Peak(s):  Parnassus, Mt  -  13,574 feet
Date Posted:  02/17/2015
Date Climbed:   02/15/2015
Author:  Jay521
 An easy 13er snowflake   

Repetition isn't necessarily a bad thing

Photo by Bill Middlebrook (poached from his 13er page on Parnassus)

Approach: Watrous Gulch from the Herman Gulch TH (exit 218 on I-70)
Length: A little under 7 miles RT
Vertical: About 3300 feet
Ascent Party: Solo

OK - So I've done Parnassus lots of times. 60 to be exact. But I like the mountain. I like beer and I've certainly had more than 60 of the same brand (OK - WAY more than 60). So why shouldn't I climb the same mountain multiple times? I've climbed it from every aspect and in most weather conditions and one thing is always true - It's always fun.

Unfortunately, the primary access is off I-70 although it can be done from the Henderson mine access but that entails some I-70 exposure, too. Given that I usually hike on Sundays, I thought that it being a 3 day weekend, perhaps traffic going back to Denver wouldn't be so bad. Fortunately, that turned out to be correct.

The easiest way to hike up Parnassus is the route I will describe. In the summer, it is an easy walk up and in the winter it can be a little more challenging but still not all that bad.

There is a pit toilet at the TH and a fairly good map of the area. You start out by hiking a couple hundred yards to a "T" in the trail. In past years, there was a sign here but I imagine with all the pine beetle mitigation they've done, they took down the sign with a lot of the trees. Most people take a left at this junction to go up Herman Gulch to Herman Lake and any one of a number of peaks that way. I've done TR's on Bethel , The Citadel & Hagar and Pettingell that can all be accessed from Herman Gulch.

You go about 200 yards on the well tracked trail to the intersection that used to have a sign. (captions above the photos)

The trail starting out before the junction.

After the junction there used to be a lot of conifers along the trail but many were beetle kills and were cut to mitigate danger to hikers.


You cross a little stream.

And then pass through an aspen grove.

As you continue, you will have a nice view of Mount Bethel behind you.

Finally, you get into some trees.

With some views of Torreys (l) and Sniktau (r).

It is also at this point that the road noise from I-70 starts to fade as you start to enter Watrous Gulch. It gets very quiet here - especially in winter. A few years back, I almost suffered a cardiac arrest one winter when I spooked a couple ptarmigans into flight that were just a few feet in front of me. I was totally oblivious to their presence and was not expecting the noise they made as they became airborne.

You also get your first real view of Parnassus at this point. (true summit not visible)

You cross a creek where there are the scraps from what I think was an old saw mill. It is all covered by snow in the following picture. Just beyond it, there is a signed split in the trail.

It is possible (and fun) to do Parnassus by following the Bard Creek trail to the right. It parallels I-70 and then you can catch the Southeast ridge go up from there. This makes a very nice loop but I have not tried it in the winter as the hillsides are a bit steep and if they are loaded with snow, it could be a rough ride.

Looking west at Mount Machebeuf's lower slopes. There were a number of old ski tracks there.

From the same spot, looking north up Watrous Gulch.

Further on, looking back at Torreys and Sniktau. These mountains dominate your view on the way down - except in the conditions I had coming down later in the day when I was in a bit of a storm.

I followed a nice boot pack trail (needing only micro-spikes) until I decided to cut northeast where I have my poles planted. The snowshoes went on at this point.

Now, it's a relatively short trudge up a pretty little creek bed.



A couple pictures looking back down.


Here, I chose to start up Parnassus more directly to the right rather than going up to the Woods/Parnassus saddle.

And a look back down at my tracks as I'm going up. (Mount Machebeuf on the right).

Still further up, looking back down.

The forecasted storm started to make its appearance and obscured Woods Mountain to the northwest.

A view (sort of) of the Henderson Mine.

The summit ridge (with a couple false rock summits). But once you see the first rocks, you are all but there..


A couple ethereal views looking southeast from the summit.


This pic is of the side of the ridge connecting Robeson and Bard. I have hiked that ridge and seem to recall the west aspect is VERY steep. I think the snow brings out what must be some sort of game trail? Or maybe the route that some of the rock stars take?

Bard Peak is over there someplace...

A short (and shaky) 360 from the summit.

On my way out and the views of Torreys and Sniktau are gone.

As I don't carry a GPS, this is an approximation of my route.

As always- thanks for taking the time to read this. Be careful out there!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34

Comments or Questions

Jay521 Peak
02/17/2015 17:43
Jay, you are about a dozen more Parnassus Summits from forcing them to rename it Jay521 Peak!

