Mount Parnassus via Watrous Gulch is a 6.7 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Silver Plume, Colorado that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from July until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Length 6.7 mi Elevation gain 3,280 ft Route type Out & Back
Dogs on leash Backpacking Camping Hiking Nature trips Bird watching Views Wild flowers Wildlife Rocky Scramble Off trail
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Getting There

Mount Parnassus is one of four 13ers in the immediate vicinity of Watrous Gulch. It is connected via saddles to Wood Mountain and Bard Mountain. This route follows Watrous Gulch trail for 2 miles from the Herman Gulch trailhead. You move through very pretty scenery in the gulch before jumping off trail and taking a straight shot up the side of the mountain. The slopes are carpeted with wildflowers in July.

There is nothing at the trailhead/parking area other than National Forest signage. No restrooms and no trash cans - be prepared to pack everything out.

This route packs a lot of elevation gain in to the last mile or mile and a half. It's very steep which is more of an issue on the descent. Be careful and move slowly, it is very easy to begin sliding on the loose gravel areas of the slope. A somewhat gentler approach can be had by taking Watrous Gulch trail further on and coming up on Parnassus from the northwest.

From Denver area take I70 west to exit 218. Turn right and then immediately turn right again on to the dirt road leading to the parking area at Herman Gulch trailhead. The parking area is fairly large.

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Reviews (112)
Photos (501)
Recordings (85)
Completed (329)
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Ganesh Ramachandran
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Hiking
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Dawn Barnett
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Hiking

Very clean trail and although the mountain is “easy” for a 13er, it’s tremendous elevation gain in a short distance. Great day and beautiful weather.

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Olga Borysiewicz
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 13, 2020
Hiking

Majestic hike! Steady incline from the get go, then once you’re out of the trees it’s quite steep up to the summit. Once you’re at the saddle ... Woods Mtn is the faint trail to the left, Parnassus is the no obvious trail to the right. Worth it!

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Seth Fink
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 31, 2020
HikingGreat!

Arrived at the trailhead at 6:30am on Saturday 8/30. Plenty of parking. The trail wasn’t very crowded at all—we maybe saw a dozen people or so during the hike. The first two thirds of the hike are pretty tame, but the last third is very difficult. Even though we are all more or less in shape, we had to take a lot of breaks to make it to the peak. Be sure to bring layers, as it was cold and windy toward the top. Views from the summit were worth the work. But it is *work*.

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Regan Thomas
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 30, 2020
Hiking

Nice little gulch hike, minimal elevation gain and then around the 2 mile mark you hit the split and the major incline. Prepare for some heavy winds which can make it cold, and did I mention the incline. You don't need a path, just go up. With that, the views up and the 360 views at the top, where a few stones can provide a wind break, are awesome. Made it with the dog and my 10 and 13 year old with the wife, we are pretty avid hikers though. Worth it, but definitely a challenge once you get thru the gulch. Bring gloves.

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Lindsay Knight
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 22, 2020
Hiking

Shared parking lot with Herman gulch so parking lot was pretty full already when we arrived at 7:40am on a Saturday. Trail was beautiful. Pretty shady until mile 2 where it opens up and heads straight up. It’s definitely a steep climb but very rewarding. We lost the trail in the last 0.5 mile but still enjoyed the journey. Hardly anyone on the trail.

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Macy Lang
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarAugust 10, 2020
Hiking

Trail was great, the last mile is the toughest, had to take a lot of breaks climbing to the summit but once there the view is worth it!

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Nick Farmer
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Daren Craig
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Hiked this last weekend. Definitely a nice challange. Close to 1,000ft of vertical gain per mile. Last stretch up to the summit was a little brutal (many breaks were had). Very steep going down, trekking poles will come in handy but not required. Also, never found the survey marker up top. However there was a stick planted on the summit; assuming that was it :)

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Chris Johann
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HikingGreat!
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Ronnie Dee
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HikingGreat!

Great view! She’s a doozy so not recommended for beginners. Pretty much all uphill so get ready for some dead legs.

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Stephanie Ingraham
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Chris Frisco
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Hiking

Stellar

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Kathie & Dan Snyders
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Hiking

Great Friday hike. 7 am start, 2:30 pm finish

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Krista Mikkelsen
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 27, 2020
HikingGreat!

