Colorado has 58 mountain peaks exceeding 14,000 feet (known as "fourteeners" or "14ers" locally) — the most of any state. Outdoor enthusiasts of all skill levels will find peaks ranging from easy to very difficult, with hiking trails for exploring the state's scenery, wildlife and rugged beauty.
Some of the Colorado's best-known fourteeners include the tallest, Mount Elbert; Pikes Peak, which inspired the poem "America the Beautiful"; and Longs Peak, which resides inside Rocky Mountain National Park. See a full list of 14ers and their elevations and an awesome infographic that describes what makes them so special to Coloradans.
The reward for reaching the summit of one of these 14ers? Some of the most breathtaking views you'll find anywhere on the planet, as well as stargazing opportunities. But it's important to know a few things beforehand, if you decide to head out to these massive Colorado fourteeners.
There is a debate about exactly how many 14ers there are in Colorado. The Colorado Geological Survey says there are 58 peaks that exceed 14,000 feet in elevation. Others use this logic: To qualify, a peak must rise at least 300 feet above the saddle that connects it to the nearest 14er peak (if another exists nearby). You can make up your own mind!
If you're looking for the same amount of adventure and a bit more solitude, we recommend detouring from the very popular 14ers to a few of 580-plus 13ers in Colorado, which pack just as much adventure punch in slightly less elevation.
Be Aware of the Effects of Altitude
While climbing up a fourteener can lead you to breathtaking views, the thinner air can lead to altitude sickness. Altitude sickness is brought on by a lack of oxygen to your body and a failure to acclimate to air that has less oxygen. It can be caused by going too high, too fast.
The problem is, everyone's body has a different rate of acclimating, so it's important to be aware of any changes you feel. The most widely felt symptom is a headache, but other symptoms include shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, marked fatigue and weakness. If you experience any of these, just follow the simple guidelines below and let others know you're not feeling 100 percent. Symptoms often improve once your body adapts to the higher elevation, but you need to be patient — and most importantly, keep hydrated and take it easy.
• Drink plenty of water; replenishing fluids helps to stabilize your body. You should do this a few days in advance as well.
• Take it easy; don’t over-exert yourself. Maybe start with a 10er, 11er, 12er or 13er first.
• Experts recommend eating a high carbohydrate diet while at altitude.
• Keep alcohol intake and smoking to a minimum.
• Remember that altitude sickness can affect anybody, even top-flight athletes.
• Most importantly: if you're not feeling well, let someone know.
• It's 100 percent OK to turn around if you need to, the mountain will be there another day.
Check out these other safety tips, including the importance of getting an early start.
Care for Colorado
Colorado has the great fortune of having these 58 majestic fourteeners right in our backyard. But every year, an increasing number of hikers and climbers attempt to ascend one of these peaks, impacting the alpine environment. It is up to those who love these mountains to minimize damage to their fragile ecosystems.
Learn more about the Care for Colorado Principles, which provide tips on how to care for these special places.
For more information on the fourteeners in Colorado, including a complete list, trip reports and more, visit 14ers.com and the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative. And read about other famous mountains in Colorado and Pikes Peak: Things to See & Do.
Want to see the 14er but not hike all the way to the top? A bunch of the mountains have campgrounds at the base as well as hikes through the meadows that surround them so you can get the feel without the intensity.