What is a 14er? An Intro to America’s Most Spectacular Mountains

“Let’s bag a 14er this weekend!” If this phrase has ever confused you and left you wondering, “what is a 14er,” don’t worry. If you’re not from Colorado it’s normal not to know the lingo. A 14er is a mountain with an elevation of 14,000 feet or more. It is especially common in the western United States, where ninety distinct peaks cross this threshold. Colorado is home to fifty-four of these ranked peaks, more than any other state, and many people attempt to climb them all. Most take years or decades to accomplish this goal, while others manage to do it in just a year or two. Here’s a complete answer to the question “What is a 14er?” 

What is a 14er? Definitions and Requirements

The United States Geological Survey sets standards for measuring and classifying mountains in the United States. To officially consider a peak a 14er, it must have a minimum elevation of 14,000 feet and at least 300 feet of topographic prominence. Here’s what both of those requirements mean.

Minimum Elevation of 14,000 feet

This is the more obvious of the two requirements. A 14er must be at least 14,000 feet tall. Some people consider any mountain above this threshold a 14er, while others only apply the name to mountains ranging from 14,000 to 14,999 feet. There is no official designation.

Minimum Prominence of 300 feet

The second rule refers to prominence, which measures how high a peak rises above its lowest connecting point with the closest taller summit. If a peak does not rise at least 300 feet above the saddle, it is considered a sub-peak rather than an independent 14er.

Unofficial and Unranked Fourteeners

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of fourteeners that meet the minimum elevation rule, but do not have enough prominence. These are called unranked peaks because they are not officially included in elevation rankings. Most people do not climb these peaks, and most do not have official names. However, there are five Colorado unranked fourteeners that still have official names for historical reasons: Mount Cameron, El Diente Peak, North Eolus, North Maroon Peak, and Conundrum Peak. 

List of the Fourteeners in the Lower 48 States

While Alaska is home to a number of 14ers, most of them are inaccessible and rarely visited or climbed. Several do not even have official names yet. Therefore the list below focuses on 14,000 foot peaks in the lower 48 states, mostly Colorado and California. If I have a route guide for the peak, a link to it is included. Hopefully this clearly demonstrates what is a 14er.

Mount Whitney is the tallest fourteener in the lower 48 states. It’s also the tallest peak in the Sierra Nevada. However the main route is a class one hike so it gets a lot of visits and climbs. You now need a permit to reach its summit.

Mt Whitney route guide

Mount Elbert is the tallest fourteener in Colorado and the entire Rocky Mountain range. It is also a class one hike, despite its great heigh and elevation.

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: Sawatch Range
  • Elevation: 14,440 feet
  • Route: Northeast Ridge

Mount Massive might not be the tallest fourteener, but it has more area above 14K than any other peak in the country (hence its name). It overlooks the historic mining town of Leadville and the headwaters of the Arkansas River.

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: Sawatch Range
  • Elevation: 14,428 feet
  • Route: East Slopes

Just seven feet shorter than its taller cousin, Mount Harvard is the tallest summit of the Collegiate Peaks, a group named after prominent universities and their researchers who climbed and named them.

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: Sawatch Range
  • Elevation: 14,421 feet
  • Route: South Slopes

Mt Harvard Route Guide

Mount Rainier is the most technical 14er in the lower 48 due to its significant glaciation. It is also the tallest volcano on the list, and the tallest summit in the Cascade Range. It takes special gear and skill to reach this summit safely.

  • State: Washington State
  • Range: Cascade Range
  • Elevation: 14,417 feet
  • Route: Disapointment Cleaver

Mount Williamson is among the most difficult 14ers to reach in California. The 11 mile one-way hike involves nearly 8,000 feet of elevation gain through rugged terrain with plenty of scrambling over rocky talus. It’s a trip best saved for experienced mountaineers.

  • State: California
  • Range: Sierra Nevada
  • Elevation: 14,379 feet
  • Route: West Face

Blanca Peak is the tallest of the four sacred peaks of the Navajo Nation, and the fourth tallest summit in the Rocky Mountains. It can be climbed in one long day or as an overnight backpacking trip with a base camp at Lake Como.

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: Sangre de Christo Mountains
  • Elevation: 14,351 feet
  • Route: Northwest Ridge

La Plata means ‘the silver in Spanish’ and is located in the historic heart of the silver and gold rush region of central Colorado. It has easier class 2 routes and a more challenging class 3 climb along Ellingwood Ridge.

