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colorado 14ers ranked by difficulty

Colorado 14ers Ranked by Difficulty: Ultimate Guide

Colorado’s 14ers range in difficulty from easy class one day hikes to overnight class four climbs. This article includes all fifty-eight of the Colorado 14ers ranked by difficulty. The peaks are ranked according to their class difficulty first, and then by elevation gain, distance, and route-finding within each class. This is a good way to plan your 14er trips if you are working to climb them all. You can fast forward to a section using the links below. Here are the Colorado 14ers ranked by difficulty.

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Understanding the Class Rating Scale

Every 14er route is given a class rating based on its difficulty and exposure level. They are the primary way that the 14ers are ranked by difficulty. Here is what each class level means:

  • Class One: Hking on established trails. Learn more about class 1 14ers.
  • Class Two: Easy scrambling over mostly horizontal rocks. Falls are usually inconsequential.
  • Class Three: Scrambling on exposed rocks where a fall might be fatal.
  • Class Four: Difficulty scrambling on steep and exposed rock where a fall is usually fatal.
  • Class Five: Technical climbing (where a rope and harness are used). Falls are nearly always fatal.

Keep these class ratings in mind as you review the list below of all the Colorado 14ers rankings.

Class One Colorado 14ers Ranked

These six 14ers can be hiked on a good trail, all the way to the summit. No scrambling or climbing is necessary. Here are the class 1 Colorado 14ers ranked by difficulty from the least to most difficult.

1) Hiking Handies Peak via Southwest Slopes

Handies Peak is the easiest of all the 14ers when considering class, mileage, and elevation gain, but that’s only if you can make it to the upper 4wD trailhead. Far from Colorado’s population centers, you’ll find solitude and a great hiking trail on this quick class one route. If you are looking for a fourteener that isn’t a huge challenge, and you’re up for a long drive with a 4WD vehicle, this is a great choice.

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2) Hiking Grays Peak via North Slopes

Grays Peak is one of the most popular 14ers in the state. This is because it is a relatively easy class one hike, and only a one hour drive from Denver. If you want to climb Grays Peak during the summer on a weekend, beat the crowd by getting there very early (4-5am) or you will need to hike up from the lower trailhead. I recommend doing it in the autumn when it is much less busy. Most people choose to climb Torreys Peak too as it only adds a mile or so to your trip.

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3) Hiking Quandary Peak via East Ridge

Quandary Peak is a classic 14er just south of Breckenridge. It has one of the easiest ridge-based routes you can climb in Colorado. With rewarding views along the entire route above the tree line, it’s a great first climb. For that reason, it’s also a very busy route. Don’t expect much solitude here. Beginning in 2021, the county instituted a parking reservation and shuttle program so you will need to plan ahead. You can find more info here.

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4) Hiking Mount Elbert via Northeast Ridge

When people read my list of the Colorado 14ers ranked by difficulty, they are often surprised to learn that the state’s tallest peak is also the fourth easiest to climb. While this class one route is a long hike with a 4,700-foot ascent, there are no scrambling sections or technical features to slow you down. If you can hike ten miles, you can make it to the summit of Mount Elbert, the tallest peak in Colorado.

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5) Hiking San Luis Peak via Northeast Ridge

San Luis is a hidden gem deep in the San Juan mountains of southern Colorado. The long 13-mile approach and its isolated location keeps many people away, ensuring you a quiet hiking experience with more solitude than you’ll find on any other class one fourteener. Make sure you take a 4WD high-clearance vehicle to reach this peak, as there are two stream crossings on the road to the trailhead. 

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6) Hiking Pikes Peak via East Slopes

This route may be class one, but it has a longer route with more mileage and elevation gain than any other 14er. For that reason, many people say it is actually quite a difficult ascent that should only be attempted by the experienced. On the plus side, the Summit House at the top sells warm drinks and doughnuts to help you celebrate your climbing success!

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Class Two Colorado 14ers Ranked

These 33 peaks, which make up more than half of all the state’s 14ers, are mostly hikes with short, simple scrambling sections. This involves moving horizontally over rocks with minimal use of your hands. While there’s little risk of serious falls, there is a heightened chance of tripping, twists, and sprains, and you will move more slowly than when hiking along a trail. I also recommend bringing along gloves. The rocks can wear on your hands quickly!

