Colorado’s famed 14,000-plus foot peaks draw a crowd of hiking and mountain climbing enthusiasts. Luckily, several of the easiest 14ers are super-obtainable for avid hikers.
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 14ers can help you plan for everything from your first 14er all the way to tougher terrain such as snow climbs and scrambles.
When it comes to the best beginner 14ers in Colorado, you’ve got a wide variety of peaks to choose from. We’ll dive into every time of beginner climb, including how to start scrambling and climbing snow.
About this Guide to the Easiest Colorado 14ers
As a local of nearly 12 years, I’ve been up quite a few mountains here in Colorado. In fact, mountaineering is my passion, and I’ve spent a tremendous amount of time on 14ers in Colorado, including all of the easiest 14ers. In this guide you’ll find:
- What is a 14er?
- A complete list of the easiest 14ers in Colorado
- Route information, distance, and difficulty for each peak.
- Where to stay to hike a 14er
- Tips for hiking the easy Colorado 14ers
- Additional 14er planning resources
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 the easiest 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.
The 15 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 Easiest 14er in Colorado for First-Timers: Mt. Bierstadt
Miles: 7 round-trip
Elevation gain: 2,850 feet
Highlights: A hike with beautiful views but very popular. Therefore, arrive early to avoid crowds.
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 Bierstadt’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.
Mt. Sherman- The Southwest Ridge
Miles: 5.25 miles starting at the 12,000-foot gate, 8.5 miles starting at Leavick Site, 10.5 miles starting at the 11,100-foot winter closure Elevation gain: 2, 100 feet starting at the 12,000-foot gate, 2,850 feet starting at Leavick Site, 3,100 feet starting at the 11,100-foot winter closure
Highlights: You’ll need to drive over some rough roads to get to this trailhead. But once you get there, you’ll hike along a local road surrounded by wildflowers in the spring.
Located near Leadville, Colorado, this popular and strenuous hike features large swaths of wildflowers all along the trail throughout the spring.
To get here, you’ll also have to drive up a long road that is rough, but doable for most cars with four-wheel drive.
Best traversed between May and September, this is one of Colorado’s easiest 14ers where you’ll start your hike up a road and continue to the Dauntless Mine.
Once there, turn right and follow the road, eventually turning left to the upper mine area.
Continue on into this flat area, eventually passing a pile of gray rock. Once here, find a cairn and ascend the trail toward the slope. Continue on the cairned trail and turn right to see Sherman’s southwest ridge.
Climb the ridge, continuing until you reach a small notch in the ridge and follow the ridge crest.
This is where you’ll find the most difficult section of the trail, which is filled with loose rock, and continue on to the stunning views at the true summit.
Local Tip: Please do not attempt to climb over any cornice that may be blocking the trail. It’s much safer to hike around it because you could get seriously hurt if it collapses.
Huron Peak – Northwest Slopes
Miles: 6.5 miles, 10.75 miles if you hike the road from Winfield
Elevation gain: 3,500 feet, 3,800 feet if you hike the road from Winfield
Highlights: An easy-to-follow hike with beautiful views of the Three Apostles. You’ll just need a four by four vehicle to get to the trailhead.
Located near Buena Vista, Colorado, this stunning out and back trail is best used any time between May and September and is one of those easiest Colorado 14ers that won’t be difficult to follow.
Although, you will need a solid four-by-four vehicle to get to the trailhead. Once there, hike your way through a vast forest, eventually crossing a stream and then ascending several switchbacks uphill.
Stop for an epic view of the Three Apostles and then continue your approach to a high basin. Follow the trail to the center of the basin, eventually climbing out and onto Huron’s upper slopes.
From here, you’ll zig-zag your way up the crest of the north ridge, finally ascending a steep rocky pitch 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
Highlights: Enjoy stunning panoramas of Colorado as you hike up 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 14ers for beginners, 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
Highlights: This is the highest peak in the state so it’s worth the 5+ hour arduous hike to the top.
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
Highlights: A crowded hike but pretty straightforward so good for beginners.
Alright, so I’ve got a confession to make. As much as I enjoyed hiking Grays and Torreys Peak, 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 straightforward 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
Highlights: A tough route up and down various slopes. You’ll also find loose rock as you descend Mount Bross.
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.
