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The Best Hikes of Colorado 14'ers

168 Triplog Reviews in the Colorado 14'ers
Most recent of 99 deeper Triplog Reviews
5.9 mi • 2,096 ft aeg
Decided to do Evans, from Summit Lake Park. Great hike! You climb the ridge around the lake and follow the ridge line around and above the lake, climbing Spalding, then ultimately Evans.

On my way up I noticed these odd, gross looking bugs that looked like a cross between a cricket and a cockroach, there were lots of them on the trail going up to Spalding this morning. Once you start climbing up Evans you will find it’s for the most part a boulder hop, and there are a few routes all over the back side of Evans to get hikers to the top. On the way down I took one that disappeared when I reached the saddle, and I had to bushwhack a little to get back to the main trail across the saddle back to Spalding. On the way down the road after the hike I ran into a family of mountain goats.
8.4 mi • 4,531 ft aeg
After hiking Mount Harvard the day before, I was a bit tired when I got of bed early in the morning to do this hike. I though about calling the hike off, but I decided to endeavor to persevere.

This hike is about as straightforward as it gets: head south for 4 miles, gaining 4,500 of elevation in the process; then turn around and drop 4,500 feet of elevation in 4 miles on the return.

The "warm up" on this hike consisted of only gaining 950 feet of elevation in the first mile. After that, it starts to get steep. There were lots of short switchbacks in the last couple of miles which were helpful.

The hike was almost all class 1, with a bit of class 2 thrown in for good measure.

There were a few people out on the trails, but not many. I had the summit to myself.

The views were nice at the summit, so there was a decent payoff for the effort to get up there.
14.16 mi • 4,622 ft aeg
I have been wanting to go to Colorado over the last couple of months, but active monsoon weather patterns kept me away until now.

I decided to hike up to Mount Harvard -- it's the 3rd highest peak in Colorado, and the 4th highest in the continental US (a mere 80 feet lower than Mount Whitney). Best of all, it is a Colorado County highpoint (Chaffee County) and a P2K peak.

The first 5 miles were basically a class 1 hike, with the first 4 miles being in trees. Things got more "interesting" in mile 5, with a half mile or so grind through a talus/boulder field. The last mile to the summit was really steep, gaining around 1,300-1,400 feet in elevation. A lot of this was what I would call class 2 scrambling. Even though this is billed as a class 2 hike, I thought that part of the final scramble to the summit was class 3, and borderline sketchy class 3 at that.

About 30 seconds before I got to the summit a group of 9 hikers came out of no where and got to the summit. They had been backbacking and came across a ridgeline. They were about the only hikers that I saw all day, and I did my best to contain my enthusiasm at arriving at the summit at the same time that they did.

I managed to scramble down off the summit block at about the same route that I came up, and the descent went pretty slow on the tough terrain.

There was lots of water in creeks and lakes on the hike.

Views at the summit and along the way were good, but not as good as some other peaks in Colorado that I can think of.

This hike was tougher than I thought that it would be. I have done 21 14ers, and I'd say that this one and a day hike to Mount Whitney were the 2 toughest. In some respects, Harvard was harder than Whitney.

Wildflowers
There were a few flowers and mushrooms here and there, but not a whole lot.
8.37 mi • 3,654 ft aeg
This was the last stop on our little hiking and backpacking tour of Colorado. I normally would not go out of my way to do a 14er so close to Denver on a Saturday, but both peaks were listed as a couple of the more dog friendly 14ers in Colorado and it was slightly on the way towards Michigan, where the pups and I were driving to after.

Camping at a popular 14er trailhead within an hour of Denver ended up being about as nice as one would expect, loud, tons of people and no sleep, but I was still able to grab a couple hours of sleep before a 3:30 a.m. wake up. The early start enabled us to be on the summit of Grays before 6:30 a.m. The trail up to Grays is a good trail and as advertised is a pretty moderate trail for a 14er with a manageable grade. There were only a couple of people on th summit when we got there. We took turns taking each other’s pics and then headed down after only a couple of minutes because it was so cold and windy. From Grays we made the quick drop to the saddle and then headed up to Torreys. The views from Torreys were a little nicer, but again our stay was short, as it was very windy and cold. From the summit, it was a quick hike back with the only thing slowing us being the boards of people and I do mean hoards. Every squaare inch of parking was taken near the trailhead and cars were parked on the side of the road for another 1.5 miles down the road. Start early to beat the crowds and storms.

