Ready to get back to the Rockies this spring? Full disclosure: It isn’t easy to hike 14ers in the month of May. It’s cold, snowy and wet, along with a host of other challenges. However, with the right preparation, you can certainly summit an easy 14er in this difficult time. The key is to watch the weather conditions and pick the right peak at the right time. Here’s my recommendations for the best 14ers to hike in May.
What Makes a Good 14er in May?
First, we need to answer the question: What factors make a peak a good choice for a May hike? First, you wan an accessible peak. This means the road isn’t closed in the spring due to snow, and it isn’t a long, 10+ mile slog. Second, you should try to avoid the Elk and Sawatch Ranges, which tend to get more snow than the others. Third, stick to easy Class 1 and Class 2 routes which tend to see a lot of traffic.
Best 14ers to Hike in May: Top 3 Picks
Given these factors, there are a few peaks to choose from. My top three choices are all in the Front Range or Tenmile Range, close to cities like Denver. They’re all relatively accessible (under 10 miles), and usually see enough visitors in the spring to have a well-established trench to the summit. I recommend hiking Mt Bierstadt, Quandary Peak, or Grays Peak in May.
Hiking Mt Bierstadt in May
Bierstadt is a great choice for a spring 14er. The broad west slopes are often windswept and bare, leading to a normal hiking experience on clear trails for much of the ascent. The willows area can get muddy and snowy in the spring, so bring snowshoes along and stash them once up on the slope. You also will need to add on a mile each way if the road is still closed – this adds a short, manageable approach hike up the road to the summer trailhead. If lucky, the road opens by mid-to-late May each summer.
Hiking Quandary Peak in May
Of these three choices, Quandary Peak is the easiest 14er to hike in May. It’s got the shortest route, thanks in part to the year-round accessible trailhead just south of Breckenridge. This also makes it the busiest 14er on this list and a place best avoided if you’re looking for solitude. You’ll want microspikes for the hard-packed snow, but unless it recently snowed you usually can leave your snowshoes back home.
Hiking Grays Peak in May
A third option, also in the Front Range, are the twin peaks of Grays & Torreys. There are two options for tackling them. You can start low from the normal trailhead, head up past Kelso Mountain and up Grays’ North Slopes. Or you can start high from Loveland Pass and hike along the continental divide to Torreys. The main trailhead requires 4WD and good clearance, but it usually opens up by mid-May. Worst case scenario, you can drive as far up the road as you can and park at one of several pull-off’s along the way.
Three Best 14ers to Hike in May
I hope this information helps you prepare for your next May summit! Looking for more information? Consider www.14ers.com and www.summitpost.com which both have great route guides and resources. I also invite you to subscribe below to my email newsletter to get more advice and blogs sent straight to your inbox. Happy climbing!
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About the Author: Alex Derr
Alex Derr is a mountaineer and blogger based in Denver Colorado. He is working to climb Colorado’s highest 100 peaks, and the 20 tallest peaks in California. He created The Next Summit to share advice, stories, history & reflections from the Colorado Rockies & Sierra Nevada. When not climbing, he is managing the Communications strategy at Visible Network Labs.