14ers without the Fuss: How to Climb Smart during Peak Season

With the Fourth of July week fast approaching, you might be considering climbing a 14er to take advantage of the extended holiday. If that’s the case, you’re in good company! Colorado’s 14ers are known for their spectacular views and the challenge they offer. But this popularity also means that during peak climbing times, like the 4th of July holiday season, they can be crowded, with parking a considerable hurdle. 

Here are some strategies to bypass the crowds and secure a parking spot.

I. Start Early, Very Early

Climbing popular peaks like Mount Bierstadt, Grays and Torreys Peak, Quandary Peak, Mount Sherman, Mount Elbert or Longs Peak? Then you’ll want to get there as early as possible. Arriving by 4:00 am will help you snag a coveted parking spot and enjoy a serene, less crowded hiking experience. The early start also lets you take advantage of the cooler temperatures and reduces the risk of getting caught in afternoon thunderstorms, common during Colorado summers. If that start time shocks you, consider my second tip…

San Juan Mountains 14ers
The rugged southern San Juans near the Dallas Divide.

II. Venture Far from Denver, Really Far

If you’re a bit more adventurous and looking to escape the crowds, consider heading to the more remote peaks. The Sawatch Range, San Juans, and Sangre de Cristo mountains are all fantastic options with fewer climbers. However, it’s essential to note that these peaks tend to be more challenging on average and have more snow remaining this year. If you’re an inexperienced climber, these conditions may present more significant challenges, leading us to tip three…

Quandary Peak is a busy, but beautiful fourteener near Breckenridge.

III. Utilize the Quandary Peak Shuttle Service

For those who prefer a fuss-free experience and don’t mind a bit of company on the trail, the Quandary Peak Shuttle Service is a great option. This service takes you from the ‘Airport Lot’ in Breckenridge to the Quandary trailhead for a mere $7, with free parking at the shuttle lot. This service reduces the stress of finding a parking spot and helps reduce congestion on the trail. Dogs are allowed too! Learn more on their website.

Squaretop Mountain is a 13er near Mt. Bierstadt that is often missed by the masses.

IV. Consider Climbing a 13er Instead

Lastly, why not think outside the box and consider one of the less crowded but equally stunning 13ers? These peaks provide a comparable challenge, fantastic views, and most importantly, much fewer crowds compared to the popular fourteeners. Here are some class 1 and 2 peak suggestions:

Mount Flora:

Located in the heart of the Arapaho National Forest, Mount Flora stands tall at 13,146 feet. This peak provides a relatively moderate climb, ideal for those starting their 14er journeys. The summit gifts climbers with a breathtaking panorama, including views of Winter Park, the Continental Divide, and a bevy of other nearby peaks. Read more

Horseshoe Mountain

Situated in the Mosquito Range, Horseshoe Mountain towers at 13,898 feet. Its name derives from the distinctive horseshoe-shaped ridge extending from the summit. The climb, while offering a bit of a challenge, offers unique views of the historical mining district and vast, sweeping vistas from the summit. Read more

Atlantic Peak

Atlantic Peak is one of the highest “13ers” in Colorado’s Tenmile Range, reaching 13,841 feet. The ascent can be quite challenging, with a few steep sections. However, the views from the top are reward enough, offering a stunning perspective of Quandary Peak and the surrounding landscape. Read more

Squaretop Mountain

Nestled in the heart of the Front Range, Squaretop Mountain stands at 13,794 feet. Its square-shaped summit is easily recognizable from the Guanella Pass. The ascent is a solid day’s hike with some challenging terrain but offers exceptional views of nearby 14ers like Mount Bierstadt and Mount Evans. Read more

French Mountain

French Mountain, reaching 13,940 feet, is part of the majestic Sawatch Range. Although overshadowed by its higher neighbors Mount Massive and Mount Elbert, French Mountain offers a less crowded but equally rewarding climbing experience. From the summit, climbers can enjoy sweeping views of the Colorado Rockies. Read more

Remember to Leave No Trace on your Visit!

Regardless of which peak you choose to tackle, it’s crucial to remember the Leave No Trace principles. These guidelines help protect the environment and preserve it for future generations. They include preparing for your hike, traveling on durable surfaces, disposing of waste correctly, leaving what you find, minimizing campfire impact, respecting wildlife, and being considerate to other visitors. Following these principles ensures a sustainable and enjoyable outdoor experience for all.

Good Luck Navigating the Crowds!

Climbing a 14er during peak season is an exhilarating experience, but it also requires some strategy to beat the crowds and secure a parking spot. By starting early, venturing further from Denver, utilizing shuttle services, or considering a 13er, you can enjoy a more serene climbing experience. And above all, let’s continue to respect our beautiful natural environment by following the Leave No Trace principles. Happy climbing!

Alex Derr, Founder of The Next Summit

Alex Derr is an Eagle Scout, climber, and environmental policy expert located 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. Follow him on Linkedin or Twitter or click here to contact him.

Enjoy this Article? Subscribe to our Newsletter!

Join 4,000+ other subscribers and receive mountain news updates, route guides, gear reviews, and other articles in our twice-monthly email newsletter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Hi, I'm Alex!

In 2018, I watched in disbelief as dozens of people hiked into a storm on Longs Peak, unaware of the extreme danger. Soon after, I started The Next Summit to educate and empower the public to safely and responsibly explore America's mountains.

Learn more about how we protect public lands and prevent SAR calls through education & advocacy.

Join 5K Subscribers!

Get the latest mountain news, hear about training opportunities and gear discounts, receive new resources, and learn to advocate for public lands as a Next Summit Newsletter subscriber.

14er Planner

Download my Colorado 14ers Planner for Your Next Summit!

Become a subscriber and download my spreadsheet planner with all 58 peaks listed in the best order to climb them.

We keep your data secure; Unsubscribe anytime at the bottom of our emails.

14er Planner

Download my Colorado 14ers Planner for Your Next Summit!

Become a newsletter subscriber and get my free spreadsheet planner with all 58 peaks in the perfect order to climb them.

We keep your data secure; Unsubscribe anytime at the bottom of our emails.