Colorado's Giant Peaks: The Fourteeners

The Colorado Rockies

The Rocky Mountains, a long twisty string of peaks, spans across North America from Alaska, through Canada, to central New Mexico. The state of Colorado boasts the tallest of the peaks where this range reaches its climax. The most dominant feature of the Rockies is the Continental Divide which is a long ridge that marks the divide of the Atlantic and Pacific watersheds. Colorado, alone, offers over 50 mountain ranges, 830 summits, and 55 peaks that reach over fourteen thousand feet above sea level. Coloradans refer to these 55 peaks as Fourteeners.

A word of caution: Depending on what literature you read, you might come across a list of 53 peaks or 56 peaks. Further explanation of why this is the case can be found if you continue reading...

Mt. Elbert: 14,433 feet
Mt. Elbert: 14,433 feet
Mt. Yale: 14,196 feet
Mt. Yale: 14,196 feet

Ascending Fourteeners

Climbing and conquering the Fourteeners in Colorado is something that is often on the Bucket List for rock-climbing enthusiasts. Many people have made it their goal to at least attempt all of them. Most of Colorado's Fourteeners are not extreme challenges for experienced rock climbers. Most of the terrain that climbers encounter on Colorado's peaks include:

  • scrambling across talus slopes (loose or broken rocks at the base of a rock wall),
  • hiking up steep, grassy slopes, and
  • picking through ice walls.

Every so often, climbers will require ropes, crampons, and ice axes, but those occasions are few and far between. Some of the peaks such as Longs and Capitol Peaks offer long, technical rock climbing rocks for those who are so inclined.

One thing climbers have to be very aware of is the rapidly changing weather, especially above the tree line where the land is barren. During the summer months, climbers have to be careful of thunder and lightning storms which occur almost every afternoon. During the winter, snow and high winds could affect a climb within seconds. It is crucial that climbers bring the right gear with them, including layers of clothing, plenty of water, and rain gear. If possible, it would also behoove climbers to bring a GPS unit or a map.

Altitude sickness is also something to be aware of when climbing any mountain, not just a Fourteener. If you start feeling nauseous, get a headache, and start to get dizzy, it would be a good idea to descend to lower elevations. One way to prevent altitude sickness is to drink as much water as possible. The thinner air will affect the amount of oxygen you are inhaling as well as the different air pressure at higher altitudes.

If you are planning on ascending a Fourteener, it would probably be a good idea to make sure you prepare your body appropriately for the challenge. Participating regularly in cardiovascular activities prior to the climb. Building up stamina and endurance would help your body tremendously before going on the adventure. Climbing steps, running, biking, and swimming are all good activities to participate in, in order to prepare your body.

Quandary Peak: 14,265 feet
Quandary Peak: 14,265 feet

Official Fourteeners

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) and the Colorado Mountain Club (CMC) have certain criteria they use to qualify a peak as a Fourteener. Just because the summit of a mountain reaches 14,000 feet doesn't mean they automatically qualify. According to the guidelines, a peak must rise at least 300 feet above a "saddle" which connects it to another nearby peak. Some peaks do rise above the required 14,000 feet mark but at the low point between them and and a higher peak does not rise beyond 300 feet above sea level.

Official Fourteeners are also not independent mountains, but rather peaks that are joined together in a range.

Colorado's Giants

Number
Fourteener
Summit
Mountain Range
1
Mt. Elbert
14,433 feet
Sawatch
2
Mt. Massive
14,421 feet
Sawatch
3
Mt. Harvard
14.420 feet
Sawatch
4
Blanca Peak
14,345 feet
Sangre de Cristo
5
La Plata Peak
14,336 feet
Sawatch
6
Uncompahgre Peak
14,309 feet
San Juan
7
Crestone Peak
14,294 feet
Sangre de Cristo
8
Mt. Lincoln
14,286 feet
Mosquito
9
Grays Peak
14,270 feet
Front
10
Mt. Antero
14,269 feet
Sawatch
11
Torreys Peak
14,267 feet
Front
12
Castle Peak
14,265 feet
Elk
13
Quandary Peak
14,265 feet
Tenmile
14
Mt. Evans
14,264 feet
Front
15
Longs Peak
14,255 feet
Front
16
Mt. Wilson
14,246 feet
San Juan
17
Mt. Shavano
14,229 feet
Sawatch
18
Mt. Belford
14,197 feet
Sawatch
19
Crestone Needle
14,197 feet
Sangre de Cristo
20
Mt. Princeton
14,197 feet
Sawatch
21
Mt. Yale
14,196 feet
Sawatch
22
Mt. Bross
14,172 feet
Mosquito
23
Kit Carson Peak
14,165 feet
Sangre de Cristo
24
Maroon Peak
14,156 feet
Elk
25
Tabeguache Peak
14,155 feet
Sawatch
26
Mt. Oxford
14,153 feet
Sawatch
27
Mt. Sneffels
14,150 feet
San Juan
28
Mt. Democrat
14,148 feet
Mosquito
29
Capitol Peak
14,130 feet
Elk
30
Pikes Peak
14,110 feet
Front
31
Snowmass Mountain
14,092 feet
Elk
32
Mt. Eolus
14,083 feet
San Juan
33
Windom Peak
14,082 feet
San Juan
34
Challenger Point
14,081 feet
Sangre de Cristo
35
Mt. Columbia
14,073 feet
Sawatch
36
Missouri Mountain
14,067 feet
Sawatch
37
Humboldt Peak
14,064 feet
Sangre de Cristo
38
Mt. Bierstadt
14,060 feet
Front
39
Sunlight Peak
14,059 feet
San Juan
40
Handies Peak
14,048 feet
San Juan
41
Culebra Peak
14,047 feet
Sangre de Cristo
42
Ellingwood Point
14,042 feet
Sangre de Cristo
43
Mt. Lindsey
14,042 feet
Sangre de Cristo
44
Little Bear Peak
14,037 feet
Sangre de Cristo
45
Mt. Sherman
14,036 feet
Mosquito
46
Redcloud Peak
14,034 feet
San Juan
47
Pyramid Peak
14,018 feet
Elk
48
Wilson Peak
14,017 feet
San Juan
49
Wetterhorn Peak
14,015 feet
San Juan
50
San Luis Peak
14,014 feet
San Juan
51
Mt. of the Holy Cross
14,005 feet
Sawatch
52
Huron Peak
14,003 feet
Sawatch
53
Sunshine Peak
14,001 feet
San Juan

Unofficial Peaks

  • Mt. Cameron ~ 14,238 feet ~ Mosquito Range
  • El Diente Peak ~ 14,159 feet ~ San Juan Range
  • Conundrum Peak ~ 14,060 feet ~ Elk Range
  • North Eolus ~ 14,039 feet ~ San Juan Range
  • North Maroon Peak ~ 14,014 feet ~ Elk Range

Depending on the list you are looking at, these five peaks are sometimes included as Fourteeners even though they don't meet the USGS and CMC criteria.

For an interactive map of the Fourteeners, click here.

Protecting Colorado's Fourteeners

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