Jun 2, 2024 - Things to Do

Colorado 14ers: The 5 easiest summits for first-timers

Patrick Richardson looks at the view as he climbs Mt. Elbert, Colorado's highest 14'er in 2016. Photo: Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Patrick Richardson looks at the view as he climbs Mount Elbert, Colorado's highest 14er in 2016. Photo: Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Speaking of summer, the snow is beginning to melt from the peaks of Colorado's tallest mountains, signaling that summit season is near.

State of play: The crown jewels are Colorado's 58 14,000-foot peaks — 53 of which are considered summits in topographical terms.

If you go: Start with the peaks that are easier than their counterparts, those rated Class 1 or 2 by 14ers.com, an authority on the mountains. Experts list these five as a good launch pad:

Quandary Peak: The main route up the east ridge of this 14,272-foot trail is a doable 6.75-mile round trip with 3,450 feet of elevation gain. And you won't be alone — it's quite popular — so route finding is not an issue.

Mount Bierstadt: As one of the closest 14ers to Denver, this mountain gets plenty of hiker traffic. The 7.25-mile round-trip hike gains 2,850 feet of elevation to the 14,066-foot summit.

  • Pro tip: On weekends, parking is hard to find in the small lot and along the road, so arrive early — like before 6am.

Mount Sherman: Located outside Leadville, the trailhead is accessible by SUV and takes you about a few miles from the summit. You'll hike 2,100 feet up on a 5.25-mile round-trip trail to the 14,043-foot peak.

Grays and Torreys peaks: This pair outside Silver Plume are often hiked in one day as an 8.25-mile round trip with 3,600 feet of elevation gain.

  • Pro tip: If you only have time to summit one, the 14,275-foot Grays is the first one and easier peak.

Handies Peak: Outside Lake City, near the beautiful American Basin, you'll find this 14,058-foot peak. It's a 5.75-mile round-trip with 2,500 feet of elevation gain if your SUV can take you all the way to the trailhead.

Reality check: Don't let the distances deceive you. Hiking any mountain at elevation, let alone a 14,000-foot peak, is not easy.

  • Make sure you're prepared, check the weather and go early to avoid potentially dangerous afternoon storms.

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