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: Sawatch Range
  • Elevation: 14,343 feet
  • Route: Northwest Ridge

Uncompahgre Peak has a layered appearance that is quite unique among the 14ers. It demonstrates how varied the answer can be to the question ‘what is a 14er?’ 

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: San Juan Range
  • Elevation: 14,321 feet
  • Route: South Ridge

Crestone Peak is a rugged peak located in southern Colorado. It is one of the more difficult 14ers in the state with a long approach hike and a class three scramble to the summit.

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: Sangre de Christo Range
  • Elevation: 14,300 feet
  • Route: South Face

Mount Lincoln is a heavily mined 14er and part of the Decalibron group. Many parts of the mountain are still privately owned mining claims, so the only open route to the summit is the Kite Lake route.

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: Mosquito Range
  • Elevation: 14,293 feet
  • Route: Via Kite Lake

Castle Peak is the only official 14er in the Elk Range that isn’t a class 3 or 4 climb. This makes it a good introductory climb in this difficult and dangerous mountain range, with plenty of exposure and route-finding to keep things interesting

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: Elk Range
  • Elevation: 14,279 feet
  • Route: Northeast Ridge

Castle Peak

Grays Peak is among the most popular 14ers in the state. If you’re asking ‘what is a 14er’ you might think of Grays Peak as one of the most well-known and well hiked examples. It’s only an hour drive away from Denver and is a class one hike to summit.

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: Front Range
  • Elevation: 14,278 feet
  • Route: North Slopes

Mount Antero is a Sawatch Range fourteener and one of the only peaks with active mining operations ongoing near its summit. A mining road takes you up to just a few hundred feet short of the summit, but it requires 4WD and high clearance to drive safely that high.

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: Sawatch Range
  • Elevation: 14,276 feet
  • Route: West Slopes

Mt Antero Route Guide

Torreys Peak is the sister peak of Grays Peak. Most people who hike Grays choose to scramble across the connecting ridge to summit Torreys Peak as well. The class three Kelso Ridge route is also a popular way to climb this mountain.

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: Front Range
  • Elevation: 14,275 feet
  • Route: South Slopes

Quandary Peak is the most popular of all the fourteeners. It is an easy scramble and close to Breckenridge, which makes it extremely busy during the summer. A new shuttle and parking permit program is working to manage the numbers and preserve the mountain’s wilderness character. I recommend a weekday visit in September rather than a weekend in July or August.

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: Tenmile Range
  • Elevation: 14,271 feet
  • Route: East Ridge

Mount Evans is the closest fourteener to Denver, clearly visible over the city skyline on any clear day. A road reaches the summit along with several hiking and climbing routes, and Mount Bierstadt is less than a mile away separated by the West Ridge and Sawtooth Arete. Climbing both peaks is a fun class three challenge for experienced individuals.

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: Front Range
  • Elevation: 14,271 feet
  • Route: Via Summit Lake

Longs Peak is the deadliest fourteener in terms of the overall number of deaths. This is not because it is the most difficult or dangerous (it isn’t). Rather, it is because the peak is in a very popular national park and has many unprepared individuals attempting to climb it. Take care and plan ahead if you choose to take the risk.

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: Front Range
  • Elevation: 14,259 feet
  • Route: Keyhole Route

Mount Wilson is one of the two Wilson Group peaks, an isolated sub-range of the San Juans known for long approach hikes, serious exposure and significant risk of rockfall. Wear a helmet on these peaks!

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: San Juan Range
  • Elevation: 14,252 feet
  • Route: North Slopes

White Mountain Peak is the only class one fourteener in California. It actually has a road that leads to a research station near the summit. It is a great introduction to the California fourteeners, which tend to be more difficult than those in Colorado.

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: White Mountains
  • Elevation: 14,252 feet
  • Route: Jeep Road

North Palisade is a difficult class four/five climb in the California Sierra Nevada. This technical route is the goal of many aspiring mountaineers, with significant exposure and risk along the way.

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: Sierra Nevada
  • Elevation: 14,248 feet
  • Route: West Route

Mount Shavano is home to the mythical Angel of Shavano, a snowfield that forms the image of a winged woman each spring. Indigenous people believed it was the mother of the mountain who produced the spring snowmelt for the valleys below. It is an excellent snow climb for beginners.