Here are all of the class 2 Colorado 14ers ranked by difficulty.

7) Hiking Mount Sherman via Southwest Ridge

Mt. Sherman is the shortest class two 14er by a longshot. The southwest ridge route also features a number of historic mining structures, including the remains of a multi-muli aerial tramway from the late 1890s and the classic Hilltop Mine. It’s thanks to these old mining roads you can get so close to the peak! 

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3) Hiking Mount Bross via Kite Lake

Mount Bross is the easiest of the four ‘decalibron’ 14ers, including Mount Democrat, Mount Cameron, Mount Lincoln, and Mount Bross. Unfortunately, it has been closed to public access for the past 18 years due to liability concerns among the owners of the mine claims on the summit. There is a bypass trail that comes within a few hundred feet of the summit and this is considered ‘summiting’ the peak for the time being. 

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9) Hiking Mount Cameron via Kite Lake

Mount Cameron is not an officially ranked 14er because it has less than 300 feet of prominence. However, it has an official name and is usually climbed with the rest of the Decalibron group as it is already located along the main route. It has a notably flat top – it is sometimes difficult to figure out where the actual true summit is located. 

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10) Hiking Mount Lincoln via Kite Lake

Mount Lincoln is the third Decalibron fourteener and one of the more rugged of the four peaks. It was heavily mined during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and you can still see some of the mining works while standing up on the summit. The only way to climb Mount Lincoln is by climbing up and over Mount Bross or Mount Democrat first, so it is a bigger commitment than them.

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11) Hiking Mount Bierstadt via West Slopes

Mount Bierstadt is the second closest 14er to the Denver Metro and one of the easiest class two peaks. However, it is one of the busiest peaks on my list of the Colorado 14ers ranked by difficulty. I would recommend hiking Mount Bierstadt in the fall season or during a week day when the trail is less busy. If you do go on a weekend, get there before dawn to find a parking spot at Guanella Pass.

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12) Hiking Mount Democrat via West Slopes

Mount Democrat is the fourth and final Decalibron 14er and the hardest of them to climb alone. It’s a steep and sustained climb up the east face of Mount Democrat, so take your time and maintain a slow and steady pace to preserve your energy. I recommend doing all four of the peaks rather than just one or two of them as the views along this alpine route are spectacular for most of the hike.

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13) Hiking Torreys Peak via South Slopes

Torreys Peak is connected to Grays Peak by a short class two traverse along a ridge. It is an easy opportunity to snag a second fourteener while hiking Grays Peak. The route holds snow into July, so bring some microspikes if you go hiking it during June or early July. The local sheriff is cracking down on parking along the road, so get there early or you will need to hike up to the upper trailhead and add several miles to your ascent.

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14) Hiking Huron Peak via Northwest Slopes

The standard route to the summit of Huron Peak is one of the prettiest hikes on this list. It is one of the easiest Colorado 14ers ranked by difficulty, so people of most ability and experience levels can enjoy the views for themselves. There are also a number of old mining towns nearby like Vicksburg to explore on your way home after finishing your ascent.

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15) Hiking Culebra Peak via Northwest Ridge

Culebra Peak has the distinction of being the only 14er that is entirely privately owned in all directions. However, you are still able to climb it legally – you just need to pay a fee, currently around $100-$150, and reserve a date for your climb in advance. In return, you’ll get a bush-whacking experience – there is no trail on this class two peak – with lots of rare 14er solitude.

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16) Hiking Mount Princeton via East Slopes

Culebra Peak has the distinction of being the only 14er that is entirely privately owned in all directions. However, you are still able to climb it legally – you just need to pay a fee, currently around $100-$150, and reserve a date for your climb in advance. In return, you’ll get a bush-whacking experience – there is no trail on this class two peak – with lots of rare 14er solitude.

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17) Hiking Redcloud Peak via Northeast Ridge

The San Juan mountains are more rugged than the northern mountains. Redcloud Peak is one of the rare class two 14ers in this part of Colorado. It is usually climbed together with Sunlight Peak which is nearby and adds about a mile and a half to the total route distance. There are great campgrounds in the area to stay the night before your hike, which I recommend to help with acclimation.

