The Colorado mountains are a major point of interest for many people who visit the state and it's no surprise that hiking them is worn like a badge of honor - as it should. Appropriately called the 14ers, there are a total of 58 mountain peaks throughout the state that exceeds the height of 14,000 feet. For avid hikers and mountaineers, summiting most - or even all - of these peaks is a bold bucket-list item.

Hikers visiting Colorado might find themselves curious, as well, as to why these peaks are held in such high regard and the only way to satisfy that curiosity is to climb one. The entire state is home to some incredible hiking trails but for those in the market to add a 14er to their list, here are the easiest mountains to start out with.

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*Note: Climbers should always come prepared and anticipate altitude changes, weather conditions, and pack accordingly.

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Quandary Peak

The good thing about Quandry Peak - depending on how a hiker looks at it - is that being alone is a rare occurrence. The route is heavily trekked, especially when the weather is good with a clear view of the surrounding landscape. This is because it's in the top three easiest peaks to summit and also follows a fairly traditional route up to the top of the mountain, requiring little need for technicalities. The second reason this route is so popular is that more than 90% of it is above the treeline, which means there are views to follow hikers the entire way up to the top. This hike has multiple routes up and down, with the West Ridge being the most challenging (class 3) and the East Ridge being the easiest. This hike is also well-conditioned during the winter, with the North and South Routes becoming the toughest.

  • Total Elevation: 14,365'
  • Total Length: 6.75 miles
  • Most Popular Route: East Ridge
  • Fees:

Grays Peak

Grays Peak is considered easy overall but is slightly more of a challenge than Quandry. However, it's also one of the closest to Denver so getting to the start of this trailhead isn't very difficult - which is good for first-timers. After about an hour's drive, hikers will need a vehicle with 4WD or be able to catch a ride to the trailhead, which is somewhat off the beaten path. Those who choose to hoof it the entire way will need to account for an extra three miles to the actual trailhead of the mountain. It's also best to reach this trail early on in the day because it is quite popular and will fill up with hikers as the day goes on. The toughest terrain on this route is a class 2 rock scramble, and it is about two miles longer than Quandry.

  • Total Elevation: 14,278'
  • Total Length: 8.6 miles
  • Most Popular Route: Front Range

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Handies Peak

Handies Peak is arguably the easiest mountain to summit out of all the 14ers which means it's also one of the most well-hiked trails on the range. This mountain is part of the San Juan range which is a fairly remote mountain range outside of any major city, so hikers should prepare to have a secluded trip out to the trailhead. Those who aren't familiar with intense elevation gains or long hikers will be happy to know that out of all the 14ers, Handies has the least elevation gain and also features the shortest trail to the top. Getting to the trailhead also requires a 4WD vehicle or a ride there, lest hikers want to account for two more miles in addition to the miles spent on the mountain trail. The closest cities to this mountain are Telluride, Silverton, Durango, and Lake City, so it's a much shorter ride for hikers with accommodations in those cities.

  • Total Elevation: 14,058'
  • Total Length: 5.5 miles
  • Most Popular Route: Southwest Slopes

What To Prepare For When Hiking In Colorado

Hiking a 14er isn't necessarily a novice trek and hikers should prepare accordingly. The Next Summit recommends bringing these things along for the hike:

  • A headlamp + batteries
  • Sunscreen and sunglasses
  • Navigation gear + a map and compass
  • At least two liters of water
  • First-aid kit
  • An emergency shelter for longer hikes
  • Multi-tool
  • Fire-starting tool
  • An extra layer of clothing

As with any mountain hike, hikers should be aware of the weather conditions before heading out. Temperatures and conditions can change rapidly at high elevations which can make weather patterns unpredictable - a radio is helpful in determining what to expect during and at the end of a hike.

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