The call of adventure is easy to answer in a peak-bagging state like Colorado. For avid hikers in search of a long and beautiful trek up the mountains, here are some of our favorite long-distance trails for peak bagging around the state.
Editor’s Note: Please note mileage may vary, as will trailhead accessibility. Trail mileage for this article is based on 14ers.com, which is a great resource for researching 14er routes, trail conditions, photographs, and more.
1. Pikes Peak (14,115′)
Hike America's Mountain for 24 miles of out-and-back alpine beauty. Starting in Manitou Springs, Barr Trail leads to the 14,115-foot summit of Pikes Peak in Pike National Forest. The route is rated as a class one with an elevation gain of about 7,600 feet. A more than six-mile ascent up the Crags Trail serves as an alternative route to reaching the summit. Keep in mind a shorter route often means more gain in elevation.
2. Longs Peak (14,225')
One of Colorado's most iconic fourteeners, the standard route up (and down) Longs Peak clocks in at 14.5 miles round trip with 5,100 feet of vertical gain. To make this hike even trickier, several miles consist of physically taxing, class three scrambling.
It's also worth noting that this is the only fourteener located in Rocky Mountain National Park, which contributes to many hikers making the attempt before their skills match the feat. The failure rate on this summit is high.
3. Blanca Peak (14,345')
Another long route up a fourteener will take you to the 14,345-foot summit of Blanca Peak. Located near Alamosa, the steep and rocky trail stretches more than 19 miles from start to finish. While bagging the summit can be done in a single-day trek, there are plenty of campsites at Lake Como for those looking to make it a double-day adventure. The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is also located nearby, offering even more opportunities to immerse yourself in the mountains while surrounded by specular views.
4. Snowmass Mountain (14,092')
Snowmass Mountain is a bucket list-worthy 14er. The trail can be hiked as an out-and-back 22-mile adventure. Gaining 5,800 feet in elevation, the class 3 route is certainly not for the faint of heart. The 14,092-foot peak is located in White River National Forest near Snowmass Village.
5. Capitol Peak (14,130')
Only the most experienced climbers should attempt to bag the 14,130-foot summit of Capitol Peak. Located heart of the Elk Mountains, the 14er is considered one of the most difficult fourteeners to climb in the state. The Northeast Ridge Trail is a class four climb, consisting of more than 8 miles one-way and 5,300-foot elevation gain
The mountain has seen many tragedies, and climbing it should be taken seriously. Altitude sickness, exposure to heights, dangerous rockfall, and rapid weather changes are just some of the obstacles faced by peak-baggers. There's also a dangerous section of scrambling located about a half-mile from the summit. This extremely exposed ridge is known as the "Knife Ridge," requiring some technical climbing. It's also worth mentioning the hike is often broken up into two days.
Editor’s Note: Achieving views over 14,000 feet is no easy task. Hikers should always be prepared for the mountains. There are many risk factors to consider including unpredictable weather, loose rock, steep terrain, heavy exposure, and altitude sickness. Mileage may also vary, depending on trailhead accessibility. Trailhead parking fills up fast, so you’ll want to arrive early and summit before afternoon storms start to roll in. As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to be off the mountain by noon. Be sure to bring plenty of extra warm layers, high calorie snacks, water, trekking poles, and first aid. It’s also important to mention that high clearance and four-wheel drive are required for driving to the majority of the 14er trailheads.