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: Sawatch Range
  • Elevation: 14,231 feet
  • Route: East Slopes

Mount Princeton stands dramatically over Buena Vista (the town’s name means beautiful view, likely a reference to Princeton). This class two scramble is a bit of a slog, so bring plenty of patience with you if you want to summit it.

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: Sawatch Range
  • Elevation: 14,204 feet
  • Route: East Slopes

Mount Belford is the first of the Missouri Gulch fourteeners on the list. They can be linked together for one mega-trip or done as two separate hikes. Belford also has an optional gully snow climb that can be done during the late spring and early summer months. Continue over the summit to reach Mount Oxford beyond.

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: Sawatch Range
  • Elevation: 14,203 feet
  • Route: Northeast Ridge

The Crestone Needle was the last of Colorado’s fourteeners to be climbed, in the 1930s. While the climbing is only class three, there are numerous navigation and route-finding challenges that can lead you into more dangerous and exposed terrain. Rescues on the Needle are very common.

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: Sangre de Christo Range
  • Elevation: 14,203 feet
  • Route: South Face

Mount Yale is another Collegiate Peak and one of the most accessible fourteeners. The trailhead is along a major state highway, which is a rarity, and the class two route is ideal for those training for bigger climbs and expeditions.

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: Sawatch Range
  • Elevation: 14,200 feet
  • Route: Click here

Mt Yale Route Guide

Mount Shasta is one of just a few volcano fourteeners. It’s the northernmost fourteener in California and requires an ice axe, crampons, and snow climbing skills along its main route up Avalanche Gulch. It is a great introduction to expedition-style climbing.

  • State: California
  • Range: Cascade Range
  • Elevation: 14,179 feet
  • Route: Avalanche Gulch

Mount Bross is one of two fourteeners on this list currently closed to public access. The summit is composed of several privately owned mining claims, although a bypass trail skirts by the top on public land. It is one of the four Decalibron peaks near Alma, Colorado.

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: Mosquito Range
  • Elevation: 14,178 feet
  • Route: Via Kite Lake

Mount Bross is closed

Kit Carson Peak is a easy class three climb, but it takes a lot to reach it. You first must climb over Challenger Point, which is a tough class two scramble in and of itself. Be extra cautious in spring and early summer when the route has ice and is very slippery and dangerous.

The Maroon Bells (Maroon Peak and North Maroon Peak) are the most photographed mountains in the state of Colorado. They’re beautiful but deadly due to their loose and rotten mud rock that can crumble without warning and send you sliding down the mountainside.

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: Elk Range
  • Elevation: 14,163 feet
  • Route: South Ridge

Maroon Peak

Tabeguache Peak is named after the Ute Tribe of Colorado. While the climbing never exceeds class two, you need to scramble up and over Mount Shavano to reach it, making this a long and tiring adventure.

You have to climb over Mount Belford in order to get to Mount Oxford. Otherwise, it’s not a very unique Sawatch fourteener.

Mount Sill is a California 14er in the shape of a large thumb. It is named after Edward Rowland Sill, a poet and teacher in the Oakland area and at the University of California. It’s an easily identifable peak due to its shape.

  • State: California
  • Range: Sierra Nevada
  • Elevation: 14,159 feet
  • Route: click here

Mount Sneffels appears on the back of all Colorado driver’s licenses and is a well-known, rugged fourteener. The class three routes to the summit include some of the state’s best ski mountaineering options.

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: San Juan Range
  • Elevation: 14,158 feet
  • Route: South Slopes

Mt Sneffels Route Guide

Mount Democrat is another of the four decalibron peaks. It is home to many old mining remains, some of which are in danger of collapsing. While much of the mountain is privately owned, access is allowed at the present time.

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: Mosquito Range
  • Elevation: 14,155 feet
  • Route: Via Kite Lake

Capitol Peak is one of Colorado’s most dangerous 14ers. Featured at the top of this article, it is infamous for its loose, rotten rock and the exposed knifed edge ridge that leads up to the summit.

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: Elk Range
  • Elevation: 14,137 feet
  • Route: Northeast Ridge

Liberty Cap is a sub-peak along the rim of Mount Rainier, however it rises more than 300 feet and is thus considered an independent peak. Most people who climb to this point do so along the difficult Liberty Ridge route that includes a mix of rock, snow, and ice climbing.

  • State: Washington State
  • Range: Cascade Range
  • Elevation: 14,118 feet
  • Route: Liberty Ridge

Known as America’s Mountain, Pikes Peak is likely the most famous of the fourteeners. When people ask me ‘what is a 14er’ Pikes Peak is usually the first example that comes to mind.

