Best 14ers Near Denver | 5 Great Peaks Within 2 Hours

Looking for a fourteener to hike or climb that’s close to the Front Range metro area? You’ve got more options nearby than any other city in the lower 48. These five peaks include some of the best 14ers near Denver, ranging from class 1 to 3 in difficulty. However, that means they attract a lot of attention, especially during summer weekends. If you want to climb these peaks, plan your trip on a weekday or in late spring or early fall.  I also included a few bonus peaks further from Denver that offer a crowd-free experience. They’re ideal for those looking for more solitude on their hike. Safe travels on the trails!

Take My Advice: Pick a Peak Far From Denver

Honestly, especially if this is your first fourteeneer, I recommend skipping even the best 14ers near Denver, and climbing something further away from Denver entirely. The Sawatch Range 14ers are 2.5 hours away, but that extra hour driving puts a lot of distance between you and the biggest crowds. For even more solitude, you can drive the 5-6 hours to the San Juan Mountains for supreme quiet and solitude. 

If that’s not an option, or you want something quick for a day trip that’s easy to reach from the front range area, here are five of the best 14ers near Denver.

Mount Bierstadt was my first 14er, along with many others. It is consistently ranked one of the three busiest fourteeners in the state – more than 900 people climbed it one day this summer in 2020. The route is a class 1 hike for the majority of the way, with an easy scramble up the summit ridge to reach the top. With a well-defined trail and plenty of others, it’s hard (though not impossible) to get lost on this 14er. For these same reasons, it’s a good first winter 14er for those looking for more challenges. 

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Grays Peak is another top contender for the busiest 14er in Colorado. Its class 1 route is a hike from the trailhead all the way to the summit. From there you can take the ridge over to Torreys Peak, or save it for another day. The approach road here is much rougher than Mount Bierstadt, so bring a 4WD vehicle to avoid an extra hike to the trailhead. In winter, this route does include some avalanche risk on Kelso Ridge, so research and take the winter variation straight up the gulch. 

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Mount Evans features a road all the way to the summit, but the hike up from the Summit Lake Park is still a fun route that takes you to the summit in a circuitous way along major ridges and along the west ridge. There’s even a bathroom at the summit for those who dislike that part of 14er climbing. Pair this with a climb of the Mt Bierstadt Sawtooth route if you are looking for something class 3 difficulty, another great route for the best 14ers near Denver. Please keep in mind you will need a reservation to drive to Summit Lake during the summer months – be sure you plan ahead! 

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Torreys Peak can be climbed using the standard approach up Grays Peak, described above. However if the weather is good, and you’re in good shape, I recommend the approach via the continental divide from the west. Starting at Loveland Pass, ascend towards Mt Sniktau, over to Grizzly Peak, and then up to Torreys, with an optional traverse to Grays as well. This is a long, hard climb with lots of exposure and few places to bail, so wait for an ideal weather window for your attempt. 

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Longs Peak is the only class 3 peak on the list of best 14ers near Denver – it’s the only one in the entire Front Range. It’s an imposing route, 12 miles round-trip that requires a daunting 2am start to avoid afternoon thunderstorms. Hiking up to the Keyhole, before scrambling along the exposed ledges section, up the trough gully, and through the narrows, a section of sheer cliffs. Finally, scramble up the sheer homestretch to reach the summit. This mountain has taken many lives, so don’t take it lightly. Pick an easier peak if you’re just starting, and work up to it over time. However, overall, this is my favorite of the best 14ers near Denver. 

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Best Backpacks for 14ers

A Longer Drive Provides Far More Options

All five of these mountains offer a great mountain experience within a 2-hour drive Denver. But even the best 14ers near Denver can’t compare to some of the other mountains in the state. Consider a few alternatives that are a bit further away – they are often worth it!

Mount of the Holy Cross is a spectacular fourteener that offers two great routes. The standard scramble includes a great opportunity for an overnight at Holy Cross creek before summiting the next day. Halo Ridge is more difficult but includes the best view of the peak from across the valley. It isn’t a very easy fourteener, but it is one of my favorites – especially when done over two days. It isn’t one of the best 14ers near Denver, but it would be if it were closer! 

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Mount Massive has more area above 14,000 feet than any other mountain in the lower 48 states. It is the second tallest fourteener in Coloorado as well, just across the valley from the tallest, Mount Elbert. The standard route up its southeast slopes is great for either a day trip or an overnight adventure, with plenty of other 14ers like Mount Elbert nearby. There are great dispersed camping sites along the forest road that leads to the trailhead, useful for turning a day trip into and overnight camping adventure.

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Humboldt is a more challenging peak, with a long approach hike up to the south colony lakes. However this is a true wilderness adventure, with many miles separating you from civilization, and a pure mountain basin to enjoy. The views from the summit of the Crestone Traverse is one of the finest in all of Colorado. It isn’t one of the best 14ers near Denver, but it’s certainly one of the best far away from it. If you go, bring a 4WD vehicle to make it all the way up to the upper trailhead.

