Parnassus. Here the cairns will lead you to the Bard Creek Tr and back to the trail junction with the Watrous Gulch Tr. From here follow the trail for the remaining 1.4 miles back to the trailhead.
After finishing this hike, I'd like to head back to this area again in winter (probably a better hike in winter anyways) and add in Engelmann and a ski descent. If you are looking for easy walk-up peaks close to Denver then these certainly fit that description. This trail also has excellent wildflower viewing if you are into that.