Colorado’s famed 14,000-plus foot peaks draw a crowd of hiking and mountain climbing enthusiasts. And for good reason. With a list of over 50 Colorado 14ers, there is a lot of hiking, scrambling, mountaineering to be had. For those looking to get into beginner 14ers, there is a wide range of beautiful peaks to choose from. This list of the easiest Colorado 14ers can help you plan for everything from your first 14er all the way to tougher terrain such as snow climbs and scrambles.
What is a 14er?
A 14er is a slang word for a mountain that is over 14,000 feet high. For those of us in the United States, especially the Lower 48 states, that is one tall mountain! Our tallest mountains in the Lower 48 are typically over 14,000 feet tall, with the tallest one being Mount Whitney in California at a whopping 14,505 feet above sea level.
In terms of 14ers, Colorado has over 50 of these famous peaks. That’s quite a few mountains that are over 14,000 feet tall! The tallest mountain in Colorado is Mount Elbert at 14,439 feet tall.
No Colorado 14er is “Easy”
No hike up steep elevation gains along a windy, rocky trail to high places is easy. In fact, it would be naive to call any hike up a mountain an easy task. Certainly take hiking a Colorado 14er, or any mountain seriously. Prepare properly, be informed, train up, and be ready for adverse conditions (both physically and mentally). Before you hike up any mountain, be sure to get plenty of regular hiking experience under your belt.
When we talk about “easy” Colorado 14ers, typically this refers to not needing to use your hands to climb up the rock, no special gear outside of regular hiking gear, and typically a well-described route. These fourteeners are great for beginner mountain climbers and advanced hikers. The easiest 14ers in Colorado still demand the respect of an extra-tough hike, so be sure to be prepared before you set out.
When to Hike a Colorado 14er
If you’re brand new to high-altitude hiking and you don’t have much experience in the mountains during the snowy months, July through September are great times to tackle your first fourteener. In Colorado, there is still plenty of snow in the mountains during June, so be sure to understand relevant avalanche hazards, travel properly over snow, and have proper gear (microspikes, snowshoes, or even crampons and an ax) before setting out.
Not only the season is important for a beginner 14er, but so is the time of day. Be sure to get an early start – I’m talking before the sun comes up – in order to avoid the summer monsoons. Thunderstorms kill people every year in the Colorado mountains, take care to look up the weather before heading out and start as early as possible to lessen a chance of inclement weather.
Related: When to Visit Colorado for Hiking
Where to Stay Before Hiking the Easiest 14ers in Colorado
If you’re arriving from out of town, or you’re traveling from a city like Denver, you’ll likely want to stay near the trailhead the night before your hike. Staying near the trailhead allows you to sneak in some extra sleep before your early start. Some trailheads offer camping, some have free campsites nearby, and others require advanced planning. Be sure to look into the details about camping for the mountain you plan to hike.
For more about camping in Colorado, check out these posts:
Tips for Your First 14er
There are a few key things you need to understand before you embark up an easier Colorado 14er. Before you hit the trail, be sure to do the following:
- Check the weather and get up-to-date information about storms, wind, temps, etc.
- Download photos, GPS coordinates, and maps
- Print off a paper map and any additional resources you may need
- Tell someone at home your plans
- Pack the essentials: water, snacks, extra layers (hat and gloves are a must – even in summer!), first aid kit, blister kit, headlamp, sun protection, emergency space blanket or bivvy, lighter/fire starting kit, map/compass/GPS
- Acclimatize properly
- Go slow and take plenty of breaks as needed
- Remember: Getting to the summit is only the halfway point.
For more info on preparing to hike or climb a Colorado 14er, check out these handy resources:
- Everything you need to know for your first 14er
- The ultimate 14er packing list
- 5 mental tips for climbing a mountain
- How to plan a hike
- Acclimatizing safely
- Day Hikes Near Denver for Acclimatizing
Additional Resources for Colorado 14ers
Hiking all of Colorado’s 14ers is a big bucket-list item for many people. There are a wide variety of resources available to help you plan for your big adventure. 14ers.com is the go-to resource for planning your 14er hike. The website offers route descriptions, photographs, information about difficulty, recent conditions, camping and more. They even have an app. I will be referencing this website throughout this post.