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Huron Peak is known for having some of the best views of any of the fourteeners, better than any of the best 14ers near Denver. Its location  in the heart of the Sawatch Range places it at the center of all the state’s ranges, with a ridge-based route that offers expansive views. For the best experience consider a September ascent to catch the aspen when they are changing colors. For extra fun, you can visit one of a number of old historic mining towns in the area around the trailhead, including Winfield.

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Packing for 14ers Near Denver

Hiking a fourteener is a unique experience with some special hazards and risks. The right gear will make it much easier to make it to the summit, and help you stay safe along the way. Here are some of the key gear necessities to bring with you while visiting the best 14ers near Denver.

First, start with a solid pair of hiking boots. I recommend boots with ankle protection, as trips and sprains are relatively common on these rocky trails and scrambling sections. Hiking shoes or approach shoes will also work, but I do not suggest using normal tennis shoes, as they have less traction and support for long hikes.

You should have two liters of water minimum per person to stay hydrated on your hike. 1,000 calories of food, especially in forms like trail mix or protein bars serve as good fuel for the journey and as a backup if something goes wrong. A first aid kit is good for treating small cuts, scrapes, sunburn, or dealing with altitude sickness.

Other key essentials include sunscreen and sunglasses to manage the intense radiation at this altitude and something to start a fire with if you get stuck in the backcountry longer than expected. A good knife or multi-tool rounds out this packing list for the best 14ers near Denver.

Weather on the Front Range Fourteeners

The Front Range experiences notoriously fickle weather conditions, changing constantly and posing significant risks to hikers at high altitudes. Snow is possible year-round at 14,000 feet, so you need to be ready for anything in terms of weather conditions. That means bringing rain gear and warm layers to any of the best 14ers near Denver. It also means thoroughly researching the weather forecast before your trip so you can plan ahead and reschedule if necessary.

When checking the weather forecast, you need to consider several factors:

  • The temperature highs and lows.
  • Chance and type of precipitation expected (rain, sleet, snow)
  • Average wind speed and max gust speed
  • Incoming weather systems and storms
  • Recent snowfall and freezing overnight 
  • Weather Alerts (wildfires, smoke alerts, emergencies, etc.)

Don't Forget Leave No Trace Outdoor Ethics

The Front Range is just an hour’s drive from millions of people in Denver, Colorado Springs, and Boulder. This makes even the best 14ers near Denver extremely busy places, with tens of thousands of visitors each year. This makes it important to practice leave no trace outdoor ethics during your time in the mountains. These tips will get you started and help you limited your environmental impact.

  • Plan ahead and prepare before your climb so you are not taken by surprise.
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces. Stay on the trail and only use pre-established campsites.
  • Minimize campfire impact. Stick to pre-established fie rings, or skip the fire entirely.
  • Be courteous to others by using earbuds for music, leashing dogs, and smiling and saying hello to others on the trail.
  • Pack it in, pack it out. Don’t leave litter or trash, and handle human and dog waste responsibly.
  • Leave what you find in the mountains, take only photographs, so that others can also enjoy them.

To learn more about Leave No Trace practices to protect the best 14rs near Denver, visit the Center’s website here. They have great resources, along with information about real-world Leave No Trace trainings and certifications.

Recently a number of fourteeners have imposed parking reservations, permits, and other fees and barriers to access. These are a direct result of overuse and impacts on many mountains, including some of the best 14ers near Denver. If you want to protect open public access to these peaks for the future, do your part by studying up and practicing leave no trace outdoor ethics when in the mountains and elsewhere.

Best 14ers Near Denver: Camping Opportunities

Looking for a place where you can camp the night before or after your fourteener hike. You are in luck! Many of the best 14ers near Denver are home to great options for dispersed camping and car camping close to the trailhead. Click each of the route guides for my specific camping recommendations around the best 14ers near Denver.

If you are interested in dispersed camping opportunities, start by picking one of the best 14ers near Denver. Then identify public forest roads in the vicinity, they are usually home to many sites located just off the road you can camp at for free, first-come, first-serve. Be sure you bring plenty of water and bathroom supplies, as neither is supplied at dispersed camping areas. Stick to pre-established campsites and campfire pits to avoid causing new damage in the backcountry. 

The Best 14ers Near Denver: Get Ready to Go!

As you can see, the best 14ers near Denver include some great options, like Longs Peak, Mount Evans and others. However, there are even better options with far fewer people if you’re willing to drive just a bit further. Regardless of what peak you choose, make sure you plan ahead and research your route to boost your chances of a safe and successful summit. Safe travels on the trails – enjoy these best 14ers near Denver!

More Resources About the Best 14ers Near Denver

Still looking for more information about the best 14ers near Denver? These are a few high-quality sources to use for your research and to learn more. Have a suggestion on something to add? Leave a comment below with your ideas. I hope you found this info on the best 14ers near Denver helpful and informative.

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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