11 of the Most Stunning 14ers in Colorado

Hiking a Colorado 14er is a coveted pastime for avid hikers and Colorado locals alike. In fact, there are 53 peaks over 14,000 feet tall in the entire state. I’ve narrowed down the list to the best 14ers in Colorado for all abilities and interests.

I’ve been hiking and climbing to the tops of peaks for the better part of 5 years. There are so many peaks and mountains to climb, I simply stopped counting. As a Colorado local, I know the Rocky Mountains like the back of my hand.

This list of the best Colorado 14ers comes from years of labor and love. So get out there and enjoy the most scenic Colorado 14ers with this epic list.

The Best 14ers in Colorado

Hiking a Colorado 14er is no easy task. Even the “easier” Colorado 14ers are still extremely challenging and should only be attempted by experienced mountain hikers.

This guide to the best 14ers in Colorado isn’t about how to hike a 14er (I’ve got plenty of info to help you at the bottom of this post) but instead is about celebrating the amazing 14,000-plus foot tall mountains the state. This list covers:

  • The best 14ers in Colorado by their unique features
  • Information on the best routes including mileage, elevation gain, and difficulty.
  • Quick tips for hiking Colorado 14ers including resources for planning, training, and hiking your first 14er.
  • Additional resources for hiking in Colorado.
Best 14ers in colorado

NOTE: Difficulties listed on this post represent the difficulty compared to other Colorado 14ers. No Colorado 14er is easy. Prepare for your climb appropriately. (See resources at the end of this guide for more).

1. The Best Colorado 14ers Near Denver: Grays and Torreys Peak

There are plenty of amazing mountains to climb right near Denver. Grays and Torreys Peaks are twin peaks located less than an hour’s drive from downtown Denver. These two twin peaks are suitable for beginner 14er hikers. Views of the surrounding mountains are stunning so if you like to double-dip, you’ve got to hike Grays and Torrey’s Peak.

Local Tip: The parking situation is atrocious. If you can, hit these peaks up on a weekday or plan to get there well before the sun rises.

Location: Along the Front Range, off of Exit 221 on I-70.
Best Routes: 1) Grays and Torreys Combo Route, 2) Kelso Ridge (Torreys Peak)
Mileage: 1) 8 miles 2) 6.75 miles
Elevation Gain: 1) 3,600 feet 2) 3,100 feet
Difficulty/Class Rating: 1) Class 2, easy/moderate 2) Class 3, Moderate/Difficult. Helmet and scrambling required.
Dog-Friendly?: 1) Yes on a leash 2) No.

best colorado 14ers

2. Most Scenic Beginner 14er: Handies Peak

If jaw-dropping mountain scenery is what you seek, then you’ve got to head to the San Juan Mountains. Here you’ll find an array of fun-filled outdoor activities. Some of the best hikes in Colorado, incredibly scenic Colorado drives, and one of the most scenic 14ers in Colorado, Handies Peak. This beginner walk-up peak is perfect for the newbie 14er hiker.

Location: American Basin in the San Juan Mountain Range of Southwestern Colorado. 4WD required to access the trailhead, but there is a pull-off if your vehicle can’t make it.
Best Routes: Southwest Slopes
Mileage: 5.5 miles, 7.5 if you’re starting from the bottom of American Basin Road
Elevation Gain: 2,500 feet, 2,800 feet from the bottom of the road
Difficulty/Class Rating: Class 1. Easy
Dog-Friendly?: 1) Yes on a leash

3. The Best Colorado 14er for Scrambling: Crestone Needle

This has to be my favorite Colorado 14er. It’s just so jaw-droppingly beautiful! With sustained scrambling of nearly 1,000 vertical feet, the Crestone Needle will (literally) take your breath away. South Colony Lakes is one of the prettiest backpacking areas in Colorado, and with good reason. Crestone Peak and Crestone Needle dominate the skyline. Although you can do this peak in a day, an overnight is recommended.

Local Tip: Experienced scramblers should take the Class 4 variation up Crestone Needle for maximum fun!

Location: Outside of Westcliffe, Colorado. Take Colfax Lane then bear right. High clearance and 4WD required to make it to the upper trailhead. Depending on your timing, you may be able to hitch a ride to the top.
Best Routes: 1) South Face 2) Crestone Traverse (both Crestone Needle and Crestone Peak Combo)
Mileage: 1) 12 miles (18 from the lower TH) 2) 14 miles (20 from the lower TH)
Elevation Gain: 1) 4,400 feet, 5,550 feet from the lower TH 2) 5,300 feet, 6,450 feet from the lower TH
Difficulty/Class Rating: 1) Class 3 Difficult and highly exposed 2) Class 5, extremely difficult and extremely exposed. Helmet and scrambling required for both routes
Dog-Friendly?: No

most scenic colorado 14ers

4. The Best 14er in Colorado for Roped Climbing: Long’s Peak

People flock from all over the world to climb the famous Diamond Face of Long’s Peak. Sure, you can opt for the standard Keyhole Route and go for the scramble, but why not up the ante and go for a true mountaineering adventure?

