Crested Butte is a charming Colorado mountain town just south of the Elk Mountains on the western slope. Despite its location in the heart of the Rockies, the small community is isolated from many of the nearby Colorado 14ers due to the rugged terrain and lack of mountain passes. If you want to hike one of the 14ers near Crested Butte, you must be prepared for an early start and drive. If that’s the case, read on to learn about the 14 best 14ers near Crested Butte, including peaks in the Sawatch and San Juan range. Let’s get started.
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The Best 14ers Near Crested Butte
Some of these peaks are twins, with two 14ers along the route – I’ve included them below as one entry to provide you with more options. Here is a quick introduction to each peak – click the link below to read the full 14er route guide for each one.
1. Mount Yale - 1 hour and 30 minutes away
Just over Cottonwood Pass you’ll find the closest 14er to Crested Butte: Mount Yale. Named after the prestigious university, this Collegiate Peak is a relatively easy class two scramble short enough to do in a single day. The pass closes for the winter in October until the following May, so check the road status and conditions before you go.
2. Mount Antero - 2 hours away
Mount Antero is another Sawatch Range 14er, accessed over Monarch Pass in the southern part of the range. The standard route is long but follows an old mining road that keeps the grade to a minimum. If you don’t care about long distances but don’t want a steep slope, this is the best option for you – especially if you have 4WD and can drive up the road a bit.
3. Mount Shavano & Tabeguache Peak - 2 hours and 5 minutes away
Mount Shavano – named after a famous Ute Chief – and Tabeguache Peak – named after a ute tribal band – are the southernmost Sawatch 14ers and the closest pair of 14ers near Crested Butte. It’s a long route, but your best opportunity to climb two peaks in one day within a 2-hour drive or so of Crested Butte.
4. Uncompahgre Peak - 2 hours and 10 minutes away
This distinctly shaped 14er is the closest San Juan 14er to Crested Butte and a fun class two scramble – my favorite on this list. If you are new to 14ers and want a fun and memorable climb without too much struggle, this is the peak I recommend to you. It is rugged enough for adventure without the risk of class three or four climbing.
5. Mount Harvard - 2 hours and 15 minutes away
Mount Harvard is the tallest of the 14ers near Crested Butted, with a summit elevation of 14,421 feet – third tallest in the state behind Mount Elbert and Mount Massive. This route is a bit longer and best done as an overnight in my opinion. While Harvard can be climbed with Columbia, it is a long day and not recommended for most people.
6. Mount Columbia - 2 hours and 15 minutes away
Mount Columbia is located further down along the same ridge as Mount Harvard, but both peaks are deep within the Horn Fork Basin and are usually done as backpacking trips. The route up the peak used to be notoriously bad and loose, but the new trail constructed by CFI is solid and worth a visit for the summit views.
7. Redcloud Peak & Sunshine Peak - 2 hours and 15 minutes away
These two class-two scrambles are some of the best mid-difficulty 14ers in the San Juans. The trailhead requires 4WD but has tons of dispersed camping in a spectacular area – one of the most rugged ranges in Colorado by far. Nearby Lake City is small but has all your gear and food needs covered during your trip.
8. Mount Princeton - 2 hours and 20 minutes away
Approaching the Arkansas River Valley from the east, the view of Mt Princeton looming ahead of you is one of the most imposing sights in Colorado. The climb to the summit is a bit of a slog, with lots of scrambling over boulder fields and talus after a hike along a 4WD road. The rewarding views at the top are well worth the effort.
9. Wetterhorn Peak - 2 hours and 30 minutes away
Wetterhorn Peak is named after a similarly rugged peak in the European Alps. This class three 14er is said to be favored by many 14er finishers due to its rugged appearance, a short approach hike, class three scrambling on solid rock, amazing wildflowers, and small crowds. What more could you want from a 14er? Remember to pack your climbing helmet!
10. Mount Belford & Oxford- 2 hours and 35 minutes away
This set of twin 14ers in the Sawatch range must be climbed together – the only way to reach Mount Oxford is by climbing up and over Belford first. That makes it a long day that requires clear weather and a very early start. I recommend dispersed camping the night before at a site along the road leading to the trailhead to get more sleep and acclimation.
11. Missouri Mountain - 2 hours and 35 minutes away
Missouri Mountain shares the same trailhead as Belford and Oxford, but the trail splits about 2/3 of the way to the summit to the right and involves slightly more difficult and exposed class two climbing. As a more strenuous option, the route is usually a bit less busy than Belford and Oxford and provides a bit more adventure for those seeking it.
12. Handies Peak - 2 hours and 35 minutes away
This class one 14er is one of the easiest in Colorado, with a trail running all the way from the trailhead to the summit. Just across the valley from Redcloud Peak and Sunshine Peak, you can set up your base camp between the two groups at one of the numerous dispersed campsites to climb all three during a single weekend visit.
13. San Luis Peak - 2 hours and 45 minutes away
San Luis Peak is another class one 14er, but it is one of the most isolated and difficult-to-reach 14ers in the state. The dirt access road goes on for many miles and includes several creek crossings – 4WD is required. The difficulty reaching the peak thins out the crowd significantly, making it the least busy class one 14er in Colorado, ideal for those seeking solitude.
14. Mount Sneffels - 3 hours away
This rugged 14er appears on the Colorado driver’s license and is a great introduction to class three scrambling. While it’s a bit of a drive from Crested Butte, the memorable climb and spectacular views of the western San Juan mountains await you at the summit. Wear a helmet and research the route thoroughly to ensure a safe ascent.
Alternatively, consider climbing Crested Butte itself!
