DU Field Notes: A Guide to the “Easiest” 14ers in Colorado
Welcome to “Colorful Colorado,” a state known for its diverse landscape and an abundance of activities for outdoor enthusiasts of all abilities.
For stunning views as far as the eye can see, many look to summit Colorado’s natural wonders, including ones that are 14,000 feet tall.
Colorado has the most fourteeners of any state in the U.S. According to the Colorado Geological Survey, the state has 58 peaks that exceed 14,000 feet in elevation. While there is no such thing as an “easy” fourteener, the DU Newsroom has compiled a list of fourteeners to satisfy a thirst for adventure.
Easiest to Access
Mount Evans, about an hour drive from DU, is accessible via the Mount Evans Scenic Byway, which climbs more than 7,000 feet in 28 miles, reaching an altitude of 14,130 feet. The byway is the highest paved road in North America, barely beating Pikes Peak Highway by 25 feet.
Pikes Peak, located just west of Colorado Springs or approximately two hours from DU’s campus, is accessible via the Pikes Peak Highway, a 19-mile journey to the summit, a breathtaking 14,115 feet.
Easiest to Summit on Foot
Before deciding on a fourteener, it’s crucial to consider the overall difficulty. This includes difficulty rating, distance and other risk factors, including but not limited to exposure, rockfall and route-finding.
Hikes are rated in five classes with Class 1 being the easiest, requiring no technical skills. Classes 3 to 5 require technical skills, as those hikes include large drop-offs, sections of scrambling and climbing. Before venturing out on a long hike, it’s important to be prepared by bringing layers of clothing, food, water and a small first aid kit. Plan the route ahead of time using resources like AllTrails or other websites. And perhaps most of all, listen to your body and only do what feels comfortable.
Here are the four easiest fourteeners to hike, based on overall difficulty.
Mount Evans via Summit Lake
5.5 miles round-trip
To hike Mount Evans, starting at Summit Lake will be the easiest path. From the parking lot of Summit Lake, it takes 2,000 feet of hiking to reach the peak. On the way to the top of Mount Evans, hikers first reach Mount Spalding, a sub-summit of Mount Evans. This is a Class 2 trail due to slight scrambling close to the summit.
7 miles round-trip
Mount Bierstadt, which is just over an hour away from DU, stands 14,060 feet tall. From Guanella Pass, hikers ascend 2,850 feet in elevation on this highly trafficked Class 2 hike.
6.7 miles round-trip
Quandary Peak is near Breckenridge, approximately two hours from campus. With a starting elevation of 10,850, this Class 1 hike ascends an additional 3,450 feet to reach the 14,265-foot summit. In 2020, according to the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, it was the most climbed fourteener. Quandary Peak requires either a shuttle or parking reservation ahead of time. For more information, visit hikequandary.com
Grays and Torreys Peaks
8.1 miles round-trip
This popular combination allows hikers to summit two fourteeners, just one mile apart. This Class 2 trek, just over an hour drive from DU, starts at 11,280 feet. Grays is the first peak at approximately 3.6 miles in, followed by Torreys at 4.5 miles.
For additional resources, check out the websites listed below.