My 11th and 12th fourteeners.


8 mi • 2,827 ft aeg
Picked the perfect day to hike Mount Bierstadt, and so did everyone else in Denver it seemed like. I've heard the trails were getting crowded in the front range, but had no idea I would be part of the pilgrimage to the summit of this 14er. Don't get me wrong, this is a fantastic hike, just wasn't ready for crying babies and countless dogs running loose off leash all over the hillside.
8 mi • 2,600 ft aeg
Hit the trail before sunup and found frost everywhere. My daughter got carsick coming up Guanella pass so she had a rough start. Kept a slow but steady pace with my wife who was on her 1st 14er attempt along with my daughter. We had acclimated in Boulder for almost a week. Eventually made it to the ridge and started up the boulder section. After a while, we made the summit and enjoyed the view for a while before heading back down. No altitude sickness for any of us and a first 14er for my wife and daughter.
9.85 mi • 4,466 ft aeg
Second hike in Colorado was La Plata Peak. I got the to trailhead around 4:15am, and it was already full, so I parked along the highway. The first half of the hike was relatively easy, with some long, flat stretches interrupted by some steep gains. Again, the first hour or so was by headlamp, and I didn't realize how steeply the side of the trail dropped to the river below in a lot of places until my hike back out in daylight. I took a snack break just at the beginning of the never ending ascent to the summit, and stashed my headlamp. The climb uphill was very steep, with a lot of other hikers, but I took my time and eventually reached the first saddle. It was cloudy, cold, and windy from that point to the top. From there, it's a ridge walk up to the summit. There was still snow along the trail in places, so everyone was forced to the right, into the boulders. They were loose, but there was a cairned route through them. Just below the summit, a very enthusiastic group of guys carrying a keg caught up to me, they owned a brewery in Boulder--Upslope Brewing. They had way too much energy for the conditions, but I followed them to the summit, and even though I don't like beer, took a few sips. It was cold at the summit, so I didn't stick around as long--just long enough to chat for a few minutes, eat, and add a few more layers. The hike down through the boulders was tedious but uneventful, and after that was pretty easy going. Once back down in the valley, it felt warm without the breeze, so I was stopping to shed the layers which were needed at the summit. Lots of people on this trail, and I finished up around noon. The trailhead was packed, there were people parked everywhere. Next time I'm in Colorado to hike 14ers, I'll be starting even earlier than I did on this trip.
13.82 mi • 4,627 ft aeg
Massive was first on my list for Colorado. I got to the trailhead at 4:30am, and it was nearly full. The first hour or so of the hike was with a headlamp. I took a quick snack break just after turning off the CT onto the Massive trail, and by then it was light enough to put the headlamp away. I made my way sloooowly uphill, taking a few more breaks along the way. Perfect weather afforded lots of picture taking opportunities at each break. Finally at the saddle, the ridge walk the rest of the way to the top was my favorite section. There were two groups of people coming down, but nobody else. I got to the summit just after 9:00am, and had it all to myself for 45 minutes. As I was leaving, a group of 3 women showed up, having started from the North Half Moon side. I chatted with them for a minute, then headed back down. Downhill felt like a breeze, and the weather stayed perfect until the last mile or so, then there was some rain/hail, but it was shortlived. Water and flowers everywhere along nearly the entire trail. Hardly any people on the trail, which was nice, and more women than men.
12.82 mi • 4,190 ft aeg
Not many people try to climb Mount Massive from what 14ers.com calls the “Southwest Slopes Route”. It starts from the North Halfmoon Lakes Trailhead on what is marked on my National Geographic Map (Aspen Independence Pass, #127) as the North Halfmoon Trail #1485. Following #1485 northwest 2.7 miles will lead you to the North Halfmoon Lakes.
About 1.6 miles in on #1485, the trail leading to Mount Massive takes off to the right and goes up, up, up a steep, sometimes boulder strewn slope with many, many switchbacks to the top. The point of departure is at a sign shown in my photos. However, the sign merely says “Mount Massive Trail 1451”, with no mention of trail #1485 or indication which route leads where. Luckily, I had a GPS route I had downloaded from 14ers.com which indicated that I should turn right and up the slope. This point is the only question mark over the entire trip, and could cause some hikers without a map or GPS some confusion.
