Outdoor Adventures, Travel

Best Fourteeners in Colorado for Beginners

Summiting Colorado’s iconic fourteeners is an exhilarating experience, brimming with awe-inspiring landscapes, physical challenges, and unforgettable moments. For beginners seeking to check this off their bucket list, choosing the right peak is crucial for a safe and rewarding adventure. Colorado has over 58 mountain peaks over 14,000 feet offering breathtaking views and a chance to see wildlife like moose and mountain goats along the way, making for an even more unforgettable experience.

The adventure of reaching a fourteener’s summit is exhilarating and rewarding, but let’s be honest, even the “easy” ones will challenge you more than your typical hike! With the proper preparation and mindset, anyone can conquer these majestic peaks. Whether you’re looking to challenge yourself to finish all 58 or want to experience the thrill of one, hiking a fourteener is a bucket list adventure that will leave you feeling accomplished.

Set your alarm and pack your hiking bag because it’s fourteener season! To make your first summit a success, here are five beginner-friendly fourteeners to tackle this summer (and not the ones you can drive up.)

Mount Bierstadt

  • Elevation: 14,066 feet
  • Distance: 7.25 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 2,850 feet
  • Location: Front Range, the trailhead starts on Guanella Pass near Georgetown and Idaho Springs
  • Permits: none

Located near Georgetown, about an hour and a half from Denver, Mount Bierstadt is among the most accessible fourteeners. The gentle climb in elevation to the summit has earned Bierstadt the reputation for being the easiest fourteener in the state and is an excellent option for younger hikers or anyone new to the area.

Panoramic view of the fourteener Mount Bierstadt at Guanella pass
Panoramic view of Mount Bierstadt at Guanella pass

Quandary Peak

  • Elevation: 14,272 feet
  • Distance: 6.75 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 3,450 feet
  • Location: Tenmile Range, the trailhead starts on McCullough Gulch Road near Breckenridge
  • Permits: Bus shuttle or parking permits are required for Quandary Peak due to its popularity. Parking reservations begin June 1 and the shuttle begins June 15. Additional information about reserving parking can be found on Summit County’s website here.

Quandary is the highest peak in the Tenmile Range and a popular fourteener because of its proximity to Denver. The trail to the summit is well-marked, and while the ascent is not as gentle as Bierstadt, it’s relatively tame as far as easy climbs go. The trail offers impressive views above Blue Lakes and has a high chance of spotting mountain goats.

Mountain Goat on Quandary Peak at 13,500 feet
Mountain Goat on Quandary Peak at 13,500 feet

Mount Sherman

  • Elevation: 14,043 feet
  • Distance: 5.25 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 2,150 feet
  • Location: Mosquito Range, the trailhead starts at Fourmile Creek near Leadville
  • Permits: none

With Mount Sherman, it’s possible to park as high as 12,000 feet! Leaving only a couple thousand feet of elevation gain from trailhead to summit and just over 5 miles of hiking. The beginning of the trail is mostly flat but winds through a meadow that is filled with blooming wildflowers at the right time of year.

Hikers making their way up the trail on Mount Sherman
Hikers making their way up the trail on Mount Sherman

Grays and Torreys Peaks

  • Elevation: 14,275 and 14,267 feet
  • Distance: 8.25 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 3,600 feet
  • Location: Front Range, the trailhead starts at Grays Peak (189) road near Keystone and Breckenridge
  • Permits: none

For hikers looking to take on more of a challenge, Grays and Torreys Peaks are an excellent option for bagging two summits in one day! Grays Peak is the highest point on the Continental Divide at 14,275 feet, while Torreys is slightly less at 14,267 feet. They are easily accessible from I-70, close to nearby Keystone and Breckenridge for post-hike brews, and both trails are well-maintained and make it easy to navigate from peak to peak. It’s easy to see why these two are some of the most popular fourteeners in Colorado.

Viewing fourteener Torreys Peak at sunrise in the meadow below
Viewing Torreys Peak at sunrise from the meadow below

Mount Elbert

  • Elevation: 14,438 feet
  • Distance: 9.5 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 4,700 feet
  • Location: Sawatch Range, the trailhead starts on Halfmoon Creek road near Leadville
  • Permits: none

We saved the best for last because what is better than telling your friends you reached the summit of the highest peak in Colorado and the 2nd highest peak in the contiguous United States? That’s right! Mount Elbert is the tallest peak and one of the most beginner-friendly fourteeners. You’re in for a long day with just over 9 miles of hiking, but the views will make you forget all about your aching feet.

Twin Lakes with fourteener Mount Elbert behind it
Twin Lakes with Mount Elbert behind it

Safety Tips

Hiking a fourteener as a beginner can be challenging, especially if you’re from out of state and have yet to acclimate to the elevation, but we’ve got you covered with tips to help you successfully make it to the summit. Remember, safety should always be your top priority! Don’t hesitate to turn back if conditions become unsafe; always be prepared for unexpected situations.

Plan Ahead

Like most outdoor activities, planning goes a long way toward reaching your goals! Research the trail and road conditions. Do you need an AWD vehicle, high clearance vehicle, etc? Check the weather conditions for the time you’ll be on the trail and if there is any chance of rain or afternoon thunderstorms. Pack all the necessary gear, food, water, and layering pieces of clothing for changes in weather and temperature as you hike.

Remember your fourteener journey with one of our 14ers T-Shirts
Remember your fourteener journey with one of our 14er T-Shirts

Start Early

Begin your hike early in the morning. It’s preferable to be on the trail before sunrise. Not only will you enjoy the vibrant colors of the morning sun rising over the surrounding peaks, but it will give you plenty of time to reach the summit and descend before thunderstorms develop in the afternoon. Hiking above treeline during a thunderstorm can be very dangerous. Watch the weather as you go; if it starts to look bad, don’t be afraid to turn around! It’s better to be safe and try to summit another day.

Dress for Success

Wear sturdy shoes that are comfortable for long periods. Remember, depending on the mileage, you could be hiking for 8-12 hours. Bring plenty of layers of clothing. You may start at the bottom of the trail very warm as you make your way up, but at the summit, it will undoubtedly be windier and colder, and after working up a sweat, you’ll be reaching for that warm hoodie or jacket! Pack a hat, sunglasses to protect you from the sun, and even a rain jacket if you get caught in a storm.

Fuel Up

If this is your first fourteener, pace yourself and take plenty of breaks on your way up. Listen to your body, drink lots of water, and bring nutritious snacks to keep your energy levels up.

Follow Leave No Trace Principles

The Seven Principles of Leave No Trace offer a clear set of guidelines for minimizing environmental impact while enjoying the outdoors. They are principles such as staying on designated trails, packing out all your trash, respecting wildlife, and more. Check out their website here to review all Leave No Trace principles.

Embarking on a journey to summit Colorado’s fourteeners is a remarkable feat that promises breathtaking scenery, physical challenges, and moments of triumph. For beginners, Mount Bierstadt, Quandary Peak, Grays and Torreys Peaks, and Mount Elbert are excellent choices, offering manageable routes and awe-inspiring vistas. Prioritize safety, proper preparation, and respect for the natural environment as you embark on your fourteener pursuits.

Are you interested in tips for other Colorado adventures? Check out our Summer Safety Tips for Colorado Adventures for more in-depth information on how to stay safe in Colorado’s backcountry this summer.

See you at the summit!

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