Crested Butte is situated in a spectacular mountain setting amid the eastern Elk Mountains – one of the most beautiful in Colorado. Instead of driving several hours away, consider climbing the town’s namesake landmark, Mount Crested Butte, which is a relatively easy objective the entire family can join in on. A tram during summer months takes you just a half-mile below the 12,162 foot summit where you’ll enjoy views of the town, surrounding valley, and peaks in every direction around you. Die-hards can hike to the top along service roads without paying for the tram.
Remember to Leave No Trace: Be a 14er Ninja!
Many 14ers near Crested Butte have escaped heavy use because they are more rugged and less close to Denver. However, that continues to change with each season as more and more people discover their charm and beauty. Help protect these peaks and preserve the area for future generations of visitors by following these simple Leave No Trace practices during your hike or climb.
1. Plan ahead and be prepared. Check local camping, wilderness area, and fire restrictions and guidelines before you visit and plan accordingly. Check conditions and know your route to reduce your risk of a rescue.
2. Stay on trail and camp in pre-established sites. Don’t take shortcuts and trample on alpine grass. Look for sites and campfire rings instead of making new ones. Remember: campsites are found, not made.
3. Dispose of waste properly. Pack out all trash – including human waste, where possible. In some areas, this is mandatory. Urinate 200ft from water and dig a cat hole below the tree line (do not go above it – it cannot decompose during the short season).
4. Leave what you find. Don’t pick wildflowers, take home rocks, or collect antlers or wildlife remains as souvenirs. Leave them behind for others to discover and enjoy too.
5. Minimize campfire impacts. Skip having a campfire where possible. If you do choose to have one, keep it small, watch it at all times, do not transport firewood, and use only dead wood from the ground. Don’t take wood near the tree line as it takes decades to grow back.
6. Respect wildlife. Secure food in a bear bag, food locker, or bear canister to avoid unwanted encounters. Stay 100 feet from wildlife and never feed them.
7. Be courteous to others. Yield to those traveling uphill. Listen to music using headphones – never speakers. Smile and say hello, answer questions if you can, and keep your dog controlled when around others.
Mountain Safety Tips and Tricks to Remember
Hiking or climbing to the summit of a 14er has more risk than a typical hike. Altitude is a severe factor that changes the difficulty level, weather, first aid issues, etc. Here are some essential safety tips to remember while climbing any of the 14ers near Crested Butte or elsewhere.
- Start early and be down early to avoid thunderstorms. Lightning is a serious threat to those above the tree line where you are a prime target. Be down by 1 pm during the summer when storms are typical.
- Acclimate if you can. Altitude sickness affects roughly 1 in 2 people who climb a 14er, especially if traveling from a lower elevation. Spend 1-2 nights before your climb above 8,000 feet to reduce your risk.
- Bring the ten essentials. This includes extra food, water, and layers, headlamp & batteries, a map & compass, an emergency blanket, a first aid kit, sunglasses & sunscreen, a firestarter, and a multi-tool or knife.
- Share your plans with someone. Tell them where you are going, both the peak and route, and when they should hear from you. Make sure they know who to call if you miss your check-in time.
- Bring a buddy. Especially if you are new to hiking and climbing 14ers, a partner can help with navigation and route-finding and is there in case anything goes wrong to help with first aid or getting help.
- Know and respect your limits. If you are experiencing significant fatigue, moderate altitude sickness, or generally feel you aren’t safe, turn around and descend. The mountain will be there another day.
14ers near Crested Butte: Now You Know
Crested Butte isn’t the ideal base camp to go bag 14ers. However, if you are set on climbing one while visiting the town, you do have plenty of options within a 2-3 hour drive. Remember to research the route, check conditions, and share your plans with someone before you go. The mountains will always be there to climb another day. Safe travels on the trails!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
A: The peak at Crested Butte is not a 14er, meaning it does not exceed 14,000 feet in elevation. The summit of Crested Butte stands at an elevation of 12,162 feet. It is a ski resort town in Colorado, famous for its outstanding natural beauty and outdoor activities such as skiing, mountain biking, and hiking.
A: The southernmost 14er in Colorado is Culebra Peak. It is located in the Sangre de Cristo Range and has an elevation of 14,047 feet. Notably, it is the only privately-owned 14er in Colorado and climbers must obtain permission and often pay a fee to ascend this peak.
A: While many of the Elk Mountain 14ers, like Castle Peak and the Maroon Bells, are 20-40 miles from Crested Butte, they take several hours to reach due to a lack of passes. The closes 14er trailheads by driving time are Mount Yale, Mount Shavano, and Mount Antero in the Sawatch Range nearby to the east, all less than two hours away.
A: In addition to the aforementioned 14ers, there are numerous other peaks and mountains near Crested Butte. Gothic Mountain, with its peculiar rocky ridgeline, is a popular sight in the area. Whetstone Mountain is another notable peak close by. The West Elk Mountains, which includes peaks like Mount Gunnison and East Beckwith Mountain, are also not far from Crested Butte.
A: The title of hardest 14er in Colorado often goes to Capitol Peak, which is located in the Elk Mountains not far from Crested Butte. With an elevation of 14,130 feet, it is known for the “Knife Edge,” a hundred-foot stretch of ridge with steep drops on either side, requiring both mental fortitude and physical skill to cross. It’s important to note that the difficulty of a 14er can vary depending on the route chosen, weather conditions, and individual fitness levels. Always take necessary precautions when attempting such climbs.
Castle Peak is a 14er near Crested Butte, however, the trailhead to climb the peak is separated from Crested Butte by the rugged Elk Mountains. Unless you have a modified 4WD vehicle, it takes nearly 3 hours and 30 minutes to reach Castle Peak from Crested Butte. Many 14ers in the Sawatch Range and San Juan Mountains are only a 2-3 hour drive away.