13ers near Denver: 9 Breathtaking Summits Close to Home

Colorado is home to more than six-hundred 13,000-foot peaks known as “13ers”. These mountains offer spectacular views from their summits, with a wide range of routes in terms of difficulty. Best of all, they are much quieter than their 14er cousins; it is common to only see one or two other people along the route all day if you see anyone at all. With so many options to explore, there are enough 13ers near Denver to keep you busy for years. Here is a bit more info about these peaks, along with nine of my favorite 14ers near Denver to try climbing yourself.

Why climb a 13er Instead of a 14er?

Most people spend their time climbing the state’s fifty-eight 14ers. While the 13ers are slightly shorter, they have a lot of good things going for them. First of all, most 13ers near Denver are significantly quieter and less crowded than their taller neighbors. It is much easier to find parking and avoid crowds on these peaks. Secondly, there are literally hundreds of 13ers near Denver, compared to just six Front Range 14ers. You have a lot more variety and options to choose from if you choose to climb a 13er instead. 

The Best 13ers Near Denver: My 9 Favorite Peaks

While there are hundreds of 13ers near Denver, several of them stand out for their amazing views, unique routes, and diverse histories. Here are my nine recommendations for the best 13ers near Denver. If you think I left out any great choices leave a comment below with suggestions, and I might include it in my next article update.

1. James Peak - 55 Minutes From Denver

James Peak is the first of the 13ers near Denver that I climbed, and one of my all-time favorites. It is the only easily accessible glacier route in the state, as you begin your climb by ascending Saint Mary’s Glacier near Georgetown. You then spend time crossing a high, windswept plateau before scrambling up the ridge up to the summit. The Continental Divide Trail runs across the summit, so you can easily link up this trip with other trails if you want a multi-day adventure.

Click here to read the James Peak route guide >

  • Trailhead: Saint Mary’s Glacier
  • Route: Southeast Slopes
  • Mileage: 8 Miles
  • Elevation Gain: 2,950 feet
  • Class Rating: Class 1 Hike
  • Range: Front Range

2. Atlantic & Pacific Peak - 1 Hour, 45 Minutes From Denver

A bit further from Denver is Atlantic Peak, named after the Continental Divide that runs just north of the summit, dividing the watersheds of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The east route up to the summit takes the McCullough Gulch trail up to the rocky upper basin. After the trail disappears you will rock-hop to the base of a large headwall which sometimes holds snow into July. Ascending this slope is the crux of the route, followed by an easy scramble along the north ridge up to the summit. If you have time you can tag on Pacific Peak to climb two of the best 13ers near Denver in one day.

Click here to read the Atlantic Peak route guide >

  • Trailhead: McCullough Gulch
  • Route: Northeast Slope
  • Mileage: 7 Miles
  • Elevation Gain: 2,900 feet
  • Class Rating: Class 2+ Scramble
  • Range: Ten-mile Range

3. Squaretop Mountain - 1 Hour, 15 Minutes From Denver

If you’ve climbed Mount Bierstadt, you know how busy it can get at Guanella Pass. Yet few people know that there is a much quieter alternative to Bierstadt here. Squaretop Mountain, a high 13er, is located directly west of Bierstadt and shares the same trailhead. The easy route takes you past several alpine lakes before leading you up the rocky ridge to reach the summit. From here you can enjoy the views of the crowded 14er summits around you, usually in total solitude yourself.

Click here to read the Squaretop Mountain route guide >

  • Trailhead: Guanella Pass
  • Route: Southeast Ridge
  • Mileage: 6.5 Miles
  • Elevation Gain: 2,400 feet
  • Class Rating: Class 1 Hike
  • Range: Front Range

4. Mount Sniktau - 1 Hour, 5 Minutes From Denver

Looking for one of the easiest 13ers near Denver? Mount Snkitau is probably your best choice. This relative tame route follows a class 1 hiking trail from Loveland Pass all the way up to the summit. As you follow a ridge for nearly the entire way there is little route-finding required. This is an excellent trip for those new to Colorado or unsure how they will respond to high-altitude hiking, as it is extremely accessible and not difficult. Just make sure you arrive early to snag a parking spot – they are limited!

