What is the easiest 14er in Colorado?

What is the Easiest 14er in Colorado? Complete Mt Sherman Guide

Colorado is famous for its 58 mountain peaks that soar above 14,000 feet, affectionately known as “Colorado 14ers.” These mountains offer a variety of challenges for hikers and climbers of all skill levels. If you’re new to hiking or looking for a relatively easier peak to tackle, you might be wondering, “what is the easiest 14er in Colorado?” Mount Sherman is widely considered the easiest 14er in Colorado, making it a great starting point for beginners. In this guide, we will explore the various aspects of hiking Mount Sherman, from preparation and getting to the trailhead to the routes and safety tips to ensure a successful summit.

Table of Contents

Why Mount Sherman is the Easiest 14er

Mount Sherman stands at 14,036 feet and offers several advantages for those looking for the easiest 14er in Colorado.

Shorter Distance and Elevation Gain

Compared to other 14ers, Mount Sherman has a relatively shorter distance to hike and a more moderate elevation gain. The round-trip distance is only about 5.5 to 8 miles, depending on the route and whether you have 4WD, with an elevation gain of approximately 2,100-2,500 feet. This shorter distance and elevation gain make it more manageable for beginners.

Well-defined Trail

Mount Sherman features a well-defined trail, making it easier for hikers to navigate their way to the summit. The trail is marked by cairns, reducing the chances of getting lost or straying off the main path.

Moderate Terrain and Gentle Slopes

The terrain on Mount Sherman is generally moderate and consists of gentle slopes, with only a few steep sections. There are no technical climbing skills required, and the hike can be completed with basic hiking gear.

Accessibility and Proximity to Major Cities

Located near the towns of Fairplay and Leadville, Mount Sherman is easily accessible from major cities such as Denver and Colorado Springs. The trailheads can be reached by well-maintained roads, making it a popular choice for those looking for a day trip. While you can reach the lower trailhead with a 2WD vehicle, you need a high-clearance 4WD vehicle to reach the upper trailhead for the easiest route possible.

Preparing for Your Mount Sherman Hike

Before setting out to conquer the easiest 14er in Colorado, it’s essential to prepare adequately to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

Physical Fitness Considerations

Although Mount Sherman is considered the easiest 14er in Colorado, it still requires a good level of physical fitness. It’s important to train and condition your body for the hike by incorporating cardiovascular exercises such as running, cycling, or stair climbing. Strength training for your legs and core will also help improve your stamina and stability on the trail.

Acclimatization to Altitude

Altitude sickness can be a concern when hiking at high elevations. Before attempting Mount Sherman, spend some time acclimatizing to the altitude by staying in the area for a day or two or hiking at lower elevations before your summit attempt.

Weather and the Best Time to Hike Mount Sherman

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The best time to hike Mount Sherman is during the summer months, typically from June to September. This is when the weather is generally more stable and the trails are clear of snow. However, it’s crucial to keep an eye on the weather forecast and be prepared for sudden changes in conditions, such as thunderstorms, which are common in the afternoons.

Click here to view the National Weather Service forecast for Mount Sherman.

Essential Gear and Clothing

When hiking Mount Sherman, it’s important to bring the right gear and clothing. This includes:

  1. Sturdy hiking boots with ankle support and good traction
  2. Moisture-wicking clothing, including a base layer, insulating layer, and waterproof outer layer
  3. Hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen for sun protection
  4. Trekking poles for stability and support
  5. Plenty of water and high-energy snacks
  6. Navigation tools, such as a map, compass, and GPS device
  7. First-aid kit and emergency supplies, like a whistle and headlamp
  8. A lightweight, packable backpack to carry your gear

Getting to Mount Sherman Trailhead

Mount Sherman can be accessed from two main trailheads: Fourmile Creek Trailhead and Iowa Gulch Trailhead. Both trailheads are accessible from Denver and Colorado Springs, with driving times of about 2-3 hours.

Driving Directions from Denver and Colorado Springs

From Denver, head west on US-285 towards Fairplay. Turn left onto County Road 18 and follow it for approximately 10 miles to reach the Fourmile Creek Trailhead. For the Iowa Gulch Trailhead, continue past Fairplay on US-285 to Leadville, then turn left onto County Road 2 and follow it to the trailhead.

From Colorado Springs, take US-24 west towards Leadville. Turn right onto US-285 in Buena Vista, then follow the directions above for each trailhead.

Road Conditions and Parking Information

The roads leading to both trailheads are generally well-maintained, but high-clearance vehicles are recommended for the final stretch to Fourmile Creek Trailhead. There is limited parking available at both trailheads, so it’s a good idea to arrive early to secure a spot.