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18) Hiking Mount Evans via Summit Lake

Mount Evans is the closest 14er to Denver. It is one of two 14ers that you can drive up, as there is a road leading to the summit and to Summit Lake where this route begins. You have to pay a small fee to the Forest Service to use the road and a reservation is required during the summer season. An alternative way to climb it is via Mount Bierstadt by taking the sawtooth ridge – but that is a more serious class three route.

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19) Hiking Mount Belford via Northwest Ridge

Mount Belford is a fantastic 14er in the Sawatch Range and is a great introduction to mid-difficulty 14ers. It can be climbed individually or you can add Mount Oxford on to climb two peaks in one day. This area is especially gorgeous in the autumn when the aspen leaves begin to change and turn red and yellow. There are some great ghost towns around as well to visit and explore.

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20) Hiking Uncompahgre Peak via South Ridge

Uncompahgre Peaks is one of the most distinctively shaped 14ers in the state due to its sediment layers. It is another great class two peak in the San Juans, which is more rugged than other parts of the state. It is named after a band of the Ute Native American tribe which originally called Colorado home before European colonization began in the 15th century.

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21) Hiking Mount Shavano via East Slopes

Mount Shavano is named after a Ute Chief from the 19th century when this was their home. There is a famous snowfield on its east slope known as the Angel of Shavano because it looks like the figure of a women with wings. You can climb it on its own or continue on to Tabeguache Peak if you want to summit them both in a single day of hiking and scrambling.

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22) Hiking Humboldt Peak via West Ridge

Humboldt Peak is the easiest 14er to climb in the rugged Sangre de Christo range in south-central Colorado. These peaks rise dramatically over the San Luis Valley and are rugged, with many class three and four routes. Humboldt includes tamer terrain, but a long eleven-mile approach hike that makes it an ideal overnight adventure. Plan on camping around South Colony Lake and hiking to the summit the following morning for the best experience. 

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23) Hiking Mount Columbia via West Slopes

Climbing Mount Columbia includes a long approach hike, followed by a nitty scramble up an 800-foot gully. Make sure you’re competent at route-finding before you try to hike up this Collegiate Peak. You can also choose to climb it along with Mount Harvard which is just a bit further up along the ridge. Beware of the traverse between them, which is long and involves losing and regaining more than 1,500 feet of elevation.

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24) Hiking Mount Yale via Southwest Slopes

Mt. Yale is known as a great training peak to prepare to take on harder 14ers later on. It is only one foot shorter than nearby Mt. Princeton, so alumni from the two schools used to carry rocks up to the summit to raise the official summit elevation and attempt to overtake the other! This is also a good peak for the spring and fall as the trailhead remains accessible and open all year long.

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25) Hiking La Plata Peak via Northwest Ridge

La Plata translates to “the silver” in Spanish. The peak is named after the major silver deposits in the area that were mined during the late 19th century before the price of silver crashed. While the standard route is a relatively straight-forward class two scramble, you can also climb it using the class three scramble along Ellingwood Ridge – though this is a tougher route best for experienced climbers.

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26) Hiking Sunshine Peak via Redcloud Peak

Sunshine Peak is the next-door neighbor of Redcloud Peak in the southern San Juan mountains Since both 14ers are class two scrambles, this route is a great opportunity to knock out two 14ers on a single trip – which is rare in the San Juan range. With just one foot to spare, Sunshine Peak is also the shortest 14er in the state with a recorded elevation of 14,001 feet.

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27) Hiking Missouri Mountain via Northwest Ridge

From here on out, the mountains are difficult class two climbs, including Missouri Mountain. While it does not have any class three terrain yet, this 14er has more exposure and slightly more difficult scrambling than the other class two routes on this list. It is an inflection point – the list of the Colorado 14ers ranked by difficulty gets more serious and dangerous from here on out. Work up to a mountain like this instead of trying to climb it as a beginner.