Click here to read my Mount Snkitau route guide >

  • Trailhead: Loveland Pass
  • Route: Southwest Ridge
  • Mileage: 3.7 Miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,800 feet
  • Class Rating: Class 1 Hike
  • Range: Front Range

5. Mount Lady Washington - 1 Hour, 30 Minutes From Denver

Ironically the best reason to climb Mount Lady Washington is to view its even taller neighbor, Longs Peak. The summit of this 13er is directly in front of the Diamond, on of the largest cliff faces in the state, which is normally obscured from view while climbing Longs Peak via the Keyhole. Ascending Mount Lady Washington grants access to a stunning view, whether you do it on its own or add it to your climb of Longs Peak. This area is known for its high winds, so plan ahead and prepare for this climb!

Click here to read my Mount Lady Washington route guide >

  • Trailhead: Longs Peak Trailhead
  • Route: East Slopes
  • Mileage: 7.8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 3,887 feet
  • Class Rating: Class 2 Scramble
  • Range: Front Range

6. Fletcher Mountain - 1 Hour, 45 Minutes From Denver

If you follow the west ridge of the popular 14er Quandary Peak it will lead you directly to Fletcher Mountain. Approaching from the Blue Lakes trailhead, this is one of my favorite 13ers near Denver, despite being one of the shortest climbs on the list. It is one of the state’s 100 tallest peaks, known as the ‘Centennials’, and is one of the easiest of them as well. It makes a great day trip as you can do it so quickly – if you are experienced consider adding it to a class 3 ascent of  Quandary Peak via the West Ridge for a long day.

Click here to read my Fletcher Mountain route guide >

  • Trailhead: Blue Lakes
  • Route: Southeast Ridge
  • Mileage: 4.25 Mile
  • Elevation Gain: 2,250 feet
  • Class Rating: Class 2+ Miles
  • Range: Ten-mile Range

7. Mount Edwards - 1 Hour, 35 Minutes From Denver

Mount Edwards is one of several peaks along the prominent ridge that leads up to Grays Peak, across the valley from Kelso Ridge. In the 18th century, in an attempt to reuse an old mining railroad, the line was extended nearly to the summit as a tourist enterprise. However, the deep winter snow and difficult conditions led it to be abandoned after just a few years. Today the remains of the rail line serve as the primary route to ascend Mount Edwards. From the top you can clearly see Grays and Torreys across the valley to the west.

Click here to read my Mount Edwards route guide >

  • Trailhead: Waldorf Mine
  • Route: East Slopes
  • Mileage: 4.5 Miles
  • Elevation Gain: 2,400 feet
  • Class Rating: Class 2 Scramble
  • Range: Front Range

8. Mount Flora - 1 Hour, 5 Minutes From Denver

The continental divide between Berthoud Pass and Longs Peak to the north is lower than other areas of the state, generally staying between 12,000 and 13,500 feet. The ridge here is home to dozens of 13ers near Denver, most with multiple routes to their summits. Mount Flora is a great introduction to this area, as the route is used to access many other peaks in the area as well. Starting at Berthoud Pass, you will ascend one of the first ski hills in the state, and then hike up along the Divide itself to reach the summit of Mount Flora. From here you can ascend a number of additional peaks or descend the way you came.

Click here to read my Mount Flora route guide >

  • Trailhead: Berthoud Pass
  • Route: Southwest Ridge
  • Mileage: 6.2 Miles
  • Elevation Gain:
  • Class Rating: 1,778 feet
  • Range: Front Range

9. Mount Audubon - 1 Hour, 30 Minutes From Denver

Mount Audubon is one of the better-known peaks on this list, likely because it is located in the popular Brainard Lake recreation area west of Boulder. While you will see more people along the trail than on other 13ers near Denver, it is still much better than similar 14ers. The area instituted a parking reservation system last year to control rising numbers, so you will need to plan ahead and reserve a permit if you want to climb Mount Audubon. It is an easy ascent, once you manage to reserve a spot.

