An exhaustive list of all 58 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks.
Colorado's soaring mountain peaks scrape the bright blue dome of the sky, boasting some of the highest elevations on the continent. Sitting on top of a lofty 14er summit feels both physically and emotionally like being on top of the world! You'll have the opportunity to slowly examine the landscape below you from an uncommon vantage point: smaller mountain peaks, lakes, trees, rivers, roads, and towns spread out like a map. With the rest of humanity so far below you, the problems of the world often seem utterly insignificant. This euphoric feeling is bolstered by an exhilarating rush from the aerobic effort of the climb… and the lack of oxygen reaching your brain.
While sure, Mount Whitney in California claims the title of "highest mountain in the Lower 48," the state of Colorado boasts the most mountains over 14,000 feet, with some 58 peaks. This lengthy list of lofty summits has become a bonafide bucket list for thousands of Coloradans, and even mountaineers from around the world. Checking off all 58 14ers is a popular goal—you'll realize just how popular as you hike in a train of climbers making for the summit on any given mid-summer day. While many would argue that these summits are now much too popular for their own good, the mind-blowing alpine views and the sensation of truly being on top of the world keep climbers coming back again and again.
While the 58 14ers listed in this guidebook might seem to organize into a nice, neat list, there's actually a substantial amount of debate about which mountain peaks truly qualify as official 14ers. Mountains are generally differentiated from each other based on rules of topographic prominence. The question that the rule of topographic prominence answers is, "is this peak its own mountain, or is it merely a sub-peak of a different mountain?" To determine topographic prominence, you must measure "how high a mountain rises above its highest connecting saddle to a higher mountain," according to Josh Friesema on OutThereColorado.com. "A generally accepted rule in Colorado is that a point must have at least 300 feet of prominence to be considered a separate peak," he continues. Mount Cameron, for example, only has 138 feet of topographic prominence from Mount Lincoln. Since Mount Lincoln is higher, "Cameron does not meet the rule of being its own summit," Friesema concludes.
Whether you subscribe to the shorter list of 54 or a more permissive list of 58 summits, you'll find all the 14ers right here in this guidebook!
As you prepare to climb your first (or maybe even 58th!) 14er, remember that "there's no such thing as an easy 14er." Some of the mountains in this guidebook are less technical and have shorter approaches, and other mountains are dramatically more technical or may even require a multi-day adventure to complete. But regardless of the supposed difficulty, remember that every single mountain peak should be approached with an abundance of caution.
"Mountaineering in Colorado can be very dangerous, and many people have died on the 14ers," writes 14ers.com. Hazards include, but are not limited to: lightning strikes, exposure (including hypothermia), altitude sickness, dehydration, falling from exposed cliffs and boulders, and so much more.
One of the major hazards that you must constantly be aware of while climbing a 14er is the weather. Thunderstorms will build quickly in the mountains on most summer afternoons. Lightning strikes are one of the most deadly forces above treeline in Colorado, so it's paramount that you return below treeline before the storms build. This means that you'll often need to start your hike very early in the morning.
According to 14ers.com, "I usually plan for a start early enough to get me below treeline by noon (on the descent). For a day hike that requires 10-15 miles roundtrip, consider hitting the trail a couple of hours before sunrise." While this is a great rule of thumb, note that storms can and do build earlier in the day. If the skies look dangerous, it's always best to turn around and play it safe. Remember: when you reach the summit, your hike is only half over.
Climbing Colorado's lofty mountain peaks is one of the most fulfilling outdoor pursuits in the country! The feeling of satisfaction from this incredible accomplishment is impossible to beat! But this satisfaction comes from the challenge of the climb and the difficulty inherent in climbing 14ers. Make smart choices, climb within your abilities, and always be willing to turn around so that you can live to climb another day.