Did this at 7:30am on a Monday morning- about 5 other cars at the trailhead. This was an amazing hike!! First 1.5-2 miles has some shade and water flow here and there. Then treeline hits and it's straight up the mountain but I loved it! Being able to make your own trail is kind of freeing! Views at the top were amazing! There was only one other person at the top which was cool! There is tons of space at the top as well! Got to the summit in 2 hours 45 min. Total hike about 5 hours. Wear sunscreen ;) Highly recommend!

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Lindsey Craig
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 19, 2020
Hiking

This was my first 13er and planned the hike for training for a 14er. Parking lot was full when we arrived just before 7 am on Sunday. This hike was my 10th for the season, but was hard for me due to altitude (I was light headed for the last mile or so). It was a very pretty hike all the way up (and down). Much like other reviews stated, the out is up, up, up and back is all downhill. The last mile or so to summit is a steep incline and there is no trail to follow from the saddle between Woods and Parnassus. No need to worry about getting lost though, as it is all exposed and the summit location is a no brainer, as is locating the trail to get back out. The summit views made it all worth it and we even saw deer up top. There is one stream crossing (over a log), but the stream was low this time of year and easily passed by stepping on rocks if you wish. If I had the energy I would have loved to piggy back to Bard Peak as well.

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Bre Stewart
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 17, 2020
Hiking

Super rewarding hike and the views from the summit are top notch! Wastrous Gulch was gorgeous and I’ll be coming back for that part alone on easier trail days. The wildflowers are insane right now, straight out of a movie. Just remember coming down a 13er is always harder on the knees than going up - bad knee folks avoid this off-trail hike!

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Emily Jury
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Hiking

Woke up early like an old lady, hiked this awesome hill and practically ran down it. Elevation gain was fine and hike was pretty easy. Wind was a bit silly as it knocked me on my ass. But I saw the comet that’s hanging out and it was amazing! Was going to link with Mt Woods but alas was over the hard gusts. Totally do this again and again

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Erin Sturm
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Great!

great but UPHILL hike. once you take the path for parnassus it's goes vertical and doesn't really stop. wildflowers are beautiful right now, and the views the whole way up make it worth it. got to trailhead around 7:45am on a saturday and everyone was going to Herman Gulch. didn't really see other people until we got to the saddle for parnassus. definitely recommend !

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Jaime Arruda
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJuly 11, 2020
Hiking

Great hike. Get there early since the parking lot was pretty full by 7:30 on a Saturday. The lower part of the hike (until the creek crossing about 2 miles in) was pretty easy and then the uphill started. The pitch up the saddle between the two peaks was probably 25-35 degrees in angle and the final pitch up to the summit had parts that were over 40 degrees covering 1000 feet in elevation over the last mile. It’s a tough climb but worth it!

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Ross Taylor
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Hiking

HIked it yesterday - two devices tracked this at 10.5 miles, fyi. We read another description putting this a little over 6 miles, which seems incorrect. Like everyone else says, it's a very hard push up the last stretch, with really nice views. I've hiked a good bit throughout Colorado, and found this as hard as many 14ers. A fantastic workout, though, just be prepared for the burn.

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Rachel Lynn
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 8, 2020
Hiking

Amazing hike with great views, but WOW the last .7 miles or so is a TON of elevation. We are in our early 30s, not incredibly fit but we hike a ton in the mountains and have hiked a 14er - and this was easily the hardest hike we've done in our 4 years living in CO. Please be sure you are aware how much of a constant incline it takes in order to go up 3,300 feet in 3.3 miles - a lot, with most of it in the last mile! There is no trail for the last .7ish miles, which is fine because it's very apparent you just hike straight up the side of this mountain. There are no drop-offs or anything dangerous in that sense, it's just a huge slope up for a long, steep way to the top. The mountain top is lovely as it is flat and there is a lot of room for people to get some space to themselves. The day we went the hike up was terribly, uncomfortably windy, but thankfully at the top it was somehow shielded and much more enjoyable to hang out. An amazing hike, and not so hard for the super-fit I'm sure, but for the rest of us think twice if this is really the hike for you, especially if you have knee problems - it took us nearly 8 hours to complete due to the elevation.

