Colorado is home to over 50 impressive 14ers, mountain peaks that exceed 14,000 feet in elevation. If you’re keen to tackle these stunning giants but don’t know where to begin, you’ve landed in the right place. We’ve compiled a guide to four of the best 14ers for beginners in Colorado, representing four major sub-ranges in the state: The Front, Sawatch, Mosquito, and San Juan ranges. For more detailed guidance for beginners, refer to our Complete 14ers Beginner Guide.
Table of Contents
Judging Criteria for Beginner Peaks
To bring you the most beginner-friendly 14er experience, we’ve selected peaks based on four main factors:
- Accessibility: How close the mountain is to major population centers and the quality of the roads leading to the trailhead.
- Elevation Gain and Mileage: This basic measure determines a great deal of the 14er’s hiking and climbing difficulty, with routes ranging from 5-24 miles in distance and 2,500 to 7,000 feet of elevation gain.
- Class of the Climb: The technical difficulty of the hike, where Class 1 requires just hiking, and higher classes involve scrambling and climbing.
- Crowd Size: Fewer crowds often mean a more serene and less stressful experience, especially for first-timers.
- Summit Views: After all, a part of the reward lies in the beauty beheld at the summit.
With these factors in mind, here are the four best 14ers for beginners in Colorado, each representing a different Colorado sub-range.
1) Grays Peak - Front Range
Starting off our list is Grays Peak, located within the closest proximity to Denver and the Front Range. Due to its convenient location, Grays is one of the busiest 14ers. Early risers tend to have an easier time finding parking. Find full route information here.
Grays Peak Pros
- Located near Denver and other Front Range cities.
- Classified as Class 1, making it suitable for beginners with no scrambling involved.
- You can easily add the Class 2 Torreys Peak to your hike, bagging two 14ers in one go.
Grays Peak Cons
- High traffic: consistently ranks among the top 5 busiest 14ers.
- The journey to the upper trailhead requires a vehicle with good clearance and four-wheel drive.
For more insights, you can read the Grays Peak route guide here.
2) Mount Sherman - Mosquito Range
Mount Sherman finds its place in the second busiest Range in Colorado, the Mosquito Range. This mountain provides a balance of a slightly longer drive and fewer visitors. One of the highlights of the route is the historical mining structures that add an adventurous twist to your hike. Access the full route information here.
Mount Sherman Pros
- Slightly fewer visitors than Front Range peaks.
- Experience a piece of history with the Silver Boom era mining structures along the hike.
- Less than 3,000 feet of elevation gain.
Mount Sherman Cons
- Despite fewer visitors, still ranks among the busiest peaks in Colorado.
- Includes some Class 2 scrambling before reaching the summit.
Refer to the Mount Sherman route guide here for more details.
3) San Luis Peak - San Juan Range
The San Juan Range, positioned in the Southwest of Colorado, offers San Luis Peak – the perfect choice for a tranquil first climb. Although it’s situated within a major range, it’s a relatively easy Class 1 peak. Find full route information here.
San Luis Peak Pros
- Offers a peaceful climbing experience with fewer visitors.
- The view of the rugged San Juan Range is among the most stunning in the state.
- Despite being in a rugged range, it’s a straightforward Class 1 hike to the summit.
San Luis Peak Cons
- Hard to access, being approximately 5 hours from Denver.
- With a distance of 13.5 miles, it’s one of the longest peaks to climb for beginners.
For more information, take a look at the San Luis Peak route guide here.
4) Huron Peak - Sawatch Range
Last on the list, we present Huron Peak, one of the gems in the Sawatch Range. Renowned for its striking beauty and relatively less challenging route, Huron Peak makes an excellent choice for beginners. Its remote location means fewer crowds, allowing for a tranquil climbing experience. Find full route information here.
Huron Peak Pros
- Features some of the most stunning views among Colorado’s 14ers.
- Despite being in a rugged range, it’s a straightforward Class 2 hike.
- Offers a peaceful climbing experience due to its remote location and fewer visitors.
Huron Peak Cons
- The trailhead is remote and requires a vehicle with good clearance and potentially four-wheel drive.
- The total round trip hiking distance is about 11 miles, which may be challenging for some beginners.
For more in-depth details, take a look at the Huron Peak route guide here.
Respect the Peaks: Leave No Trace
Preserving the natural beauty of Colorado’s 14ers is a shared responsibility. We implore every climber to adhere to the seven principles of Leave No Trace:
- Plan Ahead and Prepare: Ensure you have all necessary gear, information, and resources before embarking on your hike.
- Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces: Stick to designated trails and avoid stepping on vegetation.
- Dispose of Waste Properly: Carry all trash and waste back down the mountain.
- Leave What You Find: Do not remove rocks, plants, or other natural objects.
- Minimize Campfire Impact: Use a camping stove for cooking and wear layers to keep warm.
- Respect Wildlife: Observe animals from a distance and never feed them.
- Be Considerate of Other Visitors: Respect other hikers and maintain quiet hours.
Mountain Safety Tips for Beginner 14ers
Mountain hiking, particularly at high altitudes, can be inherently risky. To ensure a safe journey, follow these safety guidelines while climbing any peak, including the four best 14ers for beginners that we mentioned above:
- Understand Altitude Sickness: Know the symptoms and be prepared to descend if necessary.
- Stay Hydrated: High altitudes can dehydrate you quickly, so bring plenty of water.
- Weather Awareness: Weather can change rapidly in the mountains. Check the forecast before your climb and be prepared for unexpected conditions.
- Carry the Essentials: Always carry a map, compass, first-aid kit, multi-tool, headlamp, sun protection, and plenty of food and water.
Best 14ers for Beginners: The Last Word
Colorado’s 14ers are stunning, accessible, and rewarding for beginners and experienced hikers alike. This guide has provided a snapshot of what you can expect from four different ranges, along with the essentials of mountain safety and the importance of the Leave No Trace principles. Whether you choose Grays Peak, Mount Sherman, San Luis Peak, or Huron Peak for your first summit, the experience is sure to be unforgettable. We hope this guide motivates you to embark on your climbing journey. Safe travels on the trail!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
A: Among Colorado’s 14ers, Grays Peak is often considered the easiest to climb due to its proximity to Denver, Class 1 ranking (requiring only hiking), and a well-maintained trail. Mount Sherman and Handies Peak are also common answers.
A: We recommend starting with Grays Peak or Mount Sherman as your first 14er. They both offer relatively straightforward trails and are less demanding physically, making them excellent choices for beginners.
A: Absolutely! Many beginners successfully hike 14ers. It’s crucial, however, to prepare appropriately: maintain a good fitness level, acclimatize to the altitude, pack necessary gear, and understand the trail and weather conditions.
A: While it’s technically possible, we strongly recommend against attempting a 14er without preparation. These hikes can be physically challenging and involve high altitudes, which can cause altitude sickness. Regular cardio training, strength training, and some hiking experience will make your climb safer and more enjoyable.
A: While many hikers do trek 14ers alone, it’s generally safer to hike with a companion, especially for beginners. Mountain weather can change rapidly, and a partner can provide help in case of injury or sickness.
A: The best months to climb 14ers in Colorado are typically from late spring (June) to early fall (September), when the trails are usually free of snow. Always check local weather and trail conditions before setting out.
A: Beauty is subjective and can depend on individual preferences. However, many hikers praise Huron Peak for its breathtaking panoramic views, making it one of the most visually stunning 14ers in Colorado.