Colorado is home to 50-some mountains rising above 14,000 feet, often called “fourteeners” or “14ers” by local peak-baggers. Reaching these summits can be one of the most popular adventures chased around the state of Colorado in the summer and fall seasons. If you're a 14er newbie, here are some of the shortest fourteener routes that still deliver spectacular views.
1. Mount Sherman
Mount Sherman is one of the shorter routes for those looking to bag a 14er. It’s 5.25-miles round-trip for those starting at the 12,000-foot gate. The rocky climb is quite steep, gaining about 2,100 feet in elevation. The trail crosses through the iconic remains of Hilltop Mine, which collapsed in 2018. Soak in the alpine views and be sure to keep your eyes peeled for mountain goats!
2. Quandary Peak
Another great short route to a 14,000-foot summit is the standard 6.75 mile out-and-back trail up Quandary Peak, climbing roughly 3,450 feet in elevation. The trail steepens past the boulder field as you approach the false summit, but soon rewards hikers with 14,265-foot level views. For overnighters, you’ll find plenty of dispersed campsites along the roads of Quandary and Blue Lakes Trailheads. The 14er is also located just minutes from the mountain town of Breckenridge, offering the perfect post-hike escape.
3. Mount Bierstadt
Whether you’re a first-time climber or in need of a short escape, Mount Bierstadt will not disappoint. The trailhead can be found off Guanella Pass near Georgetown. The 7-mile out-and-back trail gains over 2,850 feet in elevation with minimal route-finding and low exposure risk.
4. Grays and Torreys
Head towards Idaho Springs for a double dose of adventure. This 8-mile (round-trip) hike is a solid 2-for-1 bucket list 14er, gaining 3,600 feet in elevation to the 14,278-foot summit of Grays Peak and the 14,275-foot summit of Torreys Peak. For colorful summit views, consider bagging both peaks sometime in the fall season.
5. Huron Peak
Explore the magnificent 14,003-foot summit of Huron Peak. Ascend into the high country with a 6.5-mile (round-trip) adventure, climbing 3,500 feet to the rocky summit. If starting on the road from Winfield, plan to tack on a few extra miles. It’s 10.75-miles round trip with roughly 3,800-feet of elevation gain. Note that a 4WD vehicle is required to reach the shorter starting point.
6. Mount Sneffels
NOTE: This is not a beginner route. It's a Class 3 climb with deadly exposure risk.
Breathtaking views await on the 14,150-foot summit of Mount Sneffels. Wildflowers, alpine lakes, and marmots can all be found on this beautiful trek through the Yankee Boy Basin. It's only 2.5-miles round-trip for those starting at the upper trailhead. Otherwise, it's 6-miles round-trip from the restroom parking area. This 14er hike is located right outside the state's "outdoor recreation capital" of Ouray.
The Decalibron Loop
Bag four summits in a single-day trek on the Decalibron Loop. The 7.6-mile loop features Mounts Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln, and Bross. There’s also a beautiful alpine lake at the start of the trailhead located near the small town of Alma.
Altitude sickness, also known as mountain sickness, can affect anyone regardless of age or fitness level. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, nausea, loss of appetite, rapid pulse, and shortness of breath. Here are a few extra things you should know before heading into the mountains.
Editor’s Note: Please note mileage may vary, depending on 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.
Editor’s Note II: 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.