Click here to read my Mount Audubon route guide >

  • Trailhead: Mitchell Lake Trailhead
  • Route: North Slopes
  • Mileage: 8 Miles
  • Elevation Gain: 2,850 feet
  • Class Rating: Class 1 Hike
  • Range: Front Range

Packing to Climb the 13ers Near Denver

Hiking a 13er is not a walk in the park. Bringing the right clothing, gear, and food will help you stay safe and increase your odds of summiting successfully. Here is a quick primer on packing for the 13ers near Denver on this list. 

Always start by packing the ten essentials: the most critical equipment and supplies needed to keep yourself safe on the mountain. While the list varies a bit from group to group and based on the specific route, this is a general list to use and customize for your needs:

  • Navigation Gear: Map, GPS, Compass
  • Sun Protection: Sunscreen and glasses
  • Fire Starting Gear: Matches, Firestarter
  • Extra Food
  • Extra Water
  • Extra Clothing
  • Emergency Shelter (Bivy or tent)
  • Flashlight & batteries
  • Knife or Multi-tool
  • First Aid Kit

A good pair of hiking boots is a necessity for the 13ers. With loose rock, ice, and snow possible year-round, you need the traction and grip provided by boots – tennis shoes will not cut it, and will likely leave you blistered too. Boots also provide better ankle support than shoes which reduces your risk of twisting or spraining your ankle if you trip and fall (which you probably will).

Trekking poles are not strictly necessary for the 13ers near Denver, but they have a lot of benefits. They help you channel your upper body strength into your ascent to help your legs, and help slow you and take pressure off your toes on your descent. They also provide significant balance and stability support, which is nice for stream crossings and rock hopping.

Remember to Leave No Trace of Your Trip

While the 13ers near Denver like Squaretop Mountain don’t get much traffic, that is beginning to change. With more people heading to these peaks, their impact is growing too. Following a few simple Leave No Trace practices help us all limit our impact and preserve these peaks for future generations.

Here are a few helpful tips to keep in mind while on your next hiking or climbing adventure.

  1. Stay on the trail wherever there is one available. Never cut switchbacks.
  2. Spread out your group when off-trail to avoid creating one accidentally.
  3. Pack it in, pack it out. Dispose of all waste properly, including human waste.
  4. Leave what you find so others can discover and enjoy it too.
  5. Give wildlife plenty of space – 100 feet is typically a good rule of thumb.
  6. Keep your dog leashed and follow other land management regulations and guidelines.
  7. Be kind to others. Practice trail etiquette like yielding to those going uphill, and using headphones instead of speakers.

Tips to Stay Safe While Visiting These 13ers

Even with all the right gear, experience, and research accidents can still happen. It is important to follow these essential safety tips in case something does go wrong, as they significantly increase your odds of being rescued. 

 

  1. Always leave your itinerary and expected return time with someone back home.
  2. Bring a buddy if possible, so someone can go for help or do first aid if needed.
  3. Bring the ten essentials and keep them with you – never leave your bag behind for a summit attempt – that is where you are most likely to need it.
  4. Start climbing the 13ers near Denver early and be off their summit by noon to avoid afternoon lightning risk.
  5. Take time to acclimate before you climb by spending the night at high altitude before your trip.
  6. Stick together with your group and never separate. This often is how accidents happen.
  7. Encourage open communication and decision-making with your group so people feel comfortable adapting plans if dictated by conditions.
  8. Research your route thoroughly before you go, including videos, maps, and images.
What is trail etiquette?

The Best 13ers Near Denver: Now You Know!

With hundreds of options and spectacular summit views, the 13ers near Denver and across the state are well worth a visit. Unlike their taller 14er cousins you will find quiet and solitude on many of their slopes – these really are one of Colorado’s best-kept secrets. If you think I left out any of the best 13ers near Denver, please leave a comment below with your recommendation – I would love to hear it! I hope this Guide helped you learn more about the 13ers near Denver. Best of luck on your next trip, and safe travels on the trail!

Additional Resources About the 13ers Near Denver

Looking for more information about these peaks? I have assembled several other blogs, articles, and guides with more resources to help you continue your research. Take a look below, or suggest an additional resource or link related to the 13ers near Denver in the comment section below.

Alex Derr, Creator of The Next Summit

Alex is an Eagle Scout and mountaineer living in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. You can subscribe to his Next Summit Newsletter here.

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