There are several roped climbing options on Longs Peak. My personal fave for beginner alpine climbers is the 1-pitch Longs Peak Cables Route. This 5.4 classic is the most direct way to the summit (10 miles rt if you know the shortcuts) and offers amazing views of the Diamond along the way.

The easiest route up the Diamond is the 5.10a Causal Route. As a 7-pitch, grade IV climb it’s anything but casual for me, but hey, I’m not a pro climber. The Keyhole Ridge is a 5.6 adventure that takes the ridge directly next to the standard Keyhole Route.

Local Tip: Not an alpine climber? Go guided up Longs Peak! I’ve teamed up with the Mountain Guides Colorado, a division of Jackson Hole Mountain Guides for a BOGO deal for any climb in Rocky Mountain National Park. Use this contact form to learn more.

Location: Rocky Mountain National Park. Take the Ranger Sation Turnoff on the Peak to Peak Highway outside of Estes Park.
Best Routes: Cables Route, Kiener’s Route, Casual Route, or Keyhole Ridge
Mileage: 1) 12 miles
Elevation Gain: 1) 5,300 feet
Difficulty/Class Rating: 1) 5.10a. Most difficult. This is a roped route requiring trad climbing gear
Dog-Friendly?: No.

Related: The Best Climbing Areas in Colorado

most scenic 14ers in colorado

5. The Most Challenging 14er: Capitol Peak

For an all-out epic weekend of scrambling head to Capitol Peak in the Maroon-Snowmass wilderness. A coveted peak by many, Capitol is strenuous, challenging, and only has one way up and down. However, the scenery is top-notch and the exposure is super-real.

Local Tip: This is the most challenging standard route up any 14er. Many people die here each year and this should only be attempted by experienced scramblers and mountaineers.

Location: Use your odometer to navigate your way 26 miles from Glenwood Springs to Capitol Creek Road. You’ll need high clearance to reach the trailhead or add another 9.9 miles one-way to your journey.
Best Routes: Northeast Ridge
Mileage: 1) 17 miles
Elevation Gain: 1) 5,300 feet
Difficulty/Class Rating: 1) Class 4 extremely difficult. Helmet, navigation skills, and scrambling required.
Dog-Friendly?: No.

6. The Best Colorado 14ers for Backpacking: The Chicago Basin Group

Plan an incredible backpacking adventure in the Chicago Basin. To get here, you’ll need to take a narrow-gauge train. The train drops you off at Needleton and you’ll have to make the 6-mile hike into the Chicago Basin. From here, you can hike some of the best 14ers in Colorado: Sunlight Peak (Class 4), Mt Eolus (Class 3), Windom Peak (Class 2), and North Eolus (Class 3). Pack your helmet since 3 of the 4 peaks require scrambling.

Local Tip: You are required to pack out your poop here, so bring WAG bags.

Location: The Chicago Basin. Accessible by train and then approximately a 6-mile hike one way.
Best Routes: Sunlight Peak (South Face), Windom Peak (West Ridge)
Mileage: Varies depending on your route.
Elevation Gain: Varies depending on the route, 2,800 feet of gain to the Chicago Basin
Difficulty/Class Rating: Class 2 through 4. Moderate to very difficult
Dog-Friendly?: No.

7. The “Easiest” Colorado 14er: Mount Evans

Alright, so the rating Mount Evans is a bit unfair since you can practically drive to the top. However, as one of Denver’s most scenic drives, it’s well worth a trip to the top of Mount Evans.

If you’re more of a purist, you can always tackle the Sawtooth Ridge from Mount Beirdstadt in order to stand on the top of this peak.

Location: Take Exit 240 on I-70 in Idaho Springs to reach the Mount Evans Scenic Byway. Keep in mind the road is only open during the summer and early fall.
Best Routes: 1) West Ridge, 2) Sawtooth Ridge
Mileage: 1) 5.5 miles 2) 10.25 miles
Elevation Gain: 1) 2,000 feet 2) 39100 feet
Difficulty/Class Rating: 1) Class 2, easy/moderate 2) Class 3, Difficult. Helmet and scrambling required.
Dog-Friendly?: 1) Yes on a leash 2) No.