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Bruce Perry
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJuly 4, 2020
HikingOff trail

Arrived at 6:45 on a Saturday (July 4). The parking was about half full, but most of the people were doing the Herman Gulch trail. The trail itself wasn't too crowded (definitely much better than nearby 14ers). I saw ~10 groups throughout the hike and a few groups at the peak. The first third of the trail or so runs up a gradual incline parallel to 70 and you're within earshot of the road noise. This part of the trail isn't too interesting. For the next third, the trail turns into Watrous Gulch and runs parallel to a nice mountain stream. This part of the trail runs through forests and meadows with wildflowers and is quite pleasant. Turn right just before a small stream crossing to begin the final third, which is a steep ascent to the saddle and then up the ridge to the peak. The trail peters out just before the saddle and most of the final ascent is off trail. It's a steep and tiring ascent but it's not rocky at all. You're rewarded with great views of Torrey's Peak at the top. It's not the most amazing vista I've seen, but it's well worth the hike. There were a few small snow drifts that you could skirt around. Otherwise, the hike is entirely dry dirt and grass.

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Elizabeth Nelson
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 3, 2020
HikingGreat!Off trail

this is such an underrated hike! we got to the trailhead at 7ish and there were plenty of spots. the trail is steep, but the spectacular views make frequent rest stops enjoyable. when the treeline starts to thin (about 20 minutes after a large creek crossing), be on the lookout for a steep trail to the right--this is what you'll want to take to reach the summit of mount parnassus. if you go straight, you can take a later turn or meet up with the trail that goes up wood mountain. the last off-trail push between the saddle and summit of parnassus is very steep, but the view from the top is well worth it. we only saw 4-5 other people on the trail and had the summit to ourselves. the climb is easily as difficult as some 14ers and the view is just as incredible, without all the crowds.

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Caleigh Rice
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJune 27, 2020
Hiking

Arrived at 0645, still a lot of empty spots at the TH. The trail was a steady uphill incline the whole way with no switchbacks. Clear-cut trail till the last mile or so. The final mile was more difficult - mostly due to the steep incline and the fact that there wasn’t a trail to follow. Made it to the top in 2 hours, and it was pretty windy. Views from the top were gorgeous, only a few other people there.

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Madeline Schroeder
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Hiking

Gorgeous and fun! Only saw 5 people the whole time. Started at 6:30 and completed in 3.5 hours. I missed the initial turnoff to begin the steeper climb (look for a log marking it) but connected with it shortly after without adding too much mileage. The parking lot was full when I returned--everyone goes the Herman Gulch way Watrous is a gem. 360 views at the top, no wind, no people, barely any sounds. Just what I wanted.

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Sam G
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Hiking

Still some lot spots available on a Monday morning, reeeaally enjoyed this hike. Going through some downed trees then a beautiful aspen grove before turning upwards into the gulch. The open mountainsides above tree line were steep and slow but everything is green and covered in wildflowers. Amazing views all up and down on this one. Kept going up to Mt Parnassus and you basically find your own way up the side of the mountain, staying farther left facing upwards until the summit which is the only rocky area. No scrambling whatsoever and no snow issues at the moment. Saw a herd of goats or sheep waaay high in the distance close to the summit on the way up that moved off to the side before we got there.

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Sylvia B
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJune 20, 2020
Hiking

just amazing. started at 4 and nobody else was on the trail. great solitude on the trail and it is DIFFICULT to get through the last stretch. finally managed by taking it slow and many breaks. stupidly forgot to capture the last of the hike up and down but was completed in 4.5 hours

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Gavyn Edward
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Hiking

Beautiful day! We started at 1:50pm, took 2h10mins to summit, back to the lot by 6:15pm. The trail is pretty dry the whole way up! There are a couple piles of snow on the trail still just after crossing the creek before making the left turn north on the Watrous (easily avoidable, I’d say 20ft wide and maybe 10-35ft long). There was about a 150yd stretch of snow on the trail about half a mile down from the saddle of Woods Mountain and Parnassus, but easily navigable up the left (West) side. The trail pretty much disappears after the snow field below the saddle, but just head East up the ridge and switchback as necessary, it can get steep! No problem staying dry all day, in terms of weather or on foot! We only saw one other couple all afternoon!

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