Nearby Lodging and Camping Options

There are a variety of lodging options available in the towns of Fairplay and Leadville, including hotels, motels, and bed and breakfasts. For those who prefer camping, there are several campgrounds in the area, as well as dispersed camping opportunities along County Road 18 near the Fourmile Creek Trailhead.

Mount Sherman Hiking Routes

There are two main routes to reach the summit of Mount Sherman, the easiest 14er in Colorado. Each route offers its unique challenges and rewards.

Fourmile Creek Trailhead

This route is the more popular and shorter of the two, with a round-trip distance of approximately 5 miles and an elevation gain of around 2,100 feet. The trail begins at the Fourmile Creek Trailhead and follows an old mining road before reaching the saddle between Mount Sherman and Mount Sheridan. From there, hikers follow a well-defined trail to the summit.

Click here for route info.

Iowa Gulch Trailhead

The Iowa Gulch Trailhead route is slightly longer, with a round-trip distance of about 8 miles and an elevation gain of around 2,100 feet. This route starts at the Iowa Gulch Trailhead and follows a more gradual ascent up the eastern slopes of Mount Sherman, passing several mining ruins along the way. The trail eventually reaches the saddle and joins the Fourmile Creek route to the summit.

Tips for Navigating Each Route

  1. Start early to avoid afternoon thunderstorms and ensure ample daylight for your hike.
  2. Follow the cairns and well-trodden path to stay on the trail.
  3. Keep an eye out for mining ruins and historical landmarks along the way.
  4. Take breaks as needed and pace yourself, especially if you are new to high-elevation hiking.

Safety Tips for Hiking Mount Sherman

To ensure a safe and enjoyable hike on the easiest 14er in Colorado, keep these safety tips in mind:

  1. Stay on the trail to minimize environmental impact and reduce the risk of injury or getting lost.
  2. Watch for altitude sickness symptoms, such as headache, dizziness, and nausea. If symptoms persist or worsen, descend to a lower elevation.
  3. Start early and be back to tree line by 12pm to avoid the risk of thunderstorms that form on most summer afternoons.
  4. Monitor weather conditions and be prepared to turn back if thunderstorms or other severe weather is approaching.
  5. Know your limits and be willing to turn back if necessary. The mountain will always be there for another attempt.

What to Expect at the Summit

At the summit of Mount Sherman, you’ll be rewarded with stunning panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. On a clear day, you can see several other 14ers, including Mount Elbert, Mount Massive, and the peaks of the Mosquito Range. Take some time to enjoy the views, snap photos, and catch your breath before beginning your descent.

Remember to practice Leave No Trace principles at the summit by packing out any trash, not disturbing wildlife, and avoiding trampling on fragile alpine vegetation.

Mt Sherman Route Guide

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

A: The time it takes to hike Mount Sherman varies depending on your fitness level, hiking experience, and chosen route. Generally, it takes most hikers between 4 to 6 hours to complete the round trip.

A: Dogs are allowed on Mount Sherman, but they must be kept on a leash and under control at all times. Be prepared to clean up after your pet and ensure they have enough water and food for the hike. Monitor them closely and have a way to evacuate them if they become ill from the altitude. Search and rescue teams do not typically respond for large dogs – be warned.

A: There are no restroom facilities at either the Fourmile Creek or Iowa Gulch trailheads. Plan accordingly and practice Leave No Trace principles when relieving yourself in the wilderness.

A: Cell service on Mount Sherman can be spotty or nonexistent, depending on your provider and location. It’s best to carry a map, compass, and GPS device for navigation and not rely solely on your cell phone.

A: No permits are required to hike Mount Sherman. However, be aware of any seasonal closures or restrictions that may be in place. Additionally, there are areas of closed private land in the area to be aware of. Follow all posted land closures and respect private property in the area.

Mount Sherman is the easiest 14er in Colorado. If you have a 4WD vehicle with good clearance and start from the upper trailhead, the route is less than 5.5 miles long and has only 2,100 feet of elevation gain. With a class two difficulty rating, and only a short section of easy scrambling near the summit, it is the easiest 14er to summit in Colorado. 

What is the Easiest 14er in Colorado: Mount Sherman - Now You Know!

Mount Sherman offers an excellent opportunity for hikers looking for the easiest 14er in Colorado. With its moderate terrain, well-defined trail, and breathtaking views, it’s the perfect introduction to high-elevation hiking in the Rockies. By preparing adequately, choosing the right route, and following safety guidelines, you can enjoy a successful and memorable summit of Mount Sherman. Happy hiking!

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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