With 55 peaks above 14,000 feet above sea level, Colorado has more "fourteeners" than any other state in the union. These 55 peaks have become extremely popular over the past decades and are climbed by thousands of people each year.  Difficulty ranges from a simple walk up to tough class 4 climbing, but even the most difficult 14ers can all be climbed without ropes.  These massive mountains cut through some of the most stunning terrain in the United States leaving everyone from the vacationer to the  peak bagger ever in awe of mother nature's beauty.  

14er Hiking Tips For the Beginner or Vacationer

If you are coming from lower elevations for vacation or just want to summit one of Colorado's high peaks, make sure you wait at least a few days to become accustomed to the higher elevations before trekking up your first 14,000 foot peak. In the days leading up to your climb, be sure to keep fully hydrated.  The night before you climb it is highly recommended that you camp near the base of your mountain.  Camping at elevation serves two purposed--to ensure you have an early start the next morning and to get you acclimatized to high altitude. 

Your goal should be to reach the summit no later than noon.  By getting to the summit at noon, you will reduce your risk of encountering afternoon thunderstorms, which are highly dangerous above treeline.  This means that you should be on the trail no later than 7 o'clock for only the easiest of fourteeners.  You must judge your athletic ability, total distance, and total elevation gain to estimate how quickly you will reach the top.  Generally, a person in good shape will average about 1 to 2 miles an hour. 

If you get a headache as you are hiking, be sure to drink more water, as this is the first stage of high altitude sickness.  Do not be too worried though, as this is quite common.  An advil and a good rest will help ease the pain.  If you are coming from low altitudes, do not over exert yourself too quickly.  It may ultimately prevent you from summitting your mountain. 

Uncompaghre Peak - A Colorado 14erCredit: GarrWhat to bring for your hike

First use this backpacking checklist as a guide to help you get started.  If you are simply doing a day hike up your mountain, most of the overnight gear included in this checklist is uneeded.  Pay special attention to the clothing and essentials categories.  For clothing, it is always important to bring clothes for all conditions.  It may be summer at lower altitudes, but it could potentially snow any time of the year above 14,000 feet.  It is also extremely important to bring a good poncho to keep you dry.  Afternoon thunderstorms are almost an everyday occurence in the Colorado mountains.  Just make sure you are below treeline when the storms come. 

Your essential gear includes a map, first aid kit, sunscreen, and ibuprofen.  The latter three items are some of the most commonly forgotten items that should be taken on every hiking trip.  Also be sure to bring enough food and water to keep you going throughout your entire hike.  You may not need an entire meal, but keep in mind your body will work very hard to get itself up your peak. 

Beginner 14ers

Mount Sherman is the perfect peak for those who want to climb a Colorado "14er."  Standing at 14,036 feet above sea level, Mount Sherman is the 45th  highest peak in Colorado and is often considered to be the easiest high peak in the state.  The hike itself is about two and a half miles each way and is just a simple walk up with no technical experience needed. Mount Sherman also has the advantage of being only a few short hours from Denver. 

Some other great easy 14ers are Greys and Torries, which can be climbed in together.  If you want to drive a few extra hours, Handies Peak is another great option.  The surrounding terrain on Handies is also much more beautiful than that on Greys, Torries, or Sherman.  Uncompaghre Peak, pictured in this article, is another easy peak and is one of the most stunning in the state.  The trailhead can be easily accessed with a four wheel drive vehicle. 

Crowds on 14ers

If you think hiking up a 14er will get you away from the crowds, you may want to think again.  On any given weekend in the summer, the most popular 14ers, like Mount Sherman, Greys, and Torries, will see hundreds of people hike to its summit.  Despite these large crowds, hiking up a 14er is an essential Colorado experience, and it will leave you with an extreme sense of accomplishment that you will never forget.

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