For the weather, the most reliable, pinpoint weather service is weather.gov. You can input the exact peak name (be sure to reference with another map when the results pop up) and get the most accurate weather down to the hour. Click the charts below the general description (on the side for desktops) for hourly weather conditions.
The 12 Easiest Colorado 14ers
For this guide, I didn’t list the easiest 14ers by rank, but instead by category to help you fit the mountain climb that best fits your ability level and personality. The 14ers towards the bottom of this list offer a look at more advanced Colorado 14er routes. These are some of the easier Colorado 14ers if you are looking to break into more technical mountain climbs.
The Best “Easy” Colorado 14er for First-Timers: Mt. Bierstadt
Miles: 7 round-trip
Elevation gain: 2,850 feet
Trail Info: Mt. Bierstadt’s West Slopes
Located in Colorado’s Front Range, about an hour and a half from Denver, Mt. Bierstadt’s West Slopes is an excellent easier 14er. Mt Beirstadt’s scenery surrounding the peak is absolutely gorgeous (I’ll let you decide on the view from the top). The Mt Bierstadt trail winds its way through willows and greenery before making the steep ascent up towards the summit. At the top you’ll have to hop over big rocks and boulders to reach the summit. However, this is one of Colorado’s most popular hiking trails. Plan on arriving early (well before 6 am) if you want to snag a parking spot and not be caught in a conga line to the top.
The Prettiest “Easy” Colorado 14er: Handies Peak
Miles: 5.5 from the upper trailhead, 7.5 from the 2WD trailhead (round trip)
Elevation gain: 2,500 from the upper trailhead, 2,800 from the lower
Trail Info: Handies Peak Southwest Slopes
Nestled in Colorado’s most stunning mountain range, the San Juans, Handies Peak takes the cake for the most beautiful of the easiest Colorado 14ers. As one of the best beginner mountain climbs in Colorado, the dramatic views go on for days as you make your way up the grassy Southwest Slopes. The approach (or trail before the real grind starts) offers beautiful views of the mountain cirque.
The Tallest Mountain in Colorado: Mt Elbert
Miles: 9.5 round trip
Elevation gain: 4,700 feet
Trail Info: Mt Elbert Northeast Ridge
At 14,433 feet tall, Mt. Elbert marks the high point for the Colorado Rockies. Although the standard route up Mt Elbert is considered one of the easiest Colorado 14ers, with little exposure, commitment, and rock navigation, it is still a long, grueling hike to the top it is also the tallest mountain in Colorado. 4,700 feet of gain is no joke, so budget plenty of time (at least 5 hours) until you’ll reach the summit. However, there’s something magical about standing at the highest point in the state, so go ahead and snag that high point!
The Best Colorado 14er Near Denver: Grays or Torrey’s Peak
Miles: 8.5 round trip
Elevation gain: 3,600 feet
Trail Info: Grays and Torreys Combination Route
Alright, so I’ve got a confession to make. As much as I enjoyed hiking these two peaks, being only 45 minutes from Denver comes at a cost. The 4wd road in is a hot mess on a summer weekend, so much so, that it can be quite dangerous with the way all of the cars are parked. This is one of the most crowded mountains in Colorado, if not America, so certainly start as early as possible when hiking these easier 14ers. With that being said, Grays and Torreys are two straight-forward peaks that can be done individually or as a pair. The entire hike offers gorgeous views of the surrounding mountain ranges.
Hike Three 14ers in One Day: Mt. Lincoln, Mt. Democrat, and Mt. Bross
Miles: 7.25 round-trip
Elevation gain: 3,700 feet
Trail Info: Decalibron Loop
The famous Decalibron loop summits four peaks (only three are official) in one giant loop. Not recommended as an easy 14er for first timers, this set of mountains offers a great ridge run for those who have a few beginner mountain climbs under their belt. The route is certainly tough, simply because you’ll be going up and down steep slopes quite a bit. The real grind is on the descent off of Mount Bross, where the rock is loose, it’s easy to misstep and slide down a scree field that will cut you up like a cheese grater. However, it’s a rewarding hike and one of the best hikes in Colorado. If three peaks are too many, you can do Mt Lincoln and Mt Democrat separately, making it one of the better beginner mountain climbing routes in Colorado.