A local's guide to the most scenic drives in Colorado. Drives with amazing and unique mountain scenery including the best views in Colorado. #travel #colorado #inspiration

8. A Grueling Scramble: La Plata Peak

The best Colorado 14ers all have one thing in common: plenty of beautiful rock formations. La Plata Peak has arguably the most intense scrambling route along the Ellingwood Ridge. If you’re into rock hopping, route finding, and using your hands to get to the top of the mountain, check out the Ellingwood Ridge Route up La Plata Peak.

Local Tip: This is a long and committing route. Only attempt it if you have a solid weather window.

Location: Outside of Leadville. Drive past Twin Lakes for 14.2 miles on Colorado 82 until you see the marked trailhead. The road is paved.
Best Routes: Ellingwood Ridge
Mileage: 1) 9.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 1) 5,900 feet
Difficulty/Class Rating: 1) Class 3, difficult. Helmet and scrambling required.
Dog-Friendly?: No.

9. The Most Photographed 14ers in Colorado: The Maroon Bells

If you’re not really looking to actually climb any mountains, but instead would like to just photograph them, then make the trip to Maroon Lake, one of the best lake hikes in Colorado. If you’ve got your heart set on climbing these iconic peaks, watch out for loose rock and wear your helmet.

Location: Drive to Aspen then park at the Aspen Highlands parking lot and take the bus to the trailhead. Overnight parking fees are required if you choose to park at the overnight lot.
Best Routes: South Ridge of Maroon Peak
Mileage: 12 miles
Elevation Gain: 1) 4,800 feet
Difficulty/Class Rating: 1) Class 3. Very difficult with loose rock. Helmet and scrambling required.
Dog-Friendly?: No.

best mountains in Colorado

10. The Tallest 14er in Colorado: Mount Elbert

At 14,433 feet above the sea, Mount Elbert is the tallest peak in Colorado. Fortunately, it’s also one of the easier 14,000-foot peaks in Colorado. Mount Elbert is one of the best 14ers in Colorado due to its accessibility and stellar views. From the top, you’ll get sweeping vistas of the entire Sawatch Range, home to 14 of Colorado’s tallest mountains.

Location: Head just outside of Leadville towards Halfmoon Creek. Drive 5 miles to the Mount Elbert Trailhead
Best Routes: Northeast Ridge
Mileage: 1) 9.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 1) 4,700 feet
Difficulty/Class Rating: Class 1. Easy.
Dog-Friendly?: Yes on a leash.

11. The Most Recognizable 14er: Mount of the Holy Cross

It seems almost every mountain vista in the state includes a glimpse of Mount of the Holy Cross. Visible from the Front Range to the Tenmile Range, to the Sawatch, you can spot this peak with its obvious cross-shaped couloir. Even though it’s a terrible slog to the top, there’s something alluring about climbing one of the most recognizable peaks in Colorado

Location: Take the US 24 towards Leadville until you reach Tigiwon Road. The road is dirt, but most vehicles should be able to make it.
Best Routes: North Ridge
Mileage: 12 miles
Elevation Gain: 5,600 feet
Difficulty/Class Rating: Class 2, moderate. Lots of boulder hopping
Dog-Friendly?: Yes, but not recommended due to the large number of rocks.

Quick Tips for Hiking a Colorado 14er

Before you embark on your Colorado 14er adventure, it’s essential that you’re prepared. Hiking 14,000 feet above the sea takes some preparation and planning. Before you head out on any 14er climb, whether it’s your first or your 50th, be sure to:

  • Have a plan. Be firm with your turn around time and don’t get caught up in Summit Fever. Never be ashamed to turn around.
  • Check the weather. Then check it again. And again until the morning you leave. The weather changes rapidly in the mountains so know what the forecast says before heading out. I love weather.gov for its accurate forecasting.
  • Be sure to pack all of your Colorado 14er essentials.
  • Tell someone where you are going and when you plan on returning. Don’t forget to circle back with them once you’re back safely.
  • Get in shape for a tough hike with these hiking training tips.

Additional Resources for Climbing and Hiking in Colorado

Looking for the most amazing mountain hikes and 14ers in Colorado? Set close to Denver, these are the most amazing hikes in Colorado for outdoor enthusiasts! #Colorado
Wondering where to find the best mountain hikes and 14ers in Colorado? It's no secret that Colorado is the best place in the USA to go mountain hiking, but what are the best hikes to take? If you're looking for a real challenge, these post is for you! #Colorado
Wondering what are the best 14ers in Colorado? On this guide, I share the top mountain hikes and 14ers for serious hikers traveling to Colorado or visiting Denver. From stunning mountain views to scenic hikes, these are the best mountain hikes in Colorado that you can't miss!

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Meg aka Fox is a 30-something who's born to explore. Her mission is to get you out on your greatest adventure. She'd rather be dirty than done up.