Colorado 14ers Ranked by Difficulty
Colorado’s 14ers range in difficulty from easy Class 1 day hikes to overnight Class 4 Climbs. Here are all the Colorado 14ers ranked by difficulty, put together by 14ers.com. The peaks are ranked by Class first, and then by elevation gain, distance and route-finding within each class. This is a good way to guide your way forward if you’re aiming to climb all the 14ers. Here are the Colorado 14ers ranked by difficulty…
The Easy Six Hikes: Class 1 Peaks
These six 14ers can be hiked on a good trail, all the way to the summit. No scrambling or climbing necessary! Here are the Class 1 Colorado 14ers ranked by difficulty.
Handies may be the easiest of all the 14ers, but there’s still a lot going for this San Juan Range peak. Far from Colorado’s population centers, you’ll find solitude and a good trail on this Class 1 route. You’ll won’t find a shorter route, or one with less elevation gain, than this one! Of all the Colorado 14ers ranked by difficulty, it is the easiest. Click here for route info.
Grays Peak is among the most popular 14ers in the state. This make sense as it’s the second easiest peak in the state, and it’s also only an hour drive from the Denver Metro area. You can also add the more difficult Torreys Peak to make this a double-day. Click here for route info.
Quandary is a classic 14er, and the easiest Ridge Route you can taken. With rewarding views along the entire route above tree-line, it’s a great first climb. For that reason, it’s also a very busy route. Don’t expect much solitude here. Click here for route info.
When we review the colorado 14ers ranked by difficulty, people are surprised that the state’s tallest peak is the 4th easiest. While this Class 1 route is a long, 4,700 foot ascent, there is no scrambling or technical features to slow you down. If you can hike 10 miles, you can climb Mt. Elbert. Click here for route info.
San Luis is a gem in the San Juans. The long approach of 13 miles keeps many people away, ensuring you a quiet hiking experience. Make sure you bring a 4WD, high clearance vehicle as there are two stream crossings on the way to the trailhead. Click here for route info.
This route may be Class 1, but it’s the longest route, with the most altitude gain, of any of the 50+ fourteeners. On the plus side, the Summit House sells warm drinks and food to help you celebrate your climbing success! Click here for route info.
The Thirty-Three Scrambles: Class 2 Peaks
These 33 peaks, more than half of all 14ers, are largely hikes with short scrambling sections. This involves climbing horizontally over rocks. While there’s little risk of falling, there is a heightened chance of trips and falls, and it will tax you more than hiking along. Bring along gloves too – rocks can wear on your hands quickly! Here are the Class 2 Colorado 14ers ranked by difficulty.
Mt. Sherman is the shortest Class 2 ascent by far. The southwest ridge route also features a number of historic mining structures, including the remains of a multi-muli aerial tramway from the late 1890’s and the the classic Hilltop Mine. It’s thanks to these old mining roads you can get so close to the peak! Click Here for route info.
The trail up Mt. Bross is notoriously steep and slick: I slipped and fell at least four times on my way down. Bross is the easiest of the four “Decalibron” Peaks (Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln & Bross). You can climb them alone or all together – it’s up to you! Click here for route info.
Mt. Cameron is not an officially ranked 14er, because it rises less than 300 feet above its saddle with Lincoln. However it’s officially named, and still often climbed with the rest of the Decalibron group (Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln & Bross). Click here for info.
Of the four Decalibron 14ers, Mt. Lincoln takes the longest time to reach, but you’re rewarded with sweeping views in all directions. You also get to pass several more historic mining structures left behind from the silver boom era. Click here for route info.
Thanks to its easy route and close proximity to Denver, Mt. Bierstadt is one of the busiest peaks on this list. You won’t find much solitude here. However the gentle, gradual climb makes this a great beginner 14er. Click here for route info.
The fourth peak of the Decalibron group includes a short but steep climb up the East slope of Mt. Democrat. This mountain’s name is the result of a feud during the Civil War, after nearby northern miners named their peak Mt. Lincoln. Click here for info.
Torreys Peak is connected to Grays Peak by a short, Class 2 traverse. It’s an easy way to get two peaks in one trip, if you’re comfortable scrambling. This route can hold some snow into July, so bring microspikes! Click here for info.
The northwest route up Huron is a short, but steep climb with many switchbacks. You’ll drive in to the trailhead past several historic mining towns and museums. There are great free camping areas near the trailhead too. Click Here for route info.
Culebra has the distinction of being the only 14er that is privately owned. However you’re still able to climb it – you just need to pay a fee, currently around $100, and arrange your climb in advance. In return, you’ll get a bushwacking experience of solitude. Click Here for Route Info.
Mt. Princeton is the first of the Collegiate Peaks to appear on the list, and only the second Sawatch Range peak. These 14ers are known for their long, gradual slopes, making them easy to climb with hiking and scrambling. Princeton is a great first Sawatch climb. Click Here for Route Info.
