Peak(s):  Gray Wolf Mtn  -  13,602 feet
Date Posted:  07/22/2019
Modified:  07/23/2019
Date Climbed:   07/21/2019
Author:  Alrightmax
Additional Members:   frigidridge
 Gray Wolf's Northern Slopes - from South Chicago Creek TH  

Gray Wolf Mountain's Northern Slopes

  • Trailhead: South Chicago Creek
  • Mileage: 9.4
  • Vert: 3435'
  • Car to Car: 6 hr 55 minutes, but we lingered quite a bit
  • Nutshell: Recommended for anyone looking for a fairly robust, Denver-close hike. Expect a bit of route-finding, wildlife, and solitude.
Mount Evans and Spalding from Gray Wolfs Southeastern ridge

The idea of trying Gray Wolf came to my mind as I was looking for a way to acclimate my dog to altitude. He gets very carsick, so I wanted it close to Denver. I realized I hadn't done anything in the Mt Evans area (besides driving to the summit a few years ago), so I narrowed my search to there. Gray Wolf's Southern slopes are easily accessible from Mt Evans Road, but I noticed the South Chicago Creek trail led straight to its Northern spur and thought that might be more interesting. We ultimately found this route to be very enjoyable due to the remarkably pristine alpine and dramatic cliffs at the Gray Wolf/Spalding saddle. Given that the TH is less than an hour from Denver, it is the perfect day-hike for monsoon season when you don't want to get up before sunrise! I am writing this report for anyone interested in this route, so it is presented more like a route description.

The first section of the hike is along the South Chicago Creek trail, starting from the South Chicago Creek trailhead. This trail is remarkably well maintained, so there isn't much to say about it. Here is the forest service page for it.

After 1.5 miles, the trail suddenly disappears at some illegal campsites and rusty... uh... junk. Do your best to locate cairns as you navigate a social trail that borders a marshy, willow hellscape on your right, and a forest riddled with beetle-kill on your left. It might be tempting to stay in the trees to avoid the water, but many of those widowmakers are ready to go. This is probably the most dangerous part of the hike. We also encountered mosquitoes here, so bring bug-spray if they bug you. (Get it?) Oh aren't I making this sound like fun? Well, it was the worst part of the hike (by far) but mercifully only lasts about 1/2 a mile.

End of the trail
Here's some stuff
Cairn or rock-pile? My partner, dog getting impatient
Found some cool bones - deer skeleton?
Seriously though - watch out for this

Once you hit treeline, the real fun begins! The social trail quickly deteriorates into game trails that weave through the remaining willows, and soon this too disappears. Now it's just grassy slopes to the top. The steepness here might feel a bit unrelenting, one could switchback a bit to alleviate (as I did). These slopes have numerous rock patches home to pika, marmot, and nesting ptarmigan. My dog was more than happy to terrorize wildlife, and would have caught the juvenile ptarmigan if he wasn't leashed (as is required in Mt Evan's wilderness). We also saw scat from nearly every large CO mammal - a LOT of bear in particular. My dog thought it was all tasty , except for elk.

Starting up the slopes
Can't you hear the pika?

As the slopes funnel you up to the summit, it is definitely worthwhile to gain the ridge to the Southeast. The cliffs between Gray Wolf and Spalding, and the Chicago Lakes basin, are gorgeous. Continue up this way, cross a few false summits, and the cairned true summit comes into view before you know it. We hit it right around 10:00


Migi cooling off in one of the few remaining snow-patches


Don't we all make this face on our first summit?

We lingered on the summit watching clouds gather to the East, cars drive up to Mt Evans, searching for moving dots on Bierstadt. The GPX will show us wondering along the Southwest aspect of the summit ridge, trying to get a better view of The Sawtooth. You could probably traverse to Mt Spalding if you were so inclined, but you'd have to regain Gray Wolf to return (unless you maybe tried to hike over to Mt Evan's road and hitchhike?). In any case, there were afternoon storms nearby so we headed down. We kept higher on the ridge, looking for a more obvious way though the willows.

We did not see another soul the whole hike, save for waaayyy in the distance. It was nice to be so secluded on such an accessible hike. There was one other car at the trailhead when we left at 1:30.

Spalding blocking a perfectly good shot of Bierstadt - Sawtooth - Evans traverse

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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