The Ultimate Guide to Hiking Colorado's Fourteeners

Fifty-four peaks. More than 140 routes. And hundreds of thousands of feet in elevation. Here, the ultimate beginner’s guide to climbing Colorado’s famous fourteeners.

June 2013

Photos by Jeff Nelson

Our sub-14,000-footers deserve love, too.

Colorado’s fourteeners get all the attention, but many other peaks are just as fun to climb. Dan England, outdoor and entertainment editor for the Greeley Tribune, occasional mountain guide, and conqueror of all of Colorado’s fourteeners, suggests four shorter hills.

FLATTOP MOUNTAIN (12,324 feet, Easy) Unlike many in its height category, this popular peak in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) offers a trail all the way to the top. Take a left at the summit to hike over tundra and hit Hallett Peak (12,713 feet), about a half-mile jaunt away, for a stunning view of Longs Peak.

MT. AUDUBON (13,223 feet, Easy) The Indian Peaks Wilderness’ most well-traveled peak has a trail almost all the way to the summit, and yet its wild beauty and breathtaking views make it feel like a much more exciting adventure.

JAMES PEAK (13,294 feet, Moderate) Many aspiring mountaineers—the kind who might one day like to summit more dangerous and exotic peaks—learn how to navigate snow and ice by trekking this peak’s St. Mary’s Glacier route.

MT. ALICE (13,310 feet, Difficult) The long approach is the bane of any peak bagger’s existence, as the fun stuff often occurs near the summit. Mt. Alice’s approach is a really long 18 miles, but the journey truly is the reward. Alice’s trail winds through the Wild Basin segment of RMNP, an underrated beauty full of waterfalls, streams, and the famous Lion Lakes. Alice’s summit, if you can believe it, is boring in comparison.


The must-have equipment list.

DAYHIKING PACK Nothing heavy or bulky

STURDY SHOES Cross-trainers or hiking boots will do fine

LAYERS Summertime climbs can be chilly in the morning and hot in the afternoon

WATER A bottle or a bladder is required; bring enough for your dog

FOOD Pack trail mix, jerky, or granola bars to replace spent calories

WATCH It’s good to keep track of time—afternoon thunderstorms are a real threat

SUN PROTECTION Many trails are exposed and, at 14,000 feet, the sun is piercing



CELL PHONE You may not always have reception but bring it anyway—it could be a lifesaver

MAPS AND A COMPASS Most of the “easy” fourteeners do not require route-finding skills, but it’s always good to have these in your pack

FIRST-AID KIT If nothing else, you may want Band-Aids for blisters

MATCHES This fits into the it-can’t-hurt category