Class 1 14ers

The Class 1 14ers of Colorado: 6 Spectacular Summits

Colorado’s fifty-eight 14ers (peaks 14,000 feet or higher in elevation) vary from relatively simple hikes to challenging climbs on highly technical terrain. If you want a more straightforward introduction to 14ers, consider climbing one of the six class 1 14ers. These peaks each have a hiking trail running from the trailhead to the summit, with zero scrambling or climbing required and little to no exposure. They are perfect if you want spectacular summit views without exacerbating a fear of eights. Here are the six peaks listed in order of difficulty, from the easiest to the most difficult.

Table of Contents

What is A Class 1 14er?

Most mountain-climbing routes are rated according to the technical difficulty of their climb using the Yosemite Decimal System (YDS). Class 1 routes, the easiest, are hiking trails without scrambling or climbing involved. Class 2 routes include simple scrambling, class 3 routes, rise to advance scrambling, and very simple climbing. Class 4 terrain includes simple to moderate climbing where using a rope and anchor system is not practical or possible. While no 14er standard routes are class 5, this level involves technical roped climbing.

Protect the Peaks: Leave No Trace

Respecting the environment is paramount for all climbers and hikers. Leaving no trace ensures that Colorado’s breathtaking landscapes remain unspoiled for future generations. Here are seven principles to follow while visiting these class 14ers and other alpine areas.

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare: Know regulations, special concerns, and weather conditions.
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces: Stick to designated trails and campsites.
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly: Pack it in, pack it out, including food waste.
  4. Leave What You Find: Preserve the past, do not disturb historical or natural structures.
  5. Minimize Campfire Impact: Use established fire rings and keep fires small.
  6. Respect Wildlife: Observe from a distance, do not feed animals.
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors: Respect others’ outdoor experiences and protect the quality of their experience.
 
Learn more about Leave No Trace outdoor ethics and practices to prepare for your climb.

Map of Colorado Class 1 14ers

Click a marker to learn more about each peak, or keep reading below!

The Six Colorado Class 1 14ers

Here are the six class 1 14er standard routes in Colorado, listed from least difficult to most difficult, based on elevation gain and mileage. Check out my route guides for each route to get more info, route descriptions, maps, and photos.

Southern Colorado 14ers: Handies Peak

1. Handies Peak - 5.5 miles - 2,500 feet

Handies Peak is a welcoming introduction to Colorado’s 14ers, providing a gentle hike with sweeping vistas. It is the easiest of the six class 1 14ers of Colorado. The Southwest Slopes route is well-maintained, making it accessible for beginners. However, it’s located deep in southern Colorado far from population centers.

  • Standard Route: Southwest Slopes
  • Trailhead: American Basin
  • Elevation Gain: 2,500 feet
  • Round-Trip Distance: 5.5 Miles
  • Difficulty Level: Class 1 Hike
  • Range: San Juans

2. Quandary Peak - 6.75 miles - 3,450 feet

Quandary Peak is popular among hikers due to its proximity to Denver and a relatively short hike. The east ridge standard route offers beautiful landscapes and a chance to see mountain goats and bighorn sheep.

  • Standard Route: East Ridge
  • Trailhead: Quandary Peak
  • Elevation Gain: 3,450 feet
  • Round-Trip Distance: 6.75 Miles
  • Difficulty Level: Class 1 Hike
  • Range: Ten-mile Range
Can I hike a 14er alone? Grays Peak is a good choice.

3. Grays Peak - 8.6 miles - 3,650 feet

Grays Peak’s long trail is fulfilling without being overly challenging. The North Slopes route provides fascinating geology and breathtaking views of nearby Torreys Peak. You can climb its twin peak, too, if you add 1.5 miles to the route and a few hundred additional feet of gain.

  • Standard Route: North Slopes
  • Trailhead: Grays Peak
  • Elevation Gain: 3,650 feet
  • Round-Trip Distance: 8.6 Miles
  • Difficulty Level: Class 2 Scramble
  • Range: Front Range

4. Mount Elbert - 9.5 miles - 4,600 feet

Mount Elbert is the highest peak in Colorado and the second-highest in the contiguous U.S. The Northeast Ridge route offers a consistent ascent with forested trails and alpine views. It’s the easiest way to reach the highest point in the entire Rocky Mountain chain.

  • Standard Route: Northeast Ridge
  • Trailhead: Mt Elbert (North)
  • Elevation Gain: 4,700 feet
  • Round-Trip Distance: 9.5 Miles
  • Difficulty Level: Class 1 Hike
  • Range: Sawatch Range
San Luis Peak Route Guide

5. San Luis Peak - 13.5 miles - 3,600 feet

San Luis Peak is known for its solitude and wilderness. The Northeast Ridge trail is a long but gentle ascent through lush forests and open meadows. The hardest part about this ascent is reaching the trailhead, which includes 4WD terrain and multiple creek crossings.

