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Top Five Colorado Fourteeners for Beginners

Mount Elbert & Mount Massive

Are you thinking about hiking your first Colorado Fourteener (aka 14er)? These five mountains are your best bets for success:

  1. Mount Bierstadt
  2. Mount Elbert
  3. Grays Peak (and Torreys Peak)
  4. Quandary Peak
  5. Mount Sherman

Keep reading below for further details about each of these 14er adventures. Also, remember to check the weather before you head out for inclement weather and thunderstorms. During summer, try to complete your hike by the early afternoon to avoid lightening hazards. Stash your rain gear, insulating layers, first aid kit, food, and plenty of water in a backpack to take with you. Above all (and you’ll soon be above it all), be sure to absorb everything these five Colorado Fourteeners for beginners have to offer.

Print out our Colorado Fourteeners Checklist if your first Fourteener proves addicting!

Bierstadt and Evans Sawtooth Ridge
Mount Bierstadt and Mount Evans Sawtooth Ridge

Mount Bierstadt

Elevation: 14,060 feet

Distance: 7 miles round trip

Elevation gain: 2,850 feet

Why we recommend this 14er for beginners: This is likely Colorado’s easiest fourteener. Bierstadt’s hike is mostly gentle, though several sections do have a good incline. Bierstadt is a perfect option for kids (just go slow and bring plenty of snacks). Bonus: continue your hike over to Mount Evans via The Sawtooth Ridge, but note that this addition is more technical.

Mountain Range: Front Range

Location: Bierstadt is in the Mount Evans Wilderness just south of Georgetown.

Directions: From Denver, take I-70 west to Georgetown. Take Exit 228. Follow the signs to Guanella Pass. Take Guanella Pass Road (which is passible by regular passenger vehicle) 11 miles to the top of the pass. The trailhead is on the left and is well signed.

Nearby towns: Georgetown & Grant

Mount Elbert & Mount Massive
Mount Elbert & Mount Massive

Mount Elbert

Elevation: 14,433 feet

Distance: 9 miles round trip

Elevation gain: 4,700 feet

Why we recommend this 14er for beginners: This is a big day if you decide to tackle this 5,000-foot elevation gain hike. The reason why Elbert is on our list is because the grade is comparatively gentle, and you’ll get to boast that you just summited Colorado’s highest peak.

Mountain Range: Sawatch Range

Location: Near the Town of Leadville in the San Isabel National Forest of the Sawatch Range.

Directions: This route is passable by most low clearance vehicles. Head south on U.S. Highway 24 out of Leadville. Turn onto Colorado Highway 300 and cross the railroad tracks. Go 0.7 mile and turn left onto CR 11. After 1.2 miles, take a right onto the dirt road towards Halfmoon Creek. Drive on the dirt road for 5 miles to the Mount Elbert trailhead on the left.

Nearby towns: Twin Lakes & Leadville

Torreys Peak
Grays Peak & Torreys Peak

Grays Peak

Elevation: 14,270 feet

Distance: 8 miles round trip

Elevation gain: 3,000 feet

Why we recommend this 14er for beginners: Grays Peak (and Torreys) is located just an hour from Denver off of I-70. The hike climbs steadily to the summit of Grays. Be sure to enjoy some of the small creeks and high altitude wetlands along the trail! You can also combine this hike with a hike of Torreys and bag your first two fourteeners on the same hike.

Mountain Range: Front Range

Location: Just below Loveland Ski Area

Directions: Take I-70 to the Bakerville exit. Head south after you exit on Forest Road 189. Take FR 189 approximately 3 miles to the trailhead. It’s a relatively rough drive, but low-clearance vehicles can make it.

Nearby towns: Georgetown & Idaho Springs

Quandry Peak Trail
Quandry Peak Trail

Quandary Peak

Elevation: 14,265 feet

Distance: 7 miles round trip

Elevation gain: 3,450 feet

Why we recommend this 14er for beginners: This is a popular first-timers winter and summer outing. We last visited Quandary in the winter on snowshoes and thoroughly enjoyed our time. If you’re in Breckenridge – especially in summer – this is one Colorado mountain you shouldn’t pass up.

Mountain Range: Tenmile Range

Location: Find Quandary Peak on Colorado Highway 9, 6 miles southwest of Breckenridge.

Directions: From Breckenridge, drive 8 miles south on Colorado Highway 9. Take a right on Road 850. Go a few hundred yards and turn right on 851 (McCullough Gulch) Road. Drive 0.1 mile to the signed trailhead and small parking area.

Nearby towns: Breckenridge & Alma

Colorado Fourteeners for Beginners: Mount Sherman
Colorado Fourteeners for Beginners: Mount Sherman

Mount Sherman

Elevation: 14,043 feet

Distance: 8.5 miles round trip from the Leavick Site

Elevation gain: 2,850 feet from the Leavick Site

Why we recommend this 14er for beginners: There are several mine buildings you can enjoy and the views are superb. There is only one relatively short scrambling section. Otherwise, it’s a pretty steady hike up to the summit.

Mountain Range: Mosquito Range

Location: Central portion of Mosquito Range

Directions: From Fairplay, drive approximately one mile south on U.S. 285 and turn right onto County Road 18. Drive 10 miles to a large parking area at 11,250′. This is the Leavick site. There is a large mine building on the right before the parking area. (You can continue on, but the road starts to get rough after this point. Passenger cars can slowly drive another 1.5 miles before the road gets real harsh. There are a couple of pull-offs between 11,700′ and 11,900′ and more parking before a gate near 12,000′.

Nearby towns: Fairplay

Fourteener Gear Checklist:

  • Water (plenty of water)
  • Food/Snacks
  • Hat
  • Gloves
  • Synthetic/wool shirts
  • Synthetic/wool long underwear
  • Insulating jacket
  • Waterproof shell/jacket
  • Nylon shorts
  • Hiking pants
  • Hiking boots
  • Hiking socks
  • Watch
  • Backpack
  • Headlamp
  • Sunglasses
  • Knife/multi-tool
  • Compass
  • Maps
  • Tape
  • Whistle
  • Matches/lighter
  • Sunscreen
  • Toilet Paper
  • Trash Bag
  • Cell phone
  • Extra batteries
  • First Aid Kit

Now get out and enjoy these Colorado Fourteeners for beginners!!!

Josh T

Josh is a native son and big fan of pack burro racing. He thru-hiked the Colorado Trail, loves running and biking, and is passionate about sharing his favorite journeys and experiences with others. You can typically find Josh out exploring the less beaten paths under Colorado's sunny skies.

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