Redcloud is perfect for a second or third San Juan ascent! Besides being slightly more difficult than San Luis Peak and Handies, you can add Sunshine Peak to your climb to nag two peaks (it adds 3.5 miles and 1,100 feet of gain!). Click Here for Route Info.
Mt. Evans gets a bad rap, because you’re able to drive about 80 feet short of the summit. However, the West Ridge Route is a more adventurous way to make it to the summit! Just expect a lot of wide-eyed tourist faces as you pop out of the rocks.
Mt, Belford is a fantastic intermediate peak, with a lot of elevation gain. You start with a series of switchbacks into Missouri Gulch, before climbing up the Northwest Ridge. This makes a great overnight trip, backpacking in and camping at treeline! Click Here for route info.
Uncompahgre is one of the most recognizable and distinctly shaped 14ers in the state. While it’s only a Class 2 peak, there’s considerable rockfall risk, so bring a helmet with you if you decide to give it a shot. Click Here for Route Info.
Mt. Shavano is best known for the Angel of Shavano, a snow gully that looks like a woman with wings. The East Slopes route brings you across the top of the Angel, without the need for a snow or ice climb. Click Here for Route Info.
Humboldt peak has a lot going for it. There are no better views of the Crestone Needle than from the top of nearby Humboldt. While the 11 miles is a long trudge, make it a backpacking adventure and stay overnight at Southern Colony Lakes! Click here for more info.
Climbing Columbia includes a long approach hike, followed by a nitty scramble up an 800 foot gully. Make sure you’re competent at route-finding before you try to hike up this Collegiate Peak. Click Here for Route Info.
Mt. Yale is known as a great training peak to prepare to take on harder 14ers later on. Just a foot shorter than nearby Mt. Princeton, alumni from the two schools were once known to bring rocks to the summit and attempt to overtake the other! Click here for Route Info.
La Plata, “the silver” in Spanish, is named after the major silver deposits in the area. While the standard route is a tame Class 2 scramble, you can also climb it from the Class 3 climb along Ellingwood Ridge. Click Here for Route info.
Sunshine Peak is the next-door neighbor of Redcloud Peak! Since both routes are Class 2 scrambles, it’s a fantastic way to knock out two 14ers on a single trip! With just a foot to spare, it’s the shorter 14er in the state at 14,001 feet.
Missouri Mountain, and the other following Class 2 scrambles, are slightly more difficult, and are rated “Difficult Class 2.” Be ready for slightly more exposure and some limited climbing along the route. Take your time and get experience before moving on to these peaks. Click Here for more Route Info.
Mt. Massive is appropriately named – it IS massive. It has more area above 14,000 feet than any other 14er in the contiguous United States. The East Slopes route is perfect for an overnight climb, with numerous campsites near creeks below treeline.
Mt. Oxford is a tempting peak to bag, just 1 and a half miles beyond Mt. Belford. However 5,800 feet of gain is a LOT to climb. Don’t take on this double-peak adventure without a good bit of experience and the right preparation. Of the Colorado 14ers ranked by difficulty, It is the 29th easiest, halfway through the list! Click here for route info.
Now in our top 50% of the Colorado 14ers ranked by difficulty, things get harder. Once you’ve climbed Mt. Shavano, you can add another 2 miles round-trip to climb Tabeguache Peak. Make sure you check the weather before you commit to this long trek – there are few practical options for escape if the weather turns. Click Here for Route Info.
The west slope route mostly follows a Jeep road to 13,800 feet, just shy of the summit. The long route is the result of numerous switchbacks – this isn’t the most direct route to the top! Look into the Little Brown Creek route for a quieter, albeit longer option. Click Here for Route Info.
Mt. Harvard, tallest of the Collegiate Peaks, was named by a Survey Team sent by the University. This route passes through many scenic areas, capped off by a short scramble to the summit! Click Here for Route Info.
Mt. of the Holy Cross is named for the stunning cross of snow that fills two gullies on its Eastern Face. The north ridge route leads you over Half Moon Pass, meaning you’ll need to regain 1,000 feet of elevation on your return trip. The camping sites over the pass are perfect for making your climb a two-day trip Click Here for Route Info.
Conundrum is no easy peak – the South Ridge Route includes off-trail travel, including climbing a 500 foot headwall. Snow stays late into the year on this route, so bring traction and an ice axe if you’re able. There’s rockfall risk too – so a helmet is a must!
As with its neighbor, Conundrum Peak, Castle Peak’s Northeast Ridge Route includes off-trail travel and considerable snow late into the year. Make sure you prepare for this major undertaking!
Challenger was named in honor of the USS Challenger, after its crew was killed. This peak is a serious undertaking, and it’s taken lives before. Review the route in detail, and wait until you’re an experienced scrambler to tackle this route. Click Here for Route Info
Windom Peak is located deep in the San Juan Mountains. To avoid a 60 mile round-trip backpacking trip, you can get a ticket with the Silverton Railroad and get dropped off at Needleton. From there, it’s 6 miles to the Chicago Basin where Windom awaits. With considerable exposure and rockfall risk, be wary!
