Colorado has the privilege of being home to countless mountains that locals and visitors alike can explore. Among these peaks are 58 towering 14ers—mountains that stand over 14,000 feet tall. The 14ers present a thrill and challenge for anyone who wants to climb them. Some feature craggy trails and adrenaline-pumping climbs, while others require long, challenging hikes that will take you most of the day. All of them present glorious views and the satisfaction of reaching the top of some of the highest peaks in the country. That said, there are a few 14,000-foot peaks that stand out among the rest. Whether it’s the views, the unique climb, or a convenient front range location, these mountains attract adventurers from all over the world. Grab your climbing gear and try your hand at these most popular 14ers of Colorado.
Mount Elbert – 14,433 feet
Visitors tackle Mount Elbert for the bragging rights of reaching the highest peak in the entire Rocky Mountain Range and the tallest 14er in Colorado. That said, Mount Elbert is one of the easier climbs in the state. There are several well-maintained trails that can take you to Elbert’s massive but rounded peak. Though the hike has an elevation gain of 4,400 feet over a distance of four and a half miles, the paths are relatively easy to follow. This makes Colorado’s tallest mountain among the most accessible and the most crowded. However, you can still enjoy hiking through sweet-smelling pines before you start the real ascent. From the peak, you can relish in the glorious views of the surrounding mountains, the Twin Lakes, and the rest of the Continental Divide.
Capitol Peak - 14,130 feet
Capitol Peak is a challenge even among its fellow 14ers, and it’s certainly not for the faint of heart. The trail to the summit starts with a long approach that follows Capitol Creek through beautiful mountain forests to Capitol Lake. This is where the mountain’s real challenge starts. Make your way through the saddle-shaped ridge of Daly Pass, over the summit of K2, and to the infamous Knife Edge. This 150-foot long exposed ridge features 2,000-foot drops on either side, which is why many hikers choose to cross it by crawling rather than walking. Though Capitol Peak requires some decent mountain climbing experience, the extraordinary view from the top is enough reward for any mountain lover.
Longs Peak - 14,255 feet
This popular 14er is close enough to Denver to attract thousands of hikers a year, but only about half of its visitors actually make it to the summit. The 14-mile standard route means that climbing Longs Peak will be a long, hard, satisfying day. A 5.5-mile hike to approach takes you through the Boulder Field and to the Keyhole, a fascinating formation that marks the beginning of the real challenge. Pass through the Keyhole to tackle the last couple miles, which features narrow ledges of exposed granite and steep, technical scrambles to the summit. Despite the challenge—or maybe because of it—Longs Peak is a must on any Front Range bucket list.
Uncompahgre Peak - 14,309 feet
Located in the San Juan Mountains, Uncompahgre Peak is a beautiful, lush climb that takes you through rolling fields of grass and wildflowers. Don’t let the fairytale meadow appearance throw you off, however. The trail to the summit still features long stretches and scrambling climbs. You’ll also have to cross areas of steep, loose rock in order to make it to the upper slopes. Once you get past that, the final stretch to the summit has an easier, better-defined trail. At the top, you can enjoy views of fellow 14er Wetterhorn Peak to the west, as well as other craggy profiles and colorful, red-toned hues of the San Juan Mountains.
Crestone Needle - 14,197 feet
This exciting climb is nestled among the Crestones of the Sangre de Cristo Range. The imposing peak looms over the trailhead, beckoning daring climbers forward. The climb starts with a well-worn, easily navigable trail to the upper reaches, but from there, you’ll face rocky gullies and exposed scrambles to get to the top. As you near the summit, you’ll have to rely on knobby stones for handholds. However, this part of the peak is solid, if a little confusing. Determined climbers will navigate the challenge and come out on top to find a thrilling view of the surrounding Crestones.
Mount Evans - 14,271 feet
This peak’s proximity to Denver easily makes it one of the most popular 14ers of Colorado, as does the fact that you can reach the peak without even leaving your car. Hiking and climbing enthusiasts shouldn’t be discouraged, though. While many tourists choose to take America’s highest paved road to the top, there are still plenty of footpaths to choose from to reach the peak. You can even take the popular Mount Evans Ridge Trail #51 to summit Mount Spalding along the way. As you climb the mountain, make sure you keep an eye out for bighorn sheep and the colorful wildflowers that bloom in the summer. For a bonus tip and a way to avoid some of the crowds, hit the mountain early and enjoy the stunning view of the sunrise reflecting off Summit Lake.
Huron Peak - 14,003 feet
Huron Peak barely makes the 14er cut, but that doesn’t take away from its value. This mountain is a popular choice for newer climbers looking to bag their first 14,000-foot peak. There are no technically difficult parts of the climb, but visitors can still expect an arduous hike to the top, along with a few easy scrambles near the peak. The trail itself is breathtakingly beautiful as you head through evergreen forests and across alpine meadows. The area is particularly gorgeous in autumn, attracting many photographers and fall foliage chasers who come to admire the stunning colors.
Whether you’re looking for the perfect photo opportunity or a thrilling adventure to cross off your bucket list, you can find it on one of Colorado’s 14ers. These mountains provide the perfect chance to test your climbing skills and experience unbeatable satisfaction as you reach the top. Before you hit the trails, make sure you plan your day, check the weather, and pack a cozy Colorado hoodie to keep you warm and comfortable throughout the trip.