Hiking Quandary Peak, A Fantastic First 14er

The Quandary Peak Trailhead is probably the most accessible of all 14ers. The gentle, Class 1 Mt Bierstadt route is a good choice for a first fourteener. However don’t let the ease trick you – many hikers are rescued every year while hiking Quandary Peak’s slopes. To avoid the crowd, I strongly recommend you visit during the week in the summer, or during the fall months. It’s also a great 14er to climb in the winter, so long as you are properly prepared. Here’s what you need to know for hiking Quandary Peak in my Route Guide below.

NEW TO 14ERS? CHECK OUT MY BEGINNERS GUIDE FOR A SAFE FIRST SUMMIT!

Hiking Quandary Peak | Fast Facts

Hiking Quandary Peak | Route Guide

Before you start hiking Quandary Peak… consider picking a different peak. Seriously – this is a very busy mountain, with hundreds of people climbing it on most summer days, so it’s often better to visit another 14er. If you are set on climbing Quandary Peak, however, read on. 

The trail starts just past the main Quandary Parking lot – look for the sign marking the start. You begin below tree-line, working your way up a series of gentle switchbacks through the forest. You’ll pass several old mining roads as you go – be sure you follow the signs along the way to stay on route. Eventually you’ll pass above tree-line, and see this view of the route ahead.

Continue hiking until the trail leads to the south side of the East Ridge. In winter, you should skip this section, and head straight up the ridge to avoid avalanche risk. In summer, continue along the side of the slope until you return to the ridge proper through a series of switchbacks. You’ll now approach a flat section I like to call the Catwalk.

RELATED READ: BEGINNERS GUIDE TO HIKING 14ERS

This next section is flat, but often sees strong winds that can significantly move you around. Avoid the steep drop-offs to your left and cornices if you’re climbing early in the year. Once through the Catwalk you’ll start to climb the final crux to reach the summit ridge. Be wary of false summits – what appears to be the top is actually the beginning of a long summit ridge. Don’t be disapointed! 

Finish your hike by walking along the relatively flat summit ridge to the top, marked by a cairn of rocks. Take a few photos, have a snack, and enjoy your accomplishment! Be sure to watch for weather so you can descend quickly if lightning threatens you. If you need more information, check out the route guide on 14ers.com and summitpost.com. I hope you enjoyed my Quandary Peak Route Guide! Good luck hiking Quandary Peak!

RELATED READ: WE SCREWED UP SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO – 10 TIPS FROM 14ER VETERANS

Quandary Peak Standard Route Guide

All route guides require a good topographical route map. I recommend downloading this map on your phone so you have a digital copy, and also printing out a paper copy so you have a backup spare if anything goes wrong. Keep them both with you while hiking Quandary Peak.

You should check the weather forecast multiple times, from multiple sources, before hiking Quandary Peak. Here are several good sources for the Quandary Peak Route:

Mountain Forecast for Quandary Peak Route

NOAA Forecast for Quandary Peak Route

The right gear will make your hike up Quandary Peak much easier! This route includes steep grades, loose gravel, and a lot of opportunities to stub your toe. Leave your flip-flops at home and get a solid pair of hiking boots for hiking Quandary Peak. Be sure you break them in at home before your trip, or you’ll have plenty of blisters before you know it. Here are my hiking boot recommendations.

You should always bring the ten essentials with you on your trip (see the infographic below). To carry them all, bring a backpack with 20-30 liters capacity. These are several good backpack options that won’t break the bank. 

While trekking poles are not a necessity, I use them myself as they offer many benefits and make hiking easier. If you want a pair, I share my personal favorites here.

Don’t forget to bring 2 liters of water, and a good bit of snacks and food for the trail. Learn more about packing for a 14er here.

Camping near Quandary Peak:

There are also many dispersed camping opportunities along forest roads leading past the trailhead ideal for those hiking Quandary Peak. Learn more about dispersed camping near 14ers here.

Lodging near Quandary Peak:

There are many cabins available via Airbnb and other services in Breckenridge, Frisco, and the surrounding area, ideal for those hiking Quandary Peak

Quandary Peak is one of the five busiest mountains in Colorado, and it keeps getting busier every year. It is very important that you follow Leave No Trace ethics on your trip hiking Quandary Peak, including the following specific tips:

  • Plan ahead, review the route and pick a weekday or day in September to hike.
  • Stay on the trail, and keep dogs leashed on and off-trail to reduce trampling of alpine grass.
  • Leave your Bluetooth speaker at home and let nature’s sound reign.
  • Urinate off-trail, and pack out your waste – a cathole won’t work at high altitude.
  • Give wildlife a wide berth – 100 meters if possible. If they approach, back up to keep space.
  • Take nothing but pictures, and leave nothing but footprints.

Safe travels, and good luck hiking Quandary Peak! Learn more about LNT on 14ers here.

Quandary Peak’s name comes from early miners in the area who found themselves in a quandary – unable to identify a mineral specimen found on the mountain’s slopes. In earlier times, Quandary Peak was called McCullough’s Peak, Ute Peak, or Hoosier Peak. 

Quandary Peak is one of the state’s busiest 14ers due to its proximity to the large Front Range ski resorts and its ease of access just off the highway. The East Ridge is a popular winter route due to its year-round accessibility and limited avalanche risk.

Those looking for a more adventurous ascent can climb Quandary Peak’s class 3 west ridge, or enjoy a 2,500-foot snow climb up the south face Christo Couloir. This mountain has something for everyone, whether you are a complete beginner or a peak-bagging master. Safe travels hiking Quandary Peak!

Hiking Quandary Peak is an inherently high-risk activity – do so at your own risk, and use the following best practices to help keep yourself safe.

  1. Research your route and bring a compass & topographic map.
  2. Check the weather forecast and stay home during inclement weather.
  3. Bring the Ten Essentials and the knowledge/skill to use them.
  4. Leave your plans with someone back home along with a detailed itinerary.
  5. Start early, and end early: Be back at tree line by noon to avoid lightning.
  6. Bring a buddy on your first ascent, preferably someone experienced.

NEW TO 14ERS? CHECK OUT MY BEGINNERS GUIDE FOR A SAFE FIRST SUMMIT!

Hiking Quandary Peak is an inherently high-risk, dangerous activity. There is a significant risk of injury or death, even with proper planning and experience. Those using my guide accept all risks associated with climbing 14ers and do not hold this website or any information they obtain from it liable for any accidents or injuries that occur while engaging in these activities on Colorado’s high peaks. It is each hiker or climber’s responsibility to research their route carefully, bring the ten essentials, and practice other safe practices, though even these precautions do not eliminate risk and danger. Visit these summits at your own risk.

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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