Rocky Mountain Region Viewing Area

LOCATION and PHOTOS

Map showing route (highlighted in yellow) from Del Norte, Colorado to Grayback Mountain.
Map highlighting route from Del Norte, Colorado to Grayback Mountain.

Oxyria digyna
Alpine mountainsorrel (Oxyria digyna) on Grayback Mountain. Photo by Dean Erhard, US Forest Service.

Senecio fremontii var. blitoides
Dwarf mountain ragwort (Senecio fremontii var. blitoides) on Grayback Mountain. Photo by Dean Erhard, US Forest Service.

Grayback Mountain

Forest: Rio Grande National Forest

District: Divide Ranger District

Description: Grayback Mountain rises 12,600 feet above sea level and is an excellent and accessible location to view alpine plants. It is also a great place to get a 360-degree panorama of the San Juan Mountains.

Wildflower viewing: A colorful array of alpine wildflowers is readily observed at the top of Grayback Mountain. Visitors will delight in seeing rockslide yellow fleabane (Erigeron leiomerus), moss campion (Silene acaulis), alpine forget-me-not (Eritrichium aretioides), dwarf mountain ragwort (Senecio fremontii var. blitoides), alpine mountainsorrel (Oxyria digyna), twinflower sandwort (Lidia obtusiloba), pygmy goldenweed (Tonestus pygmaeus), onestem fleabane (Erigeron simplex), broadsepal saxifrage (Hirculus platysepalus spp. crandallii), alpine tundra draba (Draba streptobrachia), creeping sibbaldia (Sibbaldia procumbens), dwarf clover (Trifolium nanum), Ross' avens (Acomastylis rossii spp. turbinate), and many more (botanical nomenclature follows: Weber, William and Ronald Wittmann. 2001. Colorado Flora Eastern Slope, third edition. University Press of Colorado, Boulder, CO.).

Safety First: There are no facilities (i.e., no rest rooms, no drinking water, etc.) at the top of Grayback Mountain. A high-clearance 4x4 vehicle is recommended, but the road may be accessible by a 2x4 vehicle. The site is not drivable until snow drifts melt off the access road so visitors should not attempt to go here until at least mid-July at the earliest. The sun’s rays are intense at 12,000 feet, so remember to wear sunscreen. Keep in mind this is an alpine environment, so be prepared for possible inclement weather (bring a warm coat and rain gear). Weather can change very quickly, so stay alert to cloud build-up. Early to mid-mornings are the best times to visit. Visitors should avoid early afternoons when thunderstorms typically arrive. Stay inside vehicle if a thunderstorm (lightening) is approaching and leave the area. The best time to visit this area for wildflower viewing is between mid-July to mid-August.

Directions: Take US Hwy. 160 to Del Norte, Colorado; head south on the Pinos Creek Road (west end of Del Norte); head southwest on FSR 330; turn west on access road to Grayback Mountain (see map above).

Contact information: For local conditions: Divide Ranger District; 13308 West Hwy. 160, Del Norte, CO 81132; (719) 657-3321.

Ownership and Management: U.S. Forest Service, Rio Grande National Forest, Divide Ranger District.

Closest Town: Del Norte, Colorado.