BTW, it was a pleasure meeting you last fall on Huron.


60 times!
02/17/2015 18:25
Wow. That’s awesome, Jay. I’ve only been up there in summer (Woods stole my favorite Buff...), but it looks even more beautiful in snow. Thanks for sharing.


461 more
02/17/2015 18:41
times up there, is what you need to call that your mountain. Congrats, that is a solid winter outing.


Nice Report
02/17/2015 19:51
It’s been a couple years since we’ve headed up to that group – usually in winter. I 70 burnout! Thanks for waking up some memories.


rockstar status
02/17/2015 20:17
...goes to you, Senor jay521, 60 times. I think I said holycrap on furthermore’s TR, but I think it’s pretty fitting here as well. Way to be! As for beers and mtns - fun is all that matters my friend!


I agree that Mt. Parnassus be renamed Jay Peak
02/17/2015 23:30
Thanks for the sharing inspiring story filled with fantastic photos!

Does Mt. Parnassus have a special place in your heart like Mt. Bierstadt does? I would like to try it some day.

Any reason for not using GPS for your solo climb? Maybe you have one in your brains like Canadian geese.


Nice job, Jay!
02/18/2015 03:21
I’ve gazed at that mountain each time I’ve climbed Torreys and Grays. Maybe I’ll have to give it a try someday too! Loved pic 29!


Mount Machebeuf
02/18/2015 04:53
I like the looks of the lower slopes on Mount Machebeuf in pic 13, might be a nice place to make some turns. Is that the point labeled 12805 on the map above?

Thanks for the TR.


Thanks, all!
02/18/2015 18:15
Sheesh – my last TR ends up between Yikes and Furthermore and now this one ends up next to another awesome one by Furthermore. Maybe Bill needs to set up a separate link for easy mountains like the ones I do.

Shawn – Nice meeting you, too. As I recall, Huron was your 14er AND Highest 100 finisher. That was a special day. But I think David is correct – I would have to hike up that thing MANY more times to even think about a name change.

Jeff – Summer can make for a nice loop hike of Woods and Parnassus. Maybe that buff will show up?

Ian – Yeah – it is a nice mountain and I have lots of good memories of people I’ve taken up there.

Dillon – I’m not in the same league as people like you and Jeff and Furthermore. You guys give me something to shoot for.

Richard – Not sure why, but I just like Parnassus – even though a slip on the steep southwest face caused me to have a knee op about 12 years ago. As for the GPS – I’m not necessarily against them, I just started hiking with a map and compass and a fairly good sense of direction and I guess I just haven’t done a tough enough mountain yet to feel I needed a GPS. I also think that there is a little more adventure in making your own route on the fly rather than following a set of GPS coordinates.

Doug – Go for it, man!

Tim – I have seen many people go up Machebeuf from the Herman Gulch side (take the Jones Pass cutoff) and then ski down the bowl and into Watrous Gulch and head out that way. Makes for a nice loop and an easier climb of Machebeuf, I think. And yes, it is 12805.

All – thanks again for the comments and likes. I’ll try to keep these easy peak reports coming.


remembering the views
02/20/2015 15:11
Nice report–––only done that mountain in summer yet the memories abound each time I drive by–––thanks

Brian Thomas

02/20/2015 17:14
Jay, just an observation, but none of the other trip reports posted since the last time you posted one are less than a three to seven hour drive from Denver. I enjoy reading them very much and know some of their authors. But thank you for posting a TR detailing other winter options closer to home, I appreciate reading about new areas to explore, have some solitude, and connect with nature, without having to burn two tanks of gasoline and spend ten hours of the weekend driving. When you find something you like, there is no reason you can’t revisit it 60 times. Well done, sir.


More thanks...
02/20/2015 21:40
Craig – I appreciate your comments, It IS a fun mountain, isn’t it?

Brian – Point well taken. We are of the same mind when it comes to seeing new areas and enjoying old ones. One of these days, I’m gonna have to tag along with you and Derek in the LCW. I think the three of us share a particular fondness for that area.


It’s Settled
04/08/2015 17:17
Thanks a lot for the great trip report, Jay.

Like you, I seem to gravitate towards Parnassus at all months of the year as a great conditioning hike near Denver with beautiful views. I’m trying to get my 7–year–old up something this summer and I think this is it. I never camped at the spots along the creek, but they seem like the perfect halfway spot to make it a two–day trip where daddy and daughter sit around and practically do no hiking whatsoever.


Even more thanks.
04/08/2015 19:06
Colin – thanks for the nice words. I PM’d you with some more details regarding camping spots.

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