Prettiest 14ers in Colorado

9 Prettiest 14ers in Colorado with Spectacular Summit Views

The Centennial State is home to the majority of the mountains in the United States that exceed 14,000 feet, known as “14ers.” Each of these giant peaks possesses a unique allure, offering challenging climbs and breathtaking vistas. Whether you’re a seasoned mountaineer or a hiking enthusiast looking for your next adventure, Colorado’s 14ers offer a variety of experiences.

From the stunning snow-crossed face of Mount of the Holy Cross to the infamous Knife Edge of Capitol Peak, here are the 9 prettiest 14ers in Colorado for your next adventure.

Table of Contents

1. Mount of the Holy Cross

Mount of the Holy Cross is one of the oldest photographed 14ers in Colorado due to its namesake snow cross on its eastern face. Thought to be a sign of God’s presence, the peak became a place of pilgrimage for Christians to see the dramatic view. Today, the hike up to the summit is long but spectacular, with a crossing over Half Moon Pass, a trail along Holy Cross Peak, and a dramatic ascent along its north ridge to the summit. It is my favorite out of the nine prettiest 14ers in Colorado listed below. Read More

  • Difficulty Level: Class 2
  • Distance: 12 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 5,600 feet
  • Trailhead: Half Moon (Tigiwon)
  • Range: Sawatch Range

2. Mount Yale

Mount Yale stands proudly within the Collegiate Peaks, offering some of the most accessible yet rewarding hikes among Colorado’s 14ers. Its summit provides a panoramic spectacle, showcasing surrounding peaks and the Arkansas Valley below. The standard route up Mount Yale is a testament to the rugged beauty of the Rocky Mountains, with dense forests at lower elevations opening up to vast alpine meadows and rocky scrambles near the top. Read More

  • Difficulty Level: Class 2
  • Distance: 9.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 4,300 feet
  • Trailhead: Denny Creek
  • Range: Sawatch Range

3. Longs Peak

Best mountain hikes near Denver, Colorado

Longs Peak is an iconic feature of the Colorado landscape, visible from miles around and known for its distinctive diamond-shaped east face. As the only 14er in Rocky Mountain National Park, it offers a challenging and technical climb, particularly on routes like the Keyhole Route, which requires careful navigation through boulder fields and narrow ledges. The summit views extend across the national park and into the plains, making it a sought-after peak for serious mountaineers. Read More

  • Difficulty Level: Class 3
  • Distance: 14.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 5,100 feet
  • Trailhead: Longs Peak
  • Range: Front Range

4. Huron Peak

Huron Peak is often celebrated for its exceptional beauty, offering one of the finest summit panoramas in the Sawatch Range. The standard Northwest Slope route is relatively gentle, making it a popular choice for those new to high-altitude hiking. From the top, climbers are rewarded with sweeping views of the Three Apostles to the south and a sea of peaks in every direction. Read More

  • Difficulty Level: Class 2
  • Distance: 6.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 3,500 feet
  • Trailhead: Clear Creek/South Winfield
  • Range: Sawatch Range

5. Maroon Peak

The Maroon Bells, comprised of Maroon Peak and North Maroon Peak, are arguably the most photographed mountains in North America. Their striking maroon-colored sedimentary rock and symmetrical shape stand out against the backdrop of Maroon Lake, creating a scene of unparalleled natural beauty. The climb, however, is no easy feat; both peaks are known for their treacherous loose rock and steep routes. Read More

  • Difficulty Level: Class 4
  • Distance: 12 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 4,800 feet
  • Trailhead: Maroon Lake
  • Range: Elk Mountains

6. Wetterhorn Peak

Wetterhorn Peak offers one of the most enjoyable climbs among Colorado’s 14ers, with a mix of solid rock, fun scrambling, and spectacular views. The peak’s distinctive shape and the varied terrain leading to its summit make it a favorite among climbers. The final pitch to the summit is exhilarating, providing a memorable experience for those comfortable with exposure. Read More

  • Difficulty Level: Class 3
  • Distance: 7 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 3,300 feet
  • Trailhead: Matterhorn Creek
  • Range: San Juan Mountains

7. Crestone Needle

Crestone Needle Rescue Operation

Crestone Needle is known for its technical climbing routes and stunning natural architecture. It is part of the Crestone Group, which boasts some of the most rugged and beautiful peaks in the state. Climbers must navigate conglomerate rock formations and steep gullies to reach the summit, where they are rewarded with dramatic views of the surrounding Sangre de Cristo Range. Read More

  • Difficulty Level: Class 3
  • Distance: 18 Miles
  • Elevation Gain: 5,500 feet
  • Trailhead: South Colony Lakes
  • Range: Sangre de Cristo Range

8. Capitol Peak

Capitol Peak is infamous for its Knife Edge, a narrow ridge with drop-offs on either side that climbers must traverse to reach the summit. Its reputation as one of Colorado’s most difficult 14ers is well-earned, with exposed climbing and complex route-finding. The peak’s rugged beauty and the challenge it presents make it a bucket-list climb for experienced mountaineers. Read More

