The Easiest 14ers in Colorado: 3 Amazing Peaks
Of all the questions asked online about 14ers, this is the most common. “What are the easiest 14ers in Colorado to hike?” Thankfully, the answer is fairly easy to answer: According to my ranking, Handies Peak is the easiest 14er. However, it’s located deep in the San Juan range, far from population centers. For those located in the northern part of the state, I’ve put together several of the easiest 14ers in Colorado, so there’s an option not too far away from you.
How Easy are the Easiest 14ers in Colorado?
While these are the easiest 14ers in Colorado, that does not mean they are easy hikes or good for beginners. Each hike includes more than 2,000 feet of elevation gain, and 5+ miles of hiking on loose, rocky terrain where it is easy to trip and fall. The altitude reduces the amount of oxygen in each breath, further increasing the difficulty of the climb. Don’t attempt these mountains unless you are in shape and prepared for the challenge. Now here are three good options to choose from.
The Easiest 14er in Colorado to Hike: Handies Peak
Handies Peak may be one of the easiest 14ers in Colorado, but there’s still a lot going for this San Juan Range peak. Far from Colorado’s population centers, you’ll find solitude and a good trail on this Class 1 route. You’ll won’t find a shorter route, or one with less elevation gain, than this one! Of all the Colorado 14ers ranked by difficulty, it is the easiest.
If you don’t have four wheel drive and good clearance, you’ll need to add 2 miles roundtrip to your hike. If that’s not possible, consider Quandary Peak lower on the list for your first ascent. However if solitude on the trail is your top priority, there is no better option than Handies Peak. Just be ready for the epic drive to reach the trailhead!
This is the southernmost of the easiest 14ers in Colorado. It’s ideal for those spending time in Telluride, Durango, Silverton, or Lake City. The San Juans are a gorgeous area to explore and well worth your time.
Click here for route info.
The Second Easiest 14er: Grays Peak
Grays Peak is among the most popular 14ers in the state. This make sense as it’s the second easiest peak in the state, and it’s also only an hour drive from the Denver Metro area. You can also add the more difficult Torreys Peak, a Class 2 fourteener, to make this a double ascent day. It only adds about 1.5 miles to bag both of the peaks in a single day. However, it is a very popular mountain, so you will need to get there early to get a parking spot.
Keep in mind that to reach the upper trailhead, you will need four wheel drive and good clearance. Otherwise add 3 miles to your trip, unless you can hitch a ride there or back. The lot here fills very fast, so plan for an early start. Don’t park along the road – you may come back to a ticket on your windshield.
Grays Peak was once the site of a scheme to build a railroad all the way from Denver to the summit of the mountain. While the line was built to Mount Edwards above 13,000 feet across the valley, it never made it all the way to the top.
Click here for route info.
The Third Easiest 14er: Quandary Peak
Quandary’s East Ridge is a classic 14er, and the easiest ridge Route you can take. With rewarding views along the entire route above tree-line, it’s a great first climb. For that reason, it’s also a very busy route. Don’t expect much solitude here. In fact, the county just imposed a new permit requirement for parking along with a free shuttle service from Breckenridge to deal with exploding use of the area. Plan ahead and don’t be taken surprise by these trailhead reegulations.
One of the great things about Quandary is that it provides a harder, Class 3 climb on its opposite West Ridge. If you have friends looking for a bigger challenge, they can start from the West, while you take the easier eastern route. You’ll both be able to meet at the summit and descend via the East Ridge. There are even steep snow climbs on gullies to the North and South. Quandary has something for everyone!
If you are interested in an easy winter fourteener, Quandary Peak is your best bet. Thanks to easy access from the highway, limited avalanche risk, and a short distance, it’s the single best option for your first winter ascent. Just be sure you plan ahead and bring the right gear and clothing.
Click here for the route guide.
Leave No Trace on the Easiest 14ers in Colorado
Many of the easiest 14ers in Colorado are extremely busy peaks that see tens of thousands of visitors every single year. As more people head to these areas, their impact steadily increases as well. Help us conserve and protect these fragile environments for the next generation of hikers, campers, and climbers. Tundra takes 100 years or more to recover once trampled, so take care in the mountains. Here are a few specific tips to keep in mind around the easiest 14ers in Colorado.
- Plan ahead and research your route. Don’t be surprised by what you find in the field.
- Stay on the established trail and avoid creating new campsites.
- Keep dogs leashed, allow uphill hikers to pass, and be kind to others on the trail.
- Carry out your trash, and manage dog and human waste responsibly.
- Respect wildlife by giving them distance, storing your food safely, and not feeding them.
- Minimize campfire impacts by keeping fires small and in pre-established rings, or by skipping the fire entirely.
To learn more about Leave No Trace outdoor ethics, visit the Center’s official website for free resources, tips, and tools from their amazing team. It is a good way to prepare for the easiest 14ers in Colorado. Click here to get startted
Packing for the Easiest 14ers in Colorado
The right gear will go a long way in helping you reach the summit safely and successfully. Start with a good pair of hiking boots, which provide far more ankle support than shoes. A good backpack is also essential for carrying all of your water and gear; day packs for single-day climbs, or backpacking bags for multi-day trips. The ten essentials should round out your gear, including all the core necessities needed to respond proactively to emergencies. They include:
- Navigation gear (maps, route photos, GPS, and compass)
- Headlamp and extra batteries
- Sunscreen and sunglasses
- 2 liters of water per person and a filter or tablet to get more
- Snacks: 1,000 calories per person
- First Aid Kit
- Emergency Shelter, like an Emergency Blanket or Bivy
- Knife or Multi-tool
- Fire-starting tools (matches and tinder)
- Extra clothing layers and rain gear
Don’t forget to dress right for the easiest 14ers in Colorado. Layer your clothing so you can add and detract layers as the weather changes. The conditions on the easiest 14ers in Colorado chance change quickly, so the flexibility will be very helpful out in the mountains.
Mountain Safety Tips and Advice
The mountains can be a dangerous place! Follow these safety best practices to improve your chances of a safe and successful summit.
- Start early and end early to be back below the tree line before afternoon storms become an issue.
- Bring plenty of water and stop for drinks every 30 minutes to stay hydrated.
- Bring the ten essentials with you and never leave them behind.
- Leave your plans with someone back home along with an expected return time.
- Stick to your plans, set and keep a turn-around time.
- Turn around if you experience significant altitude sickness symptoms.
- If you need help, do not hesitate. Call for help.
What are the Easiest 14ers in Colorado to Hike? Now You Know!
Handies, Grays or Quandary Peak – the three easiest 14ers in Colorado to climb. While you asked for one, this gives you three extremely comparable trips, spread throughout three of Colorado’s ranges. If you are looking for more help planning this trip, visit 14ers.com to help out, or visit my 14ers Beginner Guide here. You can also sign up for my Fourteener online course. I cover everything you need to know for a safe and successful first ascent of a Colorado 14,000 foot peak, including any of these three. Safe travels on the trail!