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: Front Range
  • Elevation: 14,115 feet
  • Route: Barr Trail

Pikes Peak Route Guide

Snowmass Mountain gets its name from the large snowfield on its flank. It is one of the only Colorado fourteeners that requires an ice axe and crampons to climb along its standard route.

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: Elk Range
  • Elevation: 14,099 feet
  • Route: East Slopes

Mount Russell is just a few miles from Mount Whitney, but it gets a lot less attention thanks to its shorter height. It features exposed class three scrambling on solid rock and is a favorite choice among California mountaineers.

  • State: California
  • Range: Sierra Nevada
  • Elevation: 14,094 feet
  • Route: East Ridge

Windom Peak is one of the four Chicago Basin fourteeners, which are some of the most isolated fourteeners in Colorado. Most people have to take a ten mile train ride just to reach the isolated wilderness trailhead at Needleton.

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: San Juan Range
  • Elevation: 14,093 feet
  • Route: Click here

Windom Peak route guide

Mount Eolus is another Chicago Basin fourteener. It is more difficult than Windom with significantly more exposure to deal with on the route.

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: San Juan Range
  • Elevation: 14,090 feet
  • Route:

Challenger Point was named in honor of the crew of the Challenger space shuttle after it exploded. It’s a tough climb that many people do in two days with an overnight stop at Willow Lake (my favorite Alpine Lake in Colorado!).

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: Sangre de Christo Range
  • Elevation: 14,087 feet
  • Route: Click here

Mount Columbia is another Collegiate Peak in the Sawatch Range of Colorado. It is often climbed together with Mount Harvard nearby.

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: Sawatch Range
  • Elevation: 14,077 feet
  • Route: Click here

Missouri Mountain is one of the Missouri Gulch fourteeners. It is a class 2+ route with a little bit of exposure near the summit.

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: Sawatch Range
  • Elevation: 14,074 feet
  • Route: Click here

Humboldt Peak is named after Alexander Von Humboldt, and early scientist and mountaineer who made many first ascents in the Andes of South America. It is one of the few relatively easy summits in the rugged Sangre de Christo mountains.

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: Sangre de Christo Range
  • Elevation: 14,070 feet
  • Route: West Ridge

Mount Bierstadt is just an hour drive away from Denver, which makes it an extremely busy fourteener destination. It is an easy class two scramble, with more difficult alternatives for those who are ready for them.

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: Front Range
  • Elevation: 14,065 feet
  • Route: West Slopes

Sunlight Peak is the third Chicago Basin fourteener on the list and the most difficult. The crux of the climb is the final 3o feet required to reach the summit, which features exposed class four scrambling. 

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: San Juan Range
  • Elevation: 14,065 feet
  • Route: Click here

Split Mountain is one of the easier fourteeners to climb in California, but that does not mean it is easy. A long approach and plenty of scrambling await those who want to reach the rugged summit. The north summit is the taller of the peaks’ twin points.

  • State: California
  • Range: Sierra Nevada Range
  • Elevation: 14,064 feet
  • Route: North Slope

Handies Peak might be the easiest of all the fourteeners. If you ask “what is a 14er” because you want to climb one of them, consider starting with Handies Peak.

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: San Juan Range
  • Elevation: 14,058 feet
  • Route: Click Here

best 14ers to hike in Colorado

Culebra Peak is the only fourteener that is entirely privately owned. While the ranch owner allows climbers they limit numbers and charge a climbing fee. Sign up early to secure a spot.

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: Sangre de Christo Range
  • Elevation: 14,053 feet
  • Route: Click here

Ellingwood Point is named after Alfred Ellingwood, one of the most famous fourteener climbers in Colorado history. He made many first ascents of the state’s peaks, including Ellingwood Point itself.

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: Sangre de Christo Range
  • Elevation: 14,048 feet
  • Route: South Face

Mount Lindsey is another rugged Sangre fourteener. It is currently closed to public access as it is on private ranch property. Please respect the closure as we work to re-secure access.

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: Sangre de Christo Range
  • Elevation: 14,048 feet
  • Route: Northwest Gully

Little Bear Peak is a very dangerous fourteener. If you have to ask “what is a 14er” you definitely should not consider climbing Little Bear. The Hourglass Gully is home to slippery, loose rocky and lots of rockfall that makes it extremely hazardous.

