If you're looking to climb a Colorado fourteener but also looking to skip the notorious crowds, you're in luck – Colorado Fourteeners Initiative has released data collected from infrared trail counters that indicates when and where the most hikers tend to be. By avoiding crowded areas, you're not only reducing the environmental strain on some of the most crowded trails, you're also helping to reduce issues related to parking – something that can sometimes be detrimental to search and rescue response.
The first big factor in crowding will be the peak you pick for your adventure. Foot traffic varies wildly by peak, with the easier hikes within close proximity to the Front Range being most popular. While peaks like the Breckenridge-area Quandary may see more than 35,000 hiker days in a year, difficult-to-summit peaks of the more remote Elk Mountains may see less than 1,000.
The second big factor in crowding is going to be time of year. This varies year-to-year, often most dependent on when snowpack melts enough to allow the casual hiker safe access to the summit. In 2018, more climbers were seen earlier in the season due to drier conditions with traffic peaking in July. In 2019, traffic peaked in August as snowmelt hung around for a bit longer.
The third big factor in crowding will be what day of the week a climb takes place. According to Colorado Fourteener Initiative, close to half of all fourteener hiking happens on Saturday and Sunday, with Saturday seeing the most traffic – 25.7 percent of all hiker days compared to Sunday's 19.9 percent. The days that see the fewest hiker days are Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, which all account for around 9 percent of total hiker days each.
See more of the data from Colorado Fourteeners Initiative below:
If you're hiking any of Colorado's fourteener trails, do thorough research beforehand and proceed with extreme caution. High altitude hiking is no joke and multiple people die on Colorado's fourteeners every single year. It's also crucial that you follow the principles of Leave No Trace in these remote and fragile areas.