Backpacking a Colorado 14er: Windom Peak
Miles: 5 miles from Chicago Basin or 17 miles from Needleton. Round Trip
Elevation gain: 3,000 feet from Chicago Basin or 6,000 feet from Needleton
Class: Difficult 2
Trail Info: Windom Peak West Ridge
If taking a train into the wilderness to start your backpacking adventure sounds like the trip of the lifetime, then you have to check out the Chicago Basin. Again, it’s important to have some experience not only hiking a 14er, but also backpacking before you attempt this epic, since the mountains in the Chicago Basin are not easy 14ers.
From the train stop, it’s a six-mile hike to the heart of the Chicago Basin, from there, it’s another five miles to the top of Windom Peak and back. Windom Peak is the easiest peak in the Chicago Basin, the rest of the peaks are class 3 and up, which requires route finding skills on rock, basic scrambling skills, and un-roped climbing. Check out this post for more info on the Chicago Basin.
Get Your Backpacking Planner and Checklist!
Stay organized with this easy-to-use backpacking planner and checklist for your Colorado 14er adventure. Complete with meal planner, mileage tracker, packing list, and more!
Want to learn to backpack? Check out these resources:
- Everything you need to know to prepare for your first backpacking trip
- The beginner’s guide to backpacking gear
- The hassle-free way to pee outdoors
- What to eat on a backpacking trip
The “Easiest” Winter Colorado 14er: Quandary Peak
Miles: 6.75 round trip
Elevation gain: 3,450 feet
Trail Info: East Ridge of Quandary Peak
A lot of people recommend Quandary Peak as the easiest 14er in Colorado and a great beginner mountain hike. However, in the summer this mountain is jam-packed with people, full of trash, poop, and everything else you can imagine and it’s a pretty boring hill slog. In winter, it’s still relatively crowded, but with minimal avalanche danger, a straight-forward route, low commitment, it’s a great introduction to winter peak climbing. As always, be sure to understand avalanche safety, understand the safest way up the mountain (it varies in winter), and be prepared for adverse conditions.
The Best Beginner Snowclimb: Mt. Shavano
Miles: 7.5 miles
Elevation gain: 4,600 feet
Class: 2 with snow: D3/R2/III rating
Trail Info: The Angel of Shavano
At this point, you are no longer in easy 14er mode, but instead you are breaking into more technical climbing. The mountains listed in the rest of this list are not hikes, but they are some of the better beginner mountains climbs in Colorado.
You should only attempt to climb the Angel of Shavano with a healthy knowledge of snow travel with an ice ax and crampons under your belt. Colorado has a dangerous snowpack virtually all winter, climbs like this one become safer during a short window in May and June. Properly prepare and take the avalanche conditions seriously.
The Angel of Shavano is a low-consequence snow climb that offers you a change to put your winter mountaineering skills to the test. The maximum angle on this climb hovers between 25 to 30 degrees. Once you reach the base of the mountain, the route is essentially straight up. Depending on conditions, it is possible to glissade around 2,000 vertical feet to the bottom.
The Best Class 3 Fourteener for Beginners: Mt. Lindsey
Miles: 8.25 round trip
Elevation gain: 3,500 feet
Class: Easy Class 3
Trail Info: Mt Lindsey Northwest Gully
If you’re looking to break into Class 3 terrain (read: you’ll be scrambling and using your hands) then consider climbing Mount Lindsey’s, Northwest Gully. Although there is significant exposure on this route and a fall could cause serious injury or worse, it is one of the more straight-forward class 3 routes up a fourteener.
Be sure to study the route carefully and be rewarded with stunning views of the Sangre de Cristos (one of Colorado’s best mountain ranges). Be aware that the gully is filled with loose rock and kind of suck (we actually went up the class 4 route on this peak and descended via the gully). The rock is slippery and this route will give you a true feel for what class 3 terrain can be like. If significant exposure and loose rock isn’t your thing, but you’d still like to try a class 3 route, I’d recommend starting with the Colorado 13er route of Father Dyer’s East Ridge.
Please note: There are several, much easier Colorado 14er routes than Mount Lindsey. This climb is ideal for someone looking to get into more technical climbing and is not intended for the inexperienced mountain hiker.
Wanna skip the crowds? Consider checking out Colorado’s 13ers instead. Here’s a look at a few fantastic Colorado 13ers for all abilities.
These easier Colorado 14ers by category offer up a varied amount of terrain and scenery. What they all have in common is both a physical and mental challenge with a stunning mountain backdrop.