I may have said that the “A” is the most famous hike in Fort Collins, but I may have been mistaken. While the “A” is certainly the most visible hikable landmark in the area (you can see Longs on a clear day but that doesn’t count), Grey Rock might be the most popular and celebrated “real” hike.
Corey somehow survived her Thursday night of death, despair, and extreme vomiting (it’s like regular vomiting but with more blood), and as of Sunday morning she still wasn’t feeling her best. I threw the idea of hiking Grey Rock on the table, but honestly didn’t think she’d go for it. I was surprised when she crawled out of the basement with her boots and water bottle. We were both skeptical in our own way, but it would be nice to take a break from baby and Grandpa for a few hours.
Up the Poudre Canyon about 9 miles, the trailhead parking lot is on the left. It’s odd, because the hike is most definitely on the right. Deal with it, there’s a bridge. (That was my internal monologue as we drove up the canyon.)
The trail begins pleasantly - a nicely maintained path leading up the Poudre, and then up a feeder valley at a shallow rate. After about 5 minutes you’ll reach the split in the trail. Meadows to the left, Grey Rock to the right. The trail is a big, vertical oval. Feeding into the bottom right corner is the trailhead path, and extending out of the top right is the Grey Rock summit. We decided to go the short way up, essentially a direct route to the summit.
The trail wanders up a valley for some time, then has you clamber over a few large boulders in the stream bed, and then head up out of the valley. (It is here we ate our first Clif Bar.) You snake along a ridge or two before getting to the turn off to loop back down to the trailhead or ascend. Corey wasn’t feeling great, but was determined to go up.
You hike and scramble along a rocky ridge as you climb. This get less distinct as you near the plateau at the summit. At one point you’ll turn left into the mountain and head straight up to the peak, but a well worn false trail will take you on a shallower grade around the east side of the mountain. (2nd Clif Bar down) When in doubt, go up. If you can scramble it, it will take you up to shelf where you can find the trail again. Look for rock stacks, brown posts, and brown hiking signs to guide you if you get misled.
The summit is a very inviting place. There is a nice little meadow (very damp), a lovely campsite, and even a little pond where I would put friendly otters if I was in charge. Corey thinks the otters should have a Fresca tap, but that sounds unrealistic to me. I can only dream so big.
Just past the pond is official peak, offering great views of all points west, north, and south. There is another slightly lower peak on the east side of things that can give you an eastward view. Really, the views are great, and well worth the trip considering we were sitting at home about two hours earlier.
The way down is a good descending grade. Once you get off of Grey Rock proper, you’ll make great time. Even though Corey was ailing, she decided to take us down the backside of the loop and through the “Meadow” portion of the trail. True to its name, we discovered a pretty meadow just after the split.
"That’s nice," I thought to myself. "A meadow, just like it said in the trail name. Now that we’ve seen our meadow, we’ll head down this mountain and back to the car."
Sensing victory, we finished our water and resumed our descent.
Right up a mountain.
That’s right, the back side of the loop isn’t longer because it takes you on a shallower grade down the mountain, it’s longer because you have to summit more things. Corey was very displeased, but it would have been stupid to turn around. Who does that? Especially on a loop trail.
Deliriously dreaming of Fresca and Diet Cherry Limeade respectively, Corey and I finally, after about 15 more minutes of climbing, began our final descent. We swung pretty far north to a gap in a ridge, where we could look north east and see the Hewlett Gulch trail far below us. ”Soon?” I whispered mysteriously to it as we turned down toward the Poudre.
Down down down the mountain across switchbacks in the rocky tundra, and then eventually into the bottom of a feeder valley. The poison ivy here was INTENSE. The thickest, lushest, most beautiful poison ivy I have ever seen. It was present on the way up, but absolutely prodigious on this side of the loop. Luckily, I believe I am not allergic to it, and was generally unfazed.
Staggering, stumbling, and full of complaint we finally got back to the bottom of the trail. We soaked our tired feet in the Cache la Poudre for a few minutes then walked out to the car (which still needs a name - “White Enema” is not very catchy and I refuse to use it). We drive to Sonic, where Corey bought me a 44oz Diet Cherry Limeade <3<3<3<3<3