Mount Sherman is a relatively easy fourteener to climb. It is in a heavily mined area with the remains of a mill and a large aerial tramway located along the route. If you love history you will love this mountain.

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: Mosquito Range
  • Elevation: 14,043 feet
  • Route: Click here

Redcloud Peak is one of the only class two fourteeners in the southern San Juan range. It’s a set of twin peaks, along with Sunshine Peak.

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: San Juan Range
  • Elevation: 14,041 feet
  • Route: Click here

Redcloud and Sunshine Peaks Route Guide

Mount Langley is among the easiest California 14ers to climb. But that still doesn’t mean it is easy!

  • State: California
  • Range: California
  • Elevation: 14,032 feet
  • Route: Click here

Mt. Tyndall sits right off of Shepherd’s Pass, next to Mt. Williamson. The mountain was named for the English glaciologist and mountaineer John Tyndall. Most people try to climb both peaks together, as the approach via Sherpherd’s Pass is one of the most difficult in California.

  • State: California
  • Range: Sierra Nevada
  • Elevation: 14,025 feet
  • Route: Click here

Pyramid Peak is no joke. This class four fourteener includes loose, rotten rock, serious avalanche risk, and plenty of exposure, making it one of Colorado’s most dangerous fourteeners.

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: Elk Range
  • Elevation: 14,025 feet
  • Route: Click here

Wilson Peak is clearly visible from Telluride and nearby areas. This prominent fourteener is home to serious rockfall risk, so wear a helmet if you choose to attempt to climb it!

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: San Juan Range
  • Elevation: 14,023 feet
  • Route: Click here

San Luis Peak is a remote and isolated fourteener in southern Colorado. It takes hours of driving along a rugged dirt road just to reach the trailhead. However from that point on it’s an easy class one hike up to the summit of the peak.

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: San Juan Range
  • Elevation: 14,022 feet
  • Route: Click here

A lot of people believe that Wetterhorn Peak is the overall greatest of all of the fourteeners. It has a short approach hike, great class three scrambling on solid rock, and a spectacular view from the summit. I highly recommend it!

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: San Juan Range
  • Elevation: 14,021 feet
  • Route: Click here

Mount Muir is just a few thousand feet away from Mount Whitney, the tallest fourteener in the lower 48 states. If you plan to climb one of them, you might as well add the other to your trip!

  • State: California
  • Range: Sierra Nevada Range
  • Elevation: 14,018 feet
  • Route: Click here

Middle Palisade is another difficult fourteener in California. It is a technical climb best attempted by experienced climbers and mountaineers.

  • State: California
  • Range: Sierra Nevada Range
  • Elevation: 14,018 feet
  • Route: Click Here

Mount of the Holy Cross is one of the only fourteeners famous for its religious background. Pilgrims have visited it for more than 100 years to see the striking white cross that forms naturally on its eastern face.

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: Sawatch Range
  • Elevation: 14,011 feet
  • Route: Click Here

Huron Peak is a fourteener with stunning views along the route. I especially recommend it during the autumn season when the leaves begin to change. This is the prettiest time of the year to climb Huron Peak.

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: Sawatch Range
  • Elevation: 14,010 feet
  • Route: Click here

Sunshine Peak has the honor of being the shortest of the fourteeners. It is usually climbed in tandem with Redcloud Peak which is just a few hundred feet away from it.

  • State: Colorado
  • Range: San Juan Range
  • Elevation: 14,007 feet
  • Route: Click here

What is a 14er? Now You Know!

As you can see the answer to the question ‘what is a 14er’ is not necessarily a simple one. There are multiple ways to define a 14er, depending on whether you use the USGS requirements or a more informal standard. Regardless of how you define one, 14ers are spectacular summits and well worth the effort to climb. If you want to find a 14er to hike and climb near you, visit my route guide pages for California or Colorado to get started today. Safe travels on the trails!

What is a 14er Hike or Climb Like?

The experience of hiking or climbing a fourteener depends a great deal on the peak in question. Class one hikes are not much more than a hike up to the summit, while class four and five peaks involve difficult, exposed climbing where a fall might be deadly. All of the 14ers have similar risks: thin air that causes altitude sickness, extreme weather conditions that change on a dime, and the risk of a fall or other injury. Tread carefully!

More Resources: What is a 14er?

Looking for more resources related to measuring and classifying the 14ers? What is a 14er fan to do? Here are a few more articles that answer the question ‘what is a 14er?’ If you have a resource suggestion leave a comment below and it might get added in our next article update!

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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