Hiking Mount Columbia: An Incredible 14er

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Hiking Mount Columbia is a fantastic way to spend a weekend in the Colorado wilderness. The mountain’s location near Mt Harvard gives you the chance to summit two 14ers from your base camp in the valley below. You can do it over two days or as a single-day climb. The West slope route is a steep but non-technical hike and scramble up to the summit. From the top, hikers are treated to views of the Collegiate Peaks, Arkansas River Valley, and more. Plan your trip to this wonderful 14er with my free Mount Columbia Route Guide below.

New to 14ers? Check Out my 14er Beginners Guide Here to Get Started!

Hiking Mount Columbia: Fast Facts

Hiking Mount Columbia - West Slopes Route

Begin hiking Mount Columbia at the North Cottonwood Creek trailhead. The Mount Columbia route starts by sharing the trail up to Mount Harvard. Take a right off of the shared trail at a cairned junction near 11,500 feet which starts to take you towards the West Slopes of Mt Columbia.

Continue through the forest on a good trail, taking another right turn at the second junction in a large clearing towards. A cairn also marks it. 

As you leave the tree line, you can see much of the route to come ahead of you. Take a right and begin working your way through the talus to follow the trail up the West Slopes. This is a lot of elevation gain very rapidly, so take your time, so you don’t trip and fall on the rocks.

Once you are up the West Slopes, you can turn left to start climbing the ridgeline up to the summit itself. While it seems close, you still have about 500 feet left to ascend to reach the top. Stick to the trail along the summit ridge. 

Nearing the summit crux of the climb around 13,800 feet, you can see the final 250 feet left to ascend. Pick your line, follow the cairns, and make your way up to the summit of Mt Columbia.

Once you make it to the top, enjoy your accomplishment. Please make sure your head back to make it to treeline before afternoon thunderstorms become a hazard. I hope you enjoyed my Mt Columbia Route Guide. Good luck hiking Mount Columbia, and safe travels on the trail!

It’s important to bring a solid topographic map along with you while hiking Mount Columbia. Here’s a good topographic map of the Mt Columbia route to help you. I recommend downloading a digital copy on your phone and printing out a paper backup copy in case anything happens to your electronics along the way.

Mt Columbia Standard Route Guide

You should always check the weather forecast multiple times, from multiple sources, before hiking Mount Columbia. I recommend your use the below sources to check the weather along the Mt Columbia route guide.

Mountain Forecast Mt Columbia

NOAA Weather Forecast Mt Columbia

Hiking Mount Columbia is an inherently high-risk activity – do so at your own risk, and use the following best practices to help keep yourself safe.

  1. Research your route and bring a compass & topographic map.
  2. Check the weather forecast and stay home during inclement weather.
  3. Bring the Ten Essentials and the knowledge/skill to use them.
  4. Leave your plans with someone back home along with a detailed itinerary.
  5. Start early, and end early: Be back at tree line by noon to avoid lightning.
  6. Bring a buddy on your first ascent, preferably someone experienced.


Hiking Mount Columbia is an inherently high-risk, dangerous activity. There is a significant risk of injury or death, even with proper planning and experience. Those using my guide accept all risks associated with climbing 14ers and do not hold this website or any information they obtain from it liable for any accidents or injuries that occur while engaging in these activities on Colorado’s high peaks. It is each hiker or climber’s responsibility to research their route carefully, bring the ten essentials, and practice other safe practices, though even these precautions do not eliminate risk and danger. Visit these summits and use the Mt Columbia Route Guide at your own risk.

Alex Derr

Alex is an Eagle Scout and mountaineer living in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. You can subscribe to his Next Summit Newsletter here.

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