I did some exploring on the internet and found the Forest Service Environmental Assessment (FONSI issued May 7, 2003) which contains an evaluation of various Mount Massive climbing activities and their impacts. The significant increase in hiker interest to bag 14ers had caused several social trails to develop with consequent environmental impacts such as increased erosion. Part of the preferred action to address these impacts was to “stabilize the climbing routes from the North Halfmoon Lakes Trail to the Summit of Mount Massive from the south side of the mountain”. So, they built a single ridgeline route which blocked all other routes to and from the top. That route is referred to by the Forest Service in the EA as Forest Development Trail #1451, and sometimes as the North Halfmoon West Route.
On the day I did this hike, I mistakenly stayed on #1485 toward the lakes and within a hundred yards or so, came to an area that had been subjected to a snow avalanche which obliterated the trail. My GPS by that time told me that I was off the trail to the top, so I bushwhacked a bit to intersect the trail up. I hope the pictures I posted and the information presented here will help others avoid this same mistake. It’s an easy mistake to make; three others behind me a few hundred yards did the same thing.
This may the longest, continuous steep climb I’ve done in Colorado. Here is the heartbreaking part. When I got to the saddle where this route joins with the standard East Route # 1487, about a half mile from the peak (and 170 feet below the summit), the thunder over on Mount Elbert to the south kicked up. As I recovered with some food, the thunder got worse and clouds got blacker. I could see it raining there. The last half mile looked to be some class 3, and I didn’t want to get caught out there, so I pulled the plug and headed down the East Route. I figured to live and hike another day, but didn’t want to tackle the severe down slope on the way I came up. At that point, I was just anxious to get below the tree line. I scooted down to about 13,000 feet and thought I had a few minutes to eat something (it was then approaching 2:00 p.m.). After a few bites, here came the hail. After a few minutes of hail came sleet, then snow, then just rain. I didn’t even have time to get my pack covered, but did manage to get my raincoat on. I was totally drenched within minutes. Luckily the lightning held off till I got to the tree line. I didn’t get a chance to finish my lunch till about 4:00 p.m.
So, I completed the loop up from North Halfmoon Trailhead and down to the Mount Massive Trailhead (at the point the Colorado Trail crosses CR 110), and included the road between the THs to boot. I won’t soon forget this day. My wife asked me the next day if I was going to try another 14er. I told her “I’m done for this year”.
15 mi • 6,100 ft aeg
Harvard/Columbia
This was a bigger day than I had bargained for, but it was a success. Based on the stats (13.7 mi, 5813' AEG) and relatively nonchalant description in the Roach guide, I expected a little bit tougher version of Oxford/Belford. It was considerably tougher. The stats above are from 14ers.com, which seem more correct to me after the hike. In addition to the bigger numbers, the terrain and level of commitment on this hike are more serious than Oxford/Belford and all of the other combos I've done.

The trail into Horn Fork Basin and subsequent ascent of Harvard is the highlight of this hike, and IMO is ideally done as a backpack. There are lots of nice camping spots below tree line in the basin by the Columbia turnoff, and the trail is very gradual up to that point. Harvard is a BIG mountain and you feel all of those 420 feet over 14,000, but it's nice and straightforward.

The traverse to Columbia ranges from lovely to maddening. Some of it is a clear trail, some of it is talus, some of it is an eroded mess (at least if you're like me and didn't spend enough time looking at the 14ers.com pictures), and a good amount of it is over snowfields this time of year. It took me about 2:45 to complete; I'd avoid starting it after 9:00 or if there's any sign of unfavorable weather.

blog.rei.com/hike/m ... 4er/

The above article is a good description of the situation on Columbia. I ended up on the crappy slopes, though I saw another party that had found their way to one of the newer sections of trail which looked really nice as I was skiing down the dirt. My advice is to wait on this combo until the trail is completed, or to do the peaks as two separate outings: Harvard via the standard route, and Columbia via one of the alternate routes from the East. Of course, if you're an insatiable peak bagger or an unprepared moron or a combination of the two :oops:, then this combo is here for the taking...
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