Mount Morrison is a challenging climb that features a large amount of elevation gain and a short but steep scramble to get to the top. Being only 30 minutes from Denver, this mountain makes for a perfect half-day or training hike to prepare you for more technical peaks.
The trail begins at Red Rocks entrance number four. Drive west through the town of Morrison, Colorado, on Bear Creek Avenue, head past town, and the sign will be clearly marked on the right side of the road. There is room for about six to eight cars when the gate is closed, and parking usually isn't a problem, especially in winter. However, in the summer months, when a concert is going on, the park will be closed to the public starting around mid-afternoon, so make sure to get there early and call the park if you have any questions.
Once you arrive, walk about 100 feet down a paved road. On your left is a small sign that says no horses or bikes—this is the trail. The first part of this hike heads west, straight up the ridge. It’s a fairly tough push that isn’t very forgiving. There is very little shade, and often winds from the mountains to the west blow into your face as you climb. Although there are no switchbacks, there are several small plateaus that give you a much-needed break on the way. Pace yourself and take in the changing views of the red rocks below and Denver out to the east as you ascend.
Depending on the snow amounts, the trail may be hard to find at times. But while hiking, follow a set of power lines all the way up until you reach the top of the ridge. Once at the top, turn right (north) and follow the spine of the mountain. The trail mellows out a little bit at this point. Gain some elevation as you pass through small trees and climb over small rock formations. When you can see Red Rocks Amphitheater down to your right, you can also see the final, intimidating summit push ahead of you. It’s a stark increase compared to the beginning of the hike, so savor your breath while you have it.
The final section puts you through a series of tall rock chutes that require the use of both hands and feet. There are multiple ways to get to the top and even some class 3 moves if you seek them out. However, the main trail won’t get you past a class 2 scramble. In winter this section can be very icy, and a fall here could mean serious injury. Ensure you have solid footing and good handholds before taking your next step, and it won’t take you more than two or three moves to get onto more stable ground. There are two of these sections. Throughout the entirety of the final push the trail becomes less and less clear, but doesn’t disappear altogether. Keep an eye out for packed dirt and rocks marking the way, and soon you’ll find yourself topping out!
Note: Although dogs are allowed on this trail, most have a hard, if not impossible time navigating the scramble section of this hike, so it is advised you leave them home.
The summit has incredible 360-degree views, from Mount Evans to the west, Denver to the east, Lookout Mountain and the Flatirons to the north, and Pikes Peak about 60 miles down to the south. This would be a great time to rest and eat something to refuel for the hike back.
You’ll be going out the same way you came. The first section down can seem intimidating at first. It’s so steep that all you see is the ridge you hiked in on a few hundred feet below. Again, take it slow and one step at a time, ensuring good footing, and keep an eye out for the trail ahead. Follow the main ridge back to the power lines, take a left (east) when you meet them, and drop down to where you started down in Red Rocks Park.