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28) Hiking Mount Massive via East Slopes

Mount Massive is a very appropriately named peak – it is truly a massive mountain. It has more area above 14,000 feet than any other 14er in the contiguous United States, narrowly beating Mount Rainier. The East Slopes route is perfect for an overnight backpacking trip, with numerous campsites near creek crossings below the tree line. Spend a full weekend in the area to knock out Mount Elbert too.

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29) Hiking Mount Oxford via Mount Belford

Mt. Oxford is a tempting peak to bag, as it is only one and a half miles beyond Mount Belford. However, 5,800 feet of elevation gain is a LOT to climb in a single day. Don’t take on this double-peak adventure without a solid amount of experience and the right preparation and gear. Of the 58 Colorado 14ers ranked by difficulty, Mount Oxford is the 29th easiest, halfway through the list.

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30) Hiking Tabeguache Peak via Mount Shavano

Now that we are all the easier options on our list of the Colorado 14ers ranked by difficulty, things get harder. Once you climb Mount Shavano, you can add another two miles round-trip to climb Tabeguache Peak as well. Make sure you check the weather before you commit to this long trek – there are very few options for descending if the weather turns on you. Also, stay on route, as several groups have tried to descend via shortcuts that led them into dangerous situations.

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31) Hiking Mount Antero via West Slopes

The west slope route up Mount Antero follows an old backcountry mining road to approximately 13,800 feet, just shy of the summit. The long route is the result of numerous switchbacks – this isn’t the most direct route to the top. If you want a quieter route option with less vehicle traffic and more of a trail, look into the Little Brown Creek alternative. It is a bit longer but provides far more solitude.

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32) Hiking Mount Harvard via South Slopes

Mount Harvard is the tallest of the ‘Collegiate Peaks,’ a subgroup within the Sawatch Range of 14ers named after prominent universities like Princeton, Yale, Oxford, and Columbia. I recommend taking two days to hike Mount Harvard given it is a 14-mile trip. If you have more time, consider adding Mount Columbia to your itinerary – but beware of the traverse between the two, which has loose, exposed rock. Better to descend and re-ascend through the terrain to the east.

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33) Hiking Mount of the Holy Cross via North Ridge

In the early days of Colorado’s colonization, Mount of the Holy Cross was identified as a religious icon and place for pilgrimage due to the large white cross that forms from the snow on its east face. There are numerous routes up this 14er: The North Ridge route is the most direct, while the Halo Ridge alternative is longer but provides more stunning views of the peaks and surrounding area.

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34) Hiking Conundrum Peak via South Ridge

Conundrum Peak is the easiest 14er in the Elk Mountains – but that does not mean it is easy. With a 13.5-mile approach hike and difficult class two scrambling, it is a tough climb, but still the easiest introduction to this very dangerous mountain range. I highly recommend climbing Conundrum Peak as your first climb in this area. Bring an ice axe if you climb in the early summer as there is snow on the route late into the summer. 

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35) Hiking Castle Peak via South Ridge

Castle Peak is a small step up from its sister Conundrum Peak, with an additional two hundred feet of elevation gain. You can make these routes a bit easier if you have a 4WD vehicle with high clearance to make it to the end of the rough mining road. This can shave off several miles and a thousand feet or so of elevation gain. You can climb Castle and Conundrum together or on separate climbs – it depends on your experience, level of fitness, and conditions in the field.

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36) Hiking Challenger Point via North Slope

Challenger Point was named to honor the crew of the Challenger space shuttle after it exploded during a mission. The name is fitting as this climb is definitely a challenge, even for fit and experienced climbers. The route heads straight up the north face of the mountain, with lots of loose sections of talus and scree, so it can become quite a slog. I recommend backpacking up to the camping areas near Willow Lake and then summiting the following day. You can add Kit Carson Peak too if you have enough time and energy left.

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37) Hiking Windom Peak via West Ridge

Windom Peak is located deep in the wilderness of the San Juan Mountains. To avoid a 50-mile round-trip backpacking approach, you can get a ticket with the Silverton Railroad and get dropped off at Needleton. From there, it is a 6-mile hike to the Chicago Basin, where Windom Peak and three other 14ers await you. Windom is the easiest of the four, but with considerable exposure and rockfall risk, be mindful of the risk on this 14er as help is a long way away.

