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To Do: Hike a Fourteener

Colorado is renowned for its soaring peaks, especially when it comes to incredible, accessible hiking.  Perhaps most unique is that it is home to over 50 mountains higher than 14,000 feet of elevation. “Fourteeners”, as they are known among locals, are highly sought hiking destinations, with ambitious visitors aiming to “bag” them all. While many fourteeners include technical routes that require a high degree of mountaineering knowledge and experience, even more can be climbed by almost anyone. You do need to be in good physical condition, and you’ll want to be careful to dress and pack appropriately, but if you already enjoy challenging hikes, then a fourteener might be right up your alley.

Make sure you’re prepared

Colorado FourteenersWater – no matter which peak you decide to tackle, be sure to bring plenty of water. That means, bring more than you think you’ll need. Hiking at high elevation in a dry climate will dehydrate you faster than you’re used to. Bring snacks like trail mix or energy bars, as well.

Weather – be sure to check the weather before you leave, but even if the forecast looks benign, you'll want to bring an additional warm layer and a rain layer. Storms can appear out of nowhere, and at least half your hike will be above tree line, fully exposed to the elements.

Route – many fourteeners offer several different routes to the top. Be sure to do your research before you choose – even if a peak is considered “easier”, some routes will be more difficult or technical. Be sure to bring a topographic map and a compass, as well, in case you lose the trail.

Know your limits

Hiking Quandary PeakDistance – routes vary from just a few miles to 17+ miles, so be sure you know how long you’ll be hiking before you head out. Most thunderstorms occur midafternoon, so many hikers choose to start their hikes at or before dawn so that they can summit by mid- or late-morning.

Strenuousness – are you looking for a fun outing with some buddies or do you want to challenge yourself a more difficult route? Be sure that the hike you choose fits your expectations and your capability levels.

Altitude – even if you have spent the majority of your vacation exploring the Rocky Mountains, your body has not yet experienced this level of elevation, so be prepared to slow your pace as you get higher up. Your body will need the extra time to get oxygen to tired muscles. If you start to feel unwell, head back down to a lower elevation immediately.

Top Routes for Beginners

Hiking in ColoradoGrays Peak
Mt. Bross
San Luis Peak
Mt. Elbert
Quandary Peak

For great, up-to-date information on all of Colorado's fourteeners, including distances, difficulty levels, and routes, check out


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