Mount Parnassus and Woods Mountain

On a sunny late July morning, I headed out for yet another cool hiking adventure. On this particular occasion, I set out to summit both 12,940 foot Woods Mountain as well as 13,579 foot Mount Parnassus. By my standards, it was a relatively easy day. Here’s some more information:

  • Date Hiked: July 23rd, 2019
  • Miles Hiked: 7.9 Miles
  • Route: Watrous Gulch Trail to Woods Mountain and west slopes of Mount Parnassus
  • Class: 2

Getting There

The Herman Gulch trailhead is accessible by taking exit 218 off of Interstate 70. As soon as you go down the exit ramp, you will want to take two quick right turns and go on a dirt road. Plenty of parking can be found here, but definitely get there early if you plan on going during the weekend!

The Route

From the beginning of the Herman Gulch trail, I reached the intersection where both the Herman Gulch and Watrous Gulch trails split apart from each other and continued up the Watrous Gulch trail.

Where the trails intersect.

Below treeline, the trail is surrounded by a lot of trees and is pretty relaxing. The further up I started to get, I noticed that it does get pretty steep rather early on. Upon reaching a small creek, I was also greeted with a large uprooted tree!

Large uprooted tree.
The trail among the trees.

Before too long, the trees start to thin out. The surrounding area starts to come into view with remarkable views of nearby 14er Torreys Peak too.

Looking to the south towards Torreys Peak.

It was really turning out to be a nice morning. With nothing but blue skies around, I continued up the Watrous Gulch trail and made a quick stream crossing to stay on the trail. Right after the stream crossing, I came to another intersection for the Bard Creek trail but continued on the Watrous Gulch trail for a good while after that. You can still reach the summit of Mount Parnassus if you do end up taking the Bard Creek trail too.

Watrous Gulch.
Working my way up towards Woods Mountain.

Finally, I found myself out of the woods and above treeline. I probably say it all the time, but being above treeline and among the mountains is unlike anything else.

Looking back to the south.

Now, it was time to head up the southern slopes of Woods Mountain. An easier route does exist but it seemed pretty circuitous at the time. Nonetheless, I found myself on the trail at the top of the ridge before too long anyway.

I went straight up from this point.
Looking back down towards where I came up the mountain.
The trail on top of the ridge.

From this ridge, I continued east until I reached the summit of Woods Mountain. I took a well deserved break at the summit before continuing onto Mount Parnassus. Even from here, it was pretty awesome to look around at all of the neighboring peaks and see the ones that I have already reached the summit of.

Woods Mountain Summit

The views of other nearby 13ers was pretty remarkable as well!

Looking over towards Mount Parnassus and Bard Peak.
Looking out to the west towards Pettingell Peak and The Citadel.

After pondering for awhile and admiring the remarkable landscape, I picked a line and started to make my way up the western slopes of Mount Parnassus. The sun was starting to beat down but was nothing a little bit of sunscreen couldn’t handle!

Starting the journey up Mount Parnassus.
Almost to the summit!

The Summit

The summit of Mount Parnassus is just downright amazing. The route to nearby Bard Peak and Engelmann Peak becomes visible.

Mount Parnassus Summit.
Looking over towards Grays and Torreys Peaks.
Looking west.

The views in every direction were remarkable. And I figure that I probably spent more than thirty minutes at the summit. But it was getting closer to noon so it seemed like it was time to head back down in the direction of the trailhead.

The Return Trip

On the way down Mount Parnassus, I hiked towards the saddle between Woods Mountain and Mount Parnassus. From there, I headed for one of the side trails that cut off from the main trail up Watrous Gulch. But don’t worry I took a lot of pictures along the way back!

Looking up towards Woods Mountain.
Love this one.
The trail down to Watrous Gulch.

Overall, this hike was splendid. It had amazing scenery with remarkable views in every direction. I’d recommend it and look forward to doing it again sometime.

Author: David Higham

Spending time in nature calms my soul.

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