  • Difficulty Level: Class 4
  • Distance: 17 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 5,300 feet
  • Trailhead: Capitol Creek
  • Range: Elk Mountains

9. San Luis Peak

San Luis Peak Route Guide

San Luis Peak offers a remote and wilderness experience, standing as the most isolated 14er in Colorado. Its standard route through lush meadows and along gentle ridges is less traveled, providing a sense of solitude and peace. The summit offers extensive views of the surrounding San Juan Mountains, a reward for those who seek out this less-visited peak. Read More

  • Difficulty Level: Class 1
  • Distance: 13.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 3,600 feet
  • Trailhead: Stewart Creek
  • Range: San Juan Mountains

The Best Time to Visit Scenic 14ers

Generally, the best time of the year to visit the prettiest 14ers in Colorado is between late June and early September. During this time, the snow melts away and the peaks are generally easier to access and enjoy. The weather is also more agreeable, with fewer clouds and storms.

However, some of the peak trailheads remain accessible in winter, including Mount Yale and Longs Peak. You shouldn’t climb a winter 14er without the right gear and experience, but most people can visit the trailhead and hike below the treeline to enjoy the views without any issues.

Preserve these Peaks: Leave No Trace

14er Peak Steward

Preserving the natural beauty and ecological integrity of Colorado’s 14ers is a responsibility shared by all who visit them. Adhering to Leave No Trace principles is essential for ensuring that these majestic mountains remain pristine for future generations to explore and enjoy.

Here are some key guidelines to follow:

1. Plan Ahead and Prepare

Research your chosen peak, route, and current conditions. Ensure you have the necessary skills, equipment, and knowledge to safely complete your hike.

2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

Stick to established trails and campsites to minimize your impact on the environment.

3. Dispose of Waste Properly

Pack out all trash, leftover food, and litter. Use toilet facilities where available or bury human waste properly.

4. Leave What You Find

Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch, cultural or historic structures and artifacts. Leave rocks, plants, and other natural objects as you find them so others can explore and enjoy the prettiest 14ers in Colorado.

5. Minimize Campfire Impacts

Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light. Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, keep fires small, and burn all wood and coals to ash.

6. Respect Wildlife

Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them. Never feed animals, as feeding wildlife damages their health and alters natural behaviors.

7. Be Courteous to Others Outdoors

The prettiest 14ers in Colorado get a lot of traffic due to the spectacular views. Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience. Be considerate on the trail and let nature’s sounds prevail.

Tips for Climbing the 14ers of Colorado

Successfully summiting a 14er is a remarkable achievement that requires careful planning and preparation. To ensure a safe and enjoyable experience, consider these detailed tips before climbing any of the prettiest 14ers in Colorado featured here.

I. Pick the Right Colorado 14er

Can I hike a 14er alone? Mount Bierstadt is a good option.

The choice of peak should be informed by a realistic assessment of your physical condition, hiking experience, and familiarity with high-altitude environments.

  • Beginners should start with less technically demanding mountains, such as Quandary Peak or Mount Bierstadt, which offer clear paths and require minimal navigation skills.
  • Intermediate climbers might consider peaks with more challenging terrain and higher elevation gains, like Mount of the Holy Cross or Mount Yale.
  • Experienced hikers looking for a test of their mountaineering skills might opt for the more technical routes found on Longs Peak or Capitol Peak.

Always consider the season and current weather conditions, as snow, ice, and thunderstorms can significantly increase the difficulty of any climb.

II. Check the Weather and Conditions

Before setting out, consult multiple weather sources to get the most accurate forecast for the specific area of your chosen 14er. Weather in the mountains can change rapidly, bringing cold, wind, rain, or snow even in summer months.

Additionally, check trail conditions and any reports of recent bear activity or trail closures. Prepare for the possibility of encountering snowfields or icy patches by bringing appropriate gear such as microspikes or an ice axe if you’re climbing in shoulder seasons or after recent snowfall.

III. Bring the Ten Essentials

Hiking Gear List

The “Ten Essentials” is a list of basic items that hikers and outdoor adventurers should carry to ensure their safety in the backcountry. For 14ers, this list is particularly crucial:

  1. Navigation: Map, compass, and GPS device. A physical map and compass can be lifesavers if electronic devices fail.
  2. Sun Protection: Sunglasses, sunscreen, and a hat. The sun’s rays are more intense at higher elevations.
  3. Insulation: Extra clothing to account for unpredictable weather changes. Include layers that can be easily added or removed.
  4. Illumination: Headlamp or flashlight with extra batteries. Essential if you’re caught out after dark.
  5. First-Aid Supplies: A well-stocked first-aid kit tailored to your group’s size and trip duration.
  6. Fire: Matches, lighter, and a fire starter. Know the current fire regulations in the area you’re hiking.
  7. Repair Kit and Tools: Knife or multi-tool and gear repair supplies.
  8. Nutrition: Extra food for one additional day. High-energy, easily digestible foods are best.
  9. Hydration: Water and a way to purify it. Carry more water than you think you’ll need and consider the availability of water sources on your route.
  10. Emergency Shelter: Tent, space blanket, or bivy sack, even if you plan only for a day hike.