  • Standard Route: Northeast Ridge
  • Trailhead: Stewart Creek
  • Elevation Gain: 3,600 feet
  • Round-Trip Distance: 13.5 Miles
  • Difficulty Level: Class 1 Hike
  • Range: San Juan Range

6. Pikes Peak - 24 miles - 7,600 feet

Pikes Peak is one of the most famous mountains in the U.S., known for its unique geological features and panoramic views. It is also the most difficult of all the class 1 14ers. The East Slopes route is longer than any other standard 14er route but offers an opportunity for a true wilderness experience with an overnight at Barr Camp.

  • Standard Route: East Slopes
  • Trailhead: Manitou Springs
  • Elevation Gain: 7,600 feet
  • Round-Trip Distance: 24 Miles
  • Difficulty Level: Class 1 Hike
  • Range: Front Range

14ers Are Dangerous: Here’s How to Stay Safe

Climbing 14ers can be hazardous, even the relatively class 1 14ers shared here. To increase your odds of returning home safely, follow these important tips and guidelines:

Plan Ahead Properly: Familiarize yourself with the route, potential hazards, and emergency contacts.

Take Time to Acclimate: Spend some days at elevation to adapt to the high altitude.

Watch out for Altitude Sickness: Know the symptoms and treatment of altitude sickness.

Start Early to Avoid Thunderstorms: Afternoon storms are common, so start early to avoid getting caught in dangerous weather.

Pack the 10 Essentials: Including a map, compass, sunglasses, extra clothing, and more.

Go with a Partner: Climbing with a buddy increases safety.

Learn Basic First Aid: Know the essential first aid techniques for common injuries.

Research the Weather Forecast: Stay updated with the weather conditions.

Stay on Trail/Route: Following the designated route minimizes environmental impact and risks.

Know and Respect Your Limits: Understand your physical abilities and turn back if needed.

Learn more by reading our comprehensive mountain safety guide to ensure you have a safe and successful climb. Safe travels on the trails!

Hiking Gear List

What to Pack for a Class 1 14er?

The right gear will increase your odds of summiting and help you have a safe and enjoyable adventure. Just because you see others climbing 14ers without everything on this list does not mean it is a good idea. Here is a complete packing checklist for class 1 14ers and other peaks in Colorado and beyond. Click each item below to see my personal recommendation.

FAQs

Below are some of the most common questions related to Colorado’s class one 14ers. If you do not see your question below, email us or leave it in a comment below, and we will provide an answer as soon as possible.

A: A class 1 14er refers to a peak that is over 14,000 feet in elevation in Colorado and falls under the Class 1 category of the Yosemite Decimal System (YDS). Class 1 routes are considered the easiest among mountain-climbing routes, consisting of regular hiking trails with no scrambling or climbing involved.

A: There are six class 1 14ers in Colorado. In order from easiest to most difficult, they are: Handies Peak, Quandary Peak, Grays Peak, Mount Elbert, San Luis Peak, and Pikes Peak.

A: The classes of 14ers refer to the categorization of mountain peaks based on the difficulty of their climbing routes, utilizing the Yosemite Decimal System (YDS). Class 1 routes are hiking trails with no climbing. Class 2 includes simple scrambling; class 3 involves more advanced scrambling and very basic climbing. Class 4 entails simple to moderate climbing, and class 5 is reserved for technical, roped climbing.

A: Among Colorado’s 14ers, Handies Peak is often considered the least difficult class 1 14er. With an elevation gain of 2,500 feet and a round-trip distance of 5.5 miles on its standard route, it offers a relatively straightforward hike without technical challenges.

A: A class 1 climb refers to a hiking trail that is well-defined and does not require any scrambling or climbing techniques. It’s considered the simplest form of climbing route, suitable for hikers of most skill levels, and often does not require specialized equipment other than typical hiking gear.

A: Grays Peak, located in the Front Range, is often considered the closest class 1 14er to Denver. Its proximity to the city and accessibility via standard hiking routes make it a popular choice among both seasoned hikers and those new to 14ers.

A: The primary difference between class 1 and class 2 mountains lies in the complexity and challenge of the climb. While class 1 mountains feature clear hiking trails without any need for scrambling, class 2 mountains introduce simple scrambling, where the use of hands may be required for balance and support. Class 2 routes may have less defined trails and present slightly more challenging terrain, although they are still accessible to most hikers with some experience.

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.

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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.

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