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38) Hiking Ellingwod Point via South Face

Ellingwood Point is named after Albert Russell Ellingwood, who made dozens of first ascents in Colorado and Wyoming. Ellingwood Point is slightly easier than its taller neighbor Blanca Peak. Attempting to summit both of these peaks in a single day is a significant challenge, to say the least. Start early and consider spending the night at Lake Como if this is your goal. Also, come in a 4WD vehicle with good clearance to get as high up as possible before you park and start hiking.

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39) Hiking Blanca Peak via Northwest Ridge

Blanca Peak is significant for several reasons: It is one of the four sacred peaks of the Navajo Nation that traditionally mark the boundaries of their territory. It is also the tallest peak in southern Colorado, including the San Juans and the Sangre de Christo mountain ranges. Last, it is the toughest class two option among the Colorado 14ers ranked by difficulty. Take your time working up to this peak, and consider climbing it separately from Ellingwood Point so you do not push yourself too hard.

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Class Three Colorado 14ers Ranked

These thirteen peaks introduce vertical climbing to the list of obstacles you’ll face. On some routes, there are also significant areas of exposure and cliffs. Most third class climbing is relatively simple, and usually the rock is stable, so the scrambling itself is not difficult, but the exposure can be difficult to handle. To prepare for this level of climbing, spend time scrambling on class two 14ers. Also, you might consider visiting an indoor climbing gym to get used to exposure.

Here are all of the class three Colorado 14ers ranked by difficulty:

40) Climbing Mount Sneffels via South Slopes

If you have access to a four-wheel drive vehicle, Mount Sneffels is an ideal choice for your first class three 14er. It has less than 3,000 feet of elevation gain from the upper trailhead and just six miles round-trip. Most of the upper climb is spent scrambling up a gully before your turn sharply left for the final ascent up its southeast face. The only downside is the long distance from Denver – it is a 5-6 hour drive to reach the trailhead. 

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41) Climbing Mount Lindsey via NW Gully

Mount Lindsey is temporarily closed to public access due to liability concerns among the landowners. Please respect the closure while we work with partners like the Colorado Mountain Club and Colorado Fourteeners Initiative to re-secure access by changing state law to provide more protections for property owners who provide public access. The Northwest Gully is the best route when there is snow on the ground. When it is clear you might consider taking the northwest ridge route instead.

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42) Climbing Kit Carson Peak via Challenger Point

Named after one of the most well known figures of the Wild West, Kit Carson Peak is a massive mountain of granite that somewhat resembles a large dome. The climb requires coming up and over at least one other 14er, which makes is the toughest aspect of the ascent. The class three terrain is relatively tame and short, making it another good option for your first class three – albeit one with a much longer approach hike than others.

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43) Climbing Wetterhorn Peak via Southeast Ridge

I have heard several experienced climbers claim that Wetterhorn is the best overall 14er experience in the entire state of Colorado. It has a perfect mix: The approach hike is relatively short, the quality of the rock is solid, the class three scrambling is exciting but not particularly dangerous or difficult, and the setting in the southern San Juans is spectacular and often quiet compared to the Front Range. It is my personal favorite of all of the Colorado 14ers ranked by difficulty on this list.

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44) Climbing Longs Peak via Keyhole

More people have died climbing Longs Peak than any other mountain in Colorado. This is partially because it is extremely busy due to its proximity to Denver and location in Rocky Mountain National Park, but it is also because of the exposed sections, nasty weather conditions, and difficult class three scrambling. Bring a buddy and start early if you plan to climb Longs Peak: 2am is a good target for leaving the trailhead for most hikers and climbers.

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45) Climbing Wilson Peak via Southwest Ridge

Wilson Peak is known for its exposure and excellent class-three terrain for scrambling. Don’t try to tackle this mountain unless you really know what you’re doing. You should be comfortable ascending through steep cliffs, navigating in rugged conditions, and downclimbing 50 or more feet. On my list of the Colorado 14ers ranked by difficulty, it definitely deserves a spot near the top.