Mt. Evans – West Ridge from Summit Lake
Miles: 5.50 miles round-trip
Elevation gain: 2,000 feet
Highlights: A short out and back hike through the M. Evans Wilderness Area where you can submit Mt. Spalding and Mt. Evans.
This popular out and back trail near Idaho, Springs is part of the Mt. Evans Wilderness Area. Therefore, you will need to pay an entrance to get inside so that you can drive to the Summit Lake Parking Area.
Once you’re parked, follow the trail to the end of the lake and follow a signed trail that ascends 13er Mt. Spalding’s east ridge.
Stay left below the ridge crest to avoid excessively tough terrain, eventually summiting Mt. Spalding along the way.
Follow a series of cairns south to the end of the west ridge until the trail eventually drops below the ridge. From here, it’s a mile climb to the summit
Pro Tip: Before visiting, please familiarize yourself with the park’s special regulations since this trail sits inside a designated wilderness area.
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
Highlights: It’s the easiest hike in the Chicago Basin and you get to take a train into the wilderness!
If taking a train into the wilderness to start your backpacking adventure sounds like the trip of a 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.
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
Highlights: It’s pretty crowded and full of trash but good for beginners.
A lot of people recommend Quandary Peak as the easiest 14er in Colorado and a great beginner mountain hike.
Keep in mind, in the summer this mountain is jam-packed with people, full of trash, poop, and everything else you can imagine – we saw someone with a watermelon at the top (uhhh…okayyy??). For these reasons, I don’t really recommend it for a first 14er in summer.
Not to mention and it’s a pretty boring hill slog in the summer. There are more beautiful summer summits! Can you do it? Sure, but winter is my favorite time to explore Quandary Peak.
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.
Local Tip: As of July 30th, 2021 you must have an advanced permit reservation to hike Quandary Peak.
The Best Beginner Snowclimb: Mt. Shavano
Miles: 7.5 miles
Elevation gain: 4,600 feet
Class: 2 with snow: D3/R2/III rating
Highlights: A low-consequence snow climb where you can glissade 2,000 vertical feet to the bottom.
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 mountain 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 chance 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: Wetterhorn Peak
Miles: 7 round trip
Elevation gain: 3,300 feet
Class: Class 3
Highlights: Mostly solid rock and the Class 3 terrain section is pretty easy to get through.
If you’re looking to break into Class 3 terrain (read: you’ll be scrambling and using your hands) then consider climbing Wetterhorn Peak’s Southeast Ridge.
The rock is mostly solid and the class 3 portion is quick. These two factors let you dip your feet into scrambling without committing to something that’s burly.
Once you’re in class 3 terrain, navigation is relatively easy as long as you do your homework and read up on the route beforehand.
What’s great about Wetterhorn is the rock is overall solid and generally mellow scrambling. However, there are a few steep and exposed sections to get your heart pumping.
This route will give you a true feel for what class 3 terrain can be like. If you’re not quite up to the challenge, but want to learn to scramble 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 Wetterhorn Peak. This is an ideal route for someone that has a few of the easier Colorado 14ers under their belt and is looking to take a more challenging peak that has a little bit of climbing.
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.
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 the 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:
- Fantastically free camping near Denver
- Colorado’s Most Amazing Campgrounds
- How to find free camping anywhere
Tips for Your First 14er
There are a few key things you need to understand before you embark on an easier Colorado 14er.
Before you hit the trail, be to tell someone at home your plans, make sure you’re proper;y acclimatizes, and check the weather to get up-to-date information about storms, wind, temps, etc.
Also download photos, GPS coordinates, and maps – printing off a paper map and any additional resources you may need.
Once on the trail, go slow and take plenty of breaks as needed. Remember, getting to the summit is only the halfway point.
What to Pack for the Easiest Colorado 14ers
Not sure what to pack for some of the easiest Colorado 14ers? Then check out this local’s super quick 14er packing list.
Use this and you’ll know that you have everything you need to stay safe and enjoy the hike of a lifetime!
- Extra layers (hat and gloves are a must – even in summer!)
- First aid kit
- Blister kit
- Sun protection
- Emergency space blanket or bivvy
- Lighter/fire starting kit
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 – just be sure to download the photos before heading out (learned this one the hard way!).
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.
For more info on preparing to hike or climb a Colorado 14er, check out these handy resources:
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.