IV. Share Your Plans with Someone

Inform a trusted friend or family member of your intended route, who you’re going with, and when you expect to return. This ensures that in the case of an unexpected situation, rescuers have a starting point. Consider leaving a detailed itinerary in your vehicle as well.

V. Go with a Climbing Partner

All of the prettiest 14ers in Colorado are also dangerous. Climbing with a partner or group not only enhances the overall experience but also significantly increases your safety. Having someone to assist in case of an emergency, help with navigation, and provide motivation can make all the difference in reaching the summit and returning safely.

VI. Start Early to Avoid Storms

Lightning on 14ers

Summiting early in the day is critical to avoiding the risk of afternoon thunderstorms, which are common in the Rockies, especially in summer. These storms can bring lightning, which is extremely dangerous on exposed mountain ridges. Aim to begin your ascent well before dawn to ensure you’re on your way down by early afternoon, minimizing your exposure to potential storms.

FAQ: Prettiest 14ers in Colorado

Here are answers to common questions about the prettiest 14ers in Colorado. If your question has not yet been addressed, leave a comment and I will get back to you with an answer and more information as soon as possible.

Q: What is the most beautiful 14er in Colorado?

A: Beauty is subjective, but many adventurers are drawn to the Maroon Bells for their awe-inspiring vistas. Maroon Peak and North Maroon Peak, known collectively as the Maroon Bells, boast stunning maroon-colored sedimentary rock faces that reflect beautifully in the crystal-clear Maroon Lake below, especially during the golden hours of sunrise and sunset. This picturesque scene, combined with the surrounding aspen groves, makes them a top contender for Colorado’s most beautiful 14ers.

A: The summit of Mount Elbert offers one of the most expansive views, as it’s the highest peak in the Rockies. From its summit, you can see much of the Sawatch Range, the Elk Mountains, and on clear days, views that stretch for hundreds of miles. The panorama encapsulates the essence of Colorado’s high country, making it a breathtaking experience.

A: Capitol Peak is often cited as the most difficult 14er to climb, due to its infamous Knife Edge—a narrow, jagged ridge with steep drop-offs on either side. The approach to Capitol Peak is long and arduous, and the climb involves technical rock scrambling and exposure to significant falls. This peak is recommended only for experienced climbers with proper equipment and a solid understanding of mountaineering techniques.

A: Mount Bierstadt is an excellent choice for those new to high-altitude hiking. It offers a relatively short and straightforward route, making it accessible to beginners while still providing the full 14er experience. The trail is well-maintained, and the peak’s proximity to Denver makes it a popular choice for a day trip.

A: The Maroon Bells are the most photographed peaks in Colorado, and possibly in North America. Their iconic image, featuring the two peaks with Maroon Lake in the foreground, is a staple of Colorado postcards and tourism brochures. Their beauty draws thousands of visitors each year, especially in the fall when the aspen trees turn a vibrant yellow, creating a stunning contrast against the maroon cliffs.

A: Mount Blue Sky offers remarkable scenic beauty and is easily accessible from Denver. The Mount Blue SKy Scenic Byway, the highest paved road in North America, extends close to the summit, making it one of the most accessible 14ers. The area is known for its incredible views of the Front Range, alpine lakes, and abundant wildlife, including mountain goats and bighorn sheep.

A: Besides the Maroon Bells and Mount Elbert, other scenic summits include Longs Peak, with its dramatic east face known as “The Diamond,” and the Crestone Needle, renowned for its challenging climbs and striking profile. Wetterhorn Peak also offers a uniquely rugged appearance and a highly rewarding summit experience.

A: Boulder, Colorado, offers some of the best mountain views, with the Flatirons providing a dramatic backdrop to the city. The city’s unique position at the foothills of the Rockies offers easy access to numerous hiking trails, including those that lead up to 14ers like Longs Peak. Boulder’s blend of urban and natural landscapes makes it a favorite for both residents and visitors seeking stunning mountain views.

Additional Resources

9 Prettiest Colorado 14ers: Now You Know!

In conclusion, Colorado’s 14ers offer an array of unforgettable experiences for climbers of all levels. From the awe-inspiring beauty of the Maroon Bells to the challenging climbs of Capitol Peak, each mountain offers a unique journey and a gateway to the breathtaking natural beauty of Colorado.

Whether you’re a seasoned mountaineer or a casual hiker, these peaks promise adventure, challenge, and rewarding vistas. Happy climbing, and remember to respect these natural wonders as you explore them.

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.