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46) Climbing North Eolus via South Ridge

North Eolus is another of the four Chicago Basin 14ers – the most isolated group of 14ers to reach in the state of Colorado. It is a subsidiary peak of the taller 14er, Mount Eolus. It is the easiest class three climb among the four peaks in the area – only Windom Peak is easier. It is almost always climbed at the same time as Mount Eolus, which is very close; It only adds 30 minutes or so to add it to your route and climb both of these Colorado 14ers ranked by difficulty.

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47) Climbing Mount Eolus via Northeast Ridge

Mount Eolus is slightly taller than North Eolus, making it the ‘parent peak’ between the two. The mountain is named after the Greek God of the wind – a reference to the powerful wind gusts you may experience above the tree line. As class three climbs go, this is the last one I would classify as being on the easier side of things. Check out my route guide below for more info on this peak and the rest of the Colorado 14ers ranked by difficulty.

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48) Climbing El Diente Peak via North Slopes

The route to the summit of El Diente Peak is very difficult to navigate and is best climbed in the early summer when there is still snow along the north slope gully. If the snow has melted, consider climbing from the south instead, as that alternative is less loose when there’s no snow. El Diente Peak is another unranked 14er because it lacks 300 feet of prominence, but most climbers summit it anyway since it is so close to Mount Wilson and Wilson Peak.

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49) Climbing Crestone Peak via South Face

Crestone Peak is the easier of the two peaks known as ‘the Crestones’ along with Crestone Needle. It is a tough ascent, combing a gruelling 7-mile approach hike with challenging class three scrambling. You also need to re-climb over Broken Hand Pass on your descent which can feel extremely defeating. I would recommend taking two days to climb Crestone Peak with a night at South Colony Lakes before you make your ascent to the summit.

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50) Climbing Maroon Peak via South Ridge

Considered one of the most beautiful mountains in Colorado, the Maroon Bells are also some of the most deadly. While Maroon Peak is considered a class three climb, it has a ton of loose and rotten rock that creates a high level of rockfall risk. Wear a helmet along this route, test each handhold before your trust it with your life, and do what you can to be prepared before you go. 

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51) Climbing Crestone Needle via South Face

The Crestone Needle was the last Colorado 14er to be successfully climbed, more than 50 years after the first ascent of Pikes Peak and Longs Peak. It is a difficult scramble with complex route-finding, significant exposure, and a long 18-mile distance. This is one of the most common sites for search-and-rescue missions. Don’t be another statistic: Take time to research the route thoroughly before you go and prepare properly for a climb of this magnitude. 

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52) Climbing Snowmass Mountain via East Slope

Snowmass has the rare distinction of being the only one of the Colorado 14ers ranked by difficulty that usually requires an ice axe and crampons to safely ascend. The large snowfield on its east slope sticks around into August most years, which means you need snow climbing skills and gear to reach the summit. Combined with class three scrambling along the summit ridge and a 22-mile distance, this makes Snowmass one of the most difficult class three 14ers in the state.

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Class Four Colorado 14ers Ranked

The six class four peaks are not to be trifled with. They challenge climbers with steep, exposed routes with loose rock, difficult navigation, and nasty rockfall. Many have died trying to climb these six 14ers. Take your time preparing for these climbs, go with someone experienced, and make sure you’re comfortable with heights and exposure beforehand. Here are the class four Colorado 14ers ranked by difficulty.

53) Climbing North Maroon Peak via Northeast Ridge

With a relatively short route and elevation gain, North Maroon Peak is the choice of many to introduce themselves to class four peaks. It’s more difficult than the standard Maroon Peak route, and rotten rock is a major concern. Test each handhold before you put your weight on it and always wear a helmet. North Maroon Peak and the rest of these mountains have earned a place high among the Colorado 14ers ranked by difficulty.

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54) Climbing Pyramid Peak via Northeast Ridge

Pyramid Peak offers gorgeous views of the Maroon Bells across the valley. However, the standard route to the top is difficult, dangerous, and not for the faint of heart. Be mindful of your route-finding, as there are many cairns along the route’s upper reaches that can misguide you and lead you into dangerous, exposed terrain. Pyramid Peak is one of the most challenging peaks on this list.

