Whether you live in Colorado or just love to visit, climbing a “fourteener” — a mountain of 14,000 feet elevation or more — is a huge and exciting feat. There are 54 fourteeners in Colorado, ranging from “easy” to incredibly difficult. The views from the top are unbeatable, and you’ll be proud to say you’ve summited a 14,000-foot mountain. We’ve got a great list of the three fourteeners you should start with if you’re looking to get above 14,000 feet, and some helpful information as you plan your trip!
Grays & Torreys – the “Two for One”!
Grays Elevation: 14,270 feet (gain of 3,000 feet)
Torreys Elevation: 14,267 feet (gain of 3,000 feet)
Roundtrip length: 8.5 miles
Getting there: Take I-70 to the Bakerville exit (exit 221). Leave the highway and drive south to the dirt parking area near the start of Forest Road 189. From here, it’s about 3 miles to the trailhead; a fairly rough road for low-clearance vehicles. You’ll reach a junction after 1 mile, stay straight and follow the sign 2 miles to the trailhead.
Grays and Torreys peaks are right next to each other, making it a perfect opportunity to climb two fourteeners at once! The trail is fairly short and gentle, and it’s very well-traveled, making it easy for moderate hikers to accomplish both peaks in one day. The hike starts in a perfect location right off I-70, and it’s not too far from Denver or Summit County. The hardest part is making it up to the peak of the first one, then you’ll take the saddle over to the second one before heading back down.
Elevation: 14,265 feet (gain of 3,450 feet)
Roundtrip length: 6.75 miles
Getting there: From Breckenridge, drive eight miles south on Colorado 9. Turn right on Blue Lakes Road (FDR 850). Drive approximately .1 miles, then turn right on McCollough Gulch Road (FDR 851). This trailhead can get crowded, so many hikers end up parking along the road and hiking to the trailhead.
Quandary Peak is a very well-marked trail that takes hikers on a relatively tame ascent. One thing to be prepared for is the numerous “false peaks” (rises that you’ll think are the top of the mountain, but aren’t) as you approach the summit, but it’s all worth it when you reach the top and take in the spectacular views!
The first two miles of the trail are mostly boulder free, but there is a boulder field as you approach the summit that you’ll want to take slowly. Make sure to keep an eye out for mountain goats on this trail; you’ll most likely see a lot of them!
Elevation: 14,060 feet (gain of 2,850 feet)
Roundtrip length: 7 miles
Getting there: Take I-70 to Georgetown (exit 228), then follow the signs to Guanella Pass. Take Guanella Pass Road, an easily passable but bumpy dirt road, 11 miles to the top of the pass. The trailhead is marked clearly on the left.
Mount Bierstadt is known to many hikers as Colorado’s easiest fourteener due to a mostly gentle climb. Although there are still several steep sections, this is a great option for the whole family to enjoy. The trail is mostly free of scree and boulders until the top. Mount Bierstadt’s proximity to Denver is another reason this is one of the most popular fourteeners around!
More fourteener tips
As you prepare to climb your first fourteener, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind. No matter how warm it is in the summer, it’s going to be a lot colder at 14,000+ feet! Don’t forget to dress in layers — we highly recommend bringing a windbreaker with, too! You’ll want to pack a lunch to eat at the top, specifically something filled with protein. You’ll be burning a lot of calories, so bringing a lot of snacks is going to help you tremendously with keeping your energy up.
Also, make sure to check the weather closely before you leave for your hike. If there are any chances of rain, you may want to hold off, as lightning is very dangerous at the top. You’re going to want to leave very early in the morning, so keep checking the weather and looking around during your hike. Last, remember to bring LOTS of water and a camera — and most of all, bring a beer for the summit!