DIRECTIONS: From I-70 entering Glenwood Canyon, take exit 121 For Grizzly Creek. To reach the trailhead head under the highway, north of the picnic areas.
I love Glenwood Canyon. Every time I drive through it, I want to stop and spend a few days exploring it. It was finally time to do just that. Glenwood Canyon is beautiful and unique. If not for I-70 running straight through, it would probably be a National Park. That being said, there are still wonderful hiking opportunities available by hiking the side canyons. Hanging Lake is one of the most popular hikes in Colorado, but if you are looking for a longer tougher, and maybe, more beautiful hike, try Grizzly Creek.
Unfortunately, the summer of 2020 was devastating as the Grizzly Creek wild fire decimated the majority of the canyon. The trail is open but the effects of the fire are stark. Much of the hike crosses through burn area and in some parts the smell of smoke and ash is still powerful. The lower canyon is still lush and green and the highest part of the canyon is mostly untouched. In the middle, the burnt trees and blackened soil stands as a reminder of just how fragile this ecosystem can be.
This hike is very popular, especially in the summer. I highly recommend hiking it during the week and getting an early start. The hike is incredible and sharing it with a few other hikers is only fair.
From the trailhead the hike starts off pretty easy and the wide trail follows the creek under the majestic canyon walls and towering cottonwoods. My neck was literally hurting by looking up so much during the first mile or so. As you hike the trail gets a bit steeper as it climbs the eastern slopes. The cottonwoods give way to pine and the fist segment of the canyon flies by.
Half way through the canyon the trees eventually give way and the second half of the canyon comes into view. The back half of the canyon is just as stunning and you'll be hard pressed to turn back once you see the area where the canyon narrows and realize that the trail is heading that way. As you near the narrows, the wild fire burn area becomes a bit overwhelming, this is hardest hit section and walking through it feels otherworldly.
The trail soon leaves the burn area and climbs through pine forest again. You'll cross some boulder fields and enter some beautiful aspen forest. You are nearing the end of the trail. The trails ends at the Grizzly Creek crossing. The trail is visible on the far shore but the crossing seems very dangerous, at least in the spring. It is doable if you want to cross and climb the ridge towards the Jess Weaver Trail but please use caution and turn back if the water is too high and fast. The hike out of the canyon is just as stunning and some of the down-canyon views are better than on the way up.
When all is said and done, this hike is about 7.5 miles and 2,000 feet of elevation gain, not a bad effort. Give yourself plenty of time as the scenery is stunning and you don't want to rush it. Soak it in and enjoy your time. This is a rare hike, there are only a few hikes in Glenwood Canyon and this is one of the best ways to experience its grandeur. As the canyon heals after the fire, this hike will just get better. Let's be sure to take care of this place, before it's too late.
HIKES BY REGION
NATIONAL PARK HIKES
- BENT'S OLD FORT NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
- BLACK CANYON OF THE GUNNISON NATIONAL PARK
- COLORADO NATIONAL MONUMENT
- CURECANTI NATIONAL RECREATION AREA
- DINOSAUR NATIONAL MONUMENT
- FLORISSANT FOSSIL BEDS NATIONAL MONUMENT
- MESA VERDE NATIONAL PARK
- ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK
- GREAT SAND DUNES NATIONAL PARK
- HOVENWEEP NATIONAL MONUMENT
- SAND CREEK MASSACRE NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
- YUCCA HOUSE NATIONAL MONUMENT
- HIKES BY CATEGORY
- $UPPORT GHC
- INTERACTIVE MAP
Grizzly Creek Trail
Glenwood Canyon Recreation Area
White River National Forest
Date Hiked: May 12, 2021
Distance: 7.5 mi (RT)
Elevation Gain: 2,000 ft
Elevation Min/Max: 5,899 to 7,766 ft
Trailhead Lat/Long: 39.56128, -107.24971
Managing Agency: U.S. Forest Service