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55) Climbing Mount Wilson via North Slopes

Like El Diente Peak, you can climb Mount Wilson from the Rock of Ages or Navajo Basin trailheads. Navigation and route-finding in this area can be very confusing, and you can easily end up in class five terrain. Take time to study maps and pictures of the route before you attempt a climb, or bring someone who’s gone before to assist you with route-finding. Rockfall is also a big issue on Mount Wilson, so take your time and wear a helmet. 

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56) Climbing Sunlight Peak via South Face

Sunlight is one of the few peaks to be rated as having “Extreme” exposure. If you don’t do well around heights, don’t try this one. The summit block itself requires a highly exposed series of class 4 climbs to reach the top. It’s the fourth and final Chicago Basin Peak. Stay safe!

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57) Climbing Little Bear Peak via West Ridge and Southwest Face

Little Bear Peak is anything but little. It’s famous for the Hourglass Gully – a steep, loose route that has claimed numerous lives. Many people choose to climb this Class 4 peak in the spring when it’s possible to kick steps in snow up the gully. Wait a long time until you’re prepared enough for this challenge.

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58) Climbing Capitol Peak via Northeast Ridge

Capitol is well-named. Considering all the Colorado 14ers ranked by difficulty, it is by far the biggest challenge. A long, arduous approach hike, a mile of elevation gain, and notoriously loose and rotten rock make it a challenge for even experienced climbers. The crux includes the Knife’s Edge, a 100-foot section crossing a sharp rock ridge with steep drop-offs either way. Stay safe!

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There you have it – all of the Colorado 14ers ranked by difficulty. Use the guide to help pick your next climb, or chart out your route to climb all the state’s 14ers. Do you have your own list of colorado 14ers ranked by difficulty? Share a comment or send us a message with your thoughts!

Colorado 14ers Ranked by Difficulty: Factors to Consider

To create this list of the Colorado 14ers ranked by difficulty, I considered three different aspects of each climb: 

  1. the total distance of each route in miles
  2. the total elevation gained during each route in feet
  3. The climbing class rating (class 1-4)

The result in an objective way to compare the 58 peaks and create an accurate list of the Colorado 14ers ranked by difficulty without subjectivity. However, it is important to remember that many 14ers have unique attributes or challenges that aren’t captured in these statistics. For example, Snowmass Mountain requires ice axe and crampon skills, and Little Bear Peak has a high level of rockfall risk that isn’t captured in this data. 

Keep this in mind when planning a 14er trip. Do your research before deciding to climb any of the 14ers – especially class three and four routes.

Frequently Asked Questions

The easiest 14er to climb in Colorado is Handies Peak – but only if you can drive all the way to the upper trailhead. Otherwise, the route becomes much longer. The easiest 14er near Denver is Grays Peak, but it is much busier due to its location. Mount Sherman is another very easy 14er. It is a bit closer to Denver than Handies Peak but is not nearly as busy as Grays Peak.

Capitol Peak is considered by most climbers to be the hardest 14er in Colorado due to its long distance, difficult class four climbing, exposed ridge, and the loose and rotten rock that breaks away without notice. There are high-profile deaths on Capitol Peak almost every year – do not attempt to climb it without experience and planning. Other very difficult 14ers include Little Bear Peak, Pyramid Peak, and the Maroon Bells. 

Someone who does not have training or experience with 14ers can climb one, but should start with a class one 14er to have the best experience and chance of success. As you gain experience you can progress to class two, three, and four routes too – no formal training is usually necessary if you work your way up gradually over time.

A beginner to hiking can definitely climb a 14er with the right gear, preparation, and attitude. Choosing a class one 14er will give you the best chance possible of reaching the summit successfully. 

Colorado 14ers Ranked by Difficulty: Ultimate Guide

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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14er Planner

Download my Colorado 14ers Planner for Your Next Summit!

Subscribe and get my free planner with all 58 peaks in the perfect climbing order.

14er Planner

Download my Colorado 14ers Planner for Your Next Summit!

Become a subscriber to download my free 14er planner. It lists all 58 peaks in the perfect climbing order. Get it now & start planning!