The Best Colorado 14ers As Decided By Us
Colorado is seriously spoiled for choice when it comes to mountain adventures. With the most mountains over 14,000 feet and 13,000 feet this state has some seriously rugged country. Whether you’re planning adventures in the Sawatch Range, the Front Range, or you’re looking to tackle the more remote Chicago Basin 14ers, there is an epic adventure in every corner of this state just waiting for you.
Although pulling up a map of Colorado 14ers will make it seem like they’re easy to access most of the 14ers are well of the beaten path. Peaks like Mount Evans, Quandary Peak, and Mt. Bierdstat are plenty easy to access with paved roads going right to them.
Other 14ers such as Blanca Peak and Little Bear require either a hefty hike in or if you have a side by side or seriously modified Jeep you can drive all the way up the Lake Como Road. Either way, it is your responsibility to plan ahead and prepare.
Now before we dive into this there are a few things that should be mentioned. First, there is no such thing as an “easy 14er”. While the easiest 14ers might be easy to a seasoned pro these are still challenging high altitude hikes that will challenge those with lower levels of fitness. You rack up at least 2,000 feet of elevation gain on even the easiest 14ers.
Second, let’s talk about Leave No Trace. As a wilderness user you should familiarize yourself with the 7 principles of Leave No Trace. Don’t worry, it’s linked right here to save you the trouble. Leave No Trace is a simple way of keeping the wilderness wild and making sure everyone has the best experience.
Third, we need to mention storm and lightning danger. While Summer is the season that seems to bring everybody out of the woodwork, it comes with some clear and present dangers. Summer in Colorado is a season of storms, namely, the monsoon. You can expect thunderstorms to roll in every single day early in the afternoon. It is suggested to be down below tree line by noon.
Why’s that? You don’t want to be the alpine with no protection from lightning. So, plan to start early and be well on your way down the trail by noon. For us at Cold Case Gear, we like to plan to be off any summits by 11am.
Fourth, and we’re sorry that we have to be the bad guy but, consider keeping your dog on a leash during your 14er hike, and all hikes. While your dog may be cute and cuddly not everybody wants an uninvited muddy pawed high five.
In fact, over here at Team Cold Case, we have had a number of encounters with dogs seemingly unattached to their owners nearly wrecking our cameras. Most areas do in fact have a leash law and it’s the responsible thing to do. Or, consider leaving the pup at home. Ok, now it’s onto the list of the Best Colorado 14ers, in no order.
The roof of Colorado! The hike up Mount Elbert is a true Colorado classic. The standard route is roughly 9.5 miles round trip with a leg burning 4,700 feet of elevation gain. This Class 1 hike (more on classifications here) will take you through beautiful forest and up into the alpine. There are multiple routes for this hike and there is even a spring route on snow up the Box Creek Couloirs.
This adventure is one of the more popular hikes in Colorado and you can expect the trailhead to be quite busy, but once you get into the alpine, it’s easy to see why. Mount Elbert is over 14,400 feet and requires decent fitness. Remember to drink plenty of water and understand what the signs of altitude sickness are so you can watch for them for not just yourself but for all members of your party.
Longs Peak is the northernmost 14er in the state of Colorado. It is the crown jewel of Rocky Mountain National Park. You’re going to want an early start for this one. What’s early you ask? It would be safe to tell you whatever you THINK an early start is, subtract at least 3 hours.
This hike is over 16 miles round trip and has well over 4,000 feet of elevation gain. Most of the route is above tree line with the crux of the hike coming right at the very end. You’re going to need to take your time and save energy for an exhilarating class 3 scramble to the summit.
Getting an early start of around 2am generally gives people enough time to get up to the summit and down in plenty of time. I cannot stress enough how important it is to be back to the “boulder field” before any storms come in. You don’t not want to find yourself on the exposed portions of The Homestretch or The Narrows.
People die every single year on this hike, in these two sections. Although this hike is in the National Park, that doesn’t mean anything regarding your own safety. Mostly, it means it gets patrolled occasionally by rangers and the route is well marked and maintained.
The San Juans are the most rugged range within Colorado and is well known both locally and nationally for our stunning mountains. With literally hundreds of peaks over 13,000 and the most over 14,000 in the state, it’s easy to see why so many people flock to the San Juans.
Handies Peak is a rare 14er within the San Juans because of its ease of access. It’s also an extremely short hike, as far as 14ers go. Is it the easiest 14er in Colorado? No, that title probably goes to Mount Sherman. However, it might be the easiest 14er in Colorado that provides the best views.
Getting here can pose a little bit of an issue and can cause your hike milage to vary greatly, depending on how far up the road you can get. This hike has got it all though. Absolutely gorgeous views of American Basin, wildflowers out the yingyang, and jaw dropping views of the surrounding San Juan Mountains.
Many people choose to make a long weekend out of climbing Handies Peak because you can climb nearby Sunshine and Redcloud, which have trailheads off the same access road. You can also venture a bit further into Lake City and climb Wetternhorn and Uncompaghre Peak.
Windom Peak, Sunlight Peak, Mt. Eoulus. The Chicago Basin 14ers.
If you want to have an adventure that you will remember for the rest of your life than this trifecta of 14ers deep in the Weminuche Wilderness is for you. Get ready for extreme remoteness, wildlife encounters, and unforgettable scenery.
You can take all the Chicago Basin 14ers in a weekend and many people do just that. Backpack in on day one, hike the 14ers the following day, and backpacking out on the 3rd day. You can also tag North Eulous while up there and it is in the list of 58 14ers, though just a short jaunt away from the officially recognized summit of Mount Eulous.
We aren’t going to give anything away on these peaks. If you’re interested there is a ton of research that you can do to start your trip planning.
Colorado is a great state for all of its wilderness but it also boasts some amazing accessibility for those who may not be fit enough to tackle these hikes. Both Mount Evans (or Mount Blue Sky) and Pikes Peak offer a drivable 14er experience. That’s right, you can drive to both summits! This lets everybody get a glimpse of the beautiful alpine world.
We’re going to also mention Huron Peak for its absolutely astonishing beauty. Many think that Huron Peak is the most beautiful 14er climb there is.
Now get out there and enjoy!