Ellingwood Point is named after Albert Russell Ellingwood, who made dozens of first ascents in Colorado. Only slightly easier than its neighbor Blanca Peak, trying to summit both these peaks in a day is a significant challenge to say the least. Start early! Click Here for Route Info.
Blanca Peak is the undisputed queen of the southern Colorado Rockies – This is not easy peak, the most difficult Class 2 route.. A whopping 17 mile trip, it’s highly recommended you start very early, or camp out overnight along the way at Lake Como. It earns its high place among the Colorado 14ers ranked by difficulty. Click Here for Route Info.
The Thirteen Easy Climbs: Class 3 Peaks
These thirteen peaks introduce vertical climbing to the list of obstacles you’ll face. On some routes there is also significant exposure and vertical drop-offs. Most third class climbing is relatively simple, and usually the rock is stable. To prepare for this level of climbing, spend time on Class 2 peaks and visit an indoor climbing gym. Here are the Class 3 Colorado 14ers ranked by difficulty.
If you’ve got access to a 4WD vehicle with good clearance, Mt. Sneffels makes a great first Class 3 peak to climb. If you can park at the upper trailhead, it’s less than a 3 mile trip both ways. Make sure you’re ready for the climbing difficulties. Click Here for Route Info.
The northwest gully works best when there’s still snow covering the rock and scree. If you’re climbing later in the year, consider the alternative route, the Northwest Ridge. It’s more exposed, with more scrambling, but it’s far more stable than the scree-filled gully.
Named after the famed Western folk hero, Kit Carson Peak can be added on to an ascent of Challenger Point. It’s an easy Class 3 climb, but several have died by descending the wrong gully on their way down and running into steep terrain. Route-find carefully! Click Here for Route Info.
Named because of its similarity to the Matterhorn in the Alps, the Southeast Ridge is a great route to ascend this famous 14er. If you don’t have 4WD, you’ll need to add 1 miles to your route, round-trip.
Longs Peak may not be the most difficult peak on this list, but it’s seen more deaths on its slopes than any other mountain in Colorado. Many novice hikers want to climb Longs Peak, famous for its location in Rocky Mountain National Park. Don’t take it lightly, and take your time to prepare! Click Here for Route Info
Wilson peak is known for its exposure and great Class 3 climbing. Don’t try to tackle this mountain unless you really know what you’re doing, and are comfortable with steep cliffs and downclimbing 50+ feet. When reviewing the Colorado 14ers ranked by difficulty, it deserves a spot near the top.
North Eolus is secondary summit of Mt. Eolus, another Chicago Basin peak deep in the San Juans. With the long approach and train ride to reach this peak, you might as well bag both peaks in the area while you’re here!
Mt. Eolus, the third Chicago Basin summit, is a good Class 3 peak to practice your route-finding on its rocky-ledge strewn slopes. There’s plenty of exposure here along the route too, so make sure you can handle heights before you visit!
The North Slopes Route works best when there is still snow in the north slope gully. If there isn’t, consider the South Slopes Route. You can start this route from either or two trailheads, the Rock of Ages TH or Navajo Basin TH.
The first of the two Crestones on this list, Crestone Peak is a longer hike, with more elevation gain than the Needle, but it’s slightly easier climbing up its South Face Route. Take two days and conquer this beauty after camping at Southern Colony Lakes. Click Here for route info.
Considered one of the most beautiful mountains in Colorado, the Maroon Bells are also among the most deadly. While Maroon Peak is nominally a Class 3 climb, you’ll face loose, rotten rock that makes rockfall a significant risk. Wear a helmet and be prepared!
Just a mile from its neighbor Crestone Peak, the Needle is a shorter route with less elevation gain, but more difficult Class 3 climbing. Be careful to descend down the correct gully on your return – many people have died after entering the wrong couloir and cliffing out. When we think about the Colorado 14ers ranked by difficulty, it deserves a high place! Click Here for Route Info
Snowmass has well-earned place as the most difficult Class 3 Peak. It combines an arduous, 22 mile hike, technical snow climbing, and a Class 3 exposed scramble to the summit. Take on this mountain early in the summer while snow still covers the scree-filled basin below the summit.
The Six Most Difficult Climbs: Class 4 Peaks
The six Class 4 peaks are not to be trifled with. Steep, vertical climbing and loose, rotten rock plague the routes on these peaks. Many have died trying to climb these six 14ers. Take your time preparing for these climbs, go with someone experienced, and make sure you’re comfortable with heights. Here are the Class 4 Colorado 14ers ranked by difficulty.
With a relatively short route and elevation gain, North Maroon Peak is the choice of many to introduce themselves to Class 4 peaks. It’s more difficult than the standard Maroon Peak route, and rotten rock is a major concern. It and the rest of these peaks earned a high place among the Colorado 14ers ranked by difficulty.
Pyramid Peak offers gorgeous views of the Maroon Bells across the top. However the standard route to the top is difficult, dangerous, and not for the faint of heart. Be mindful of your route-finding, as there are many cairns along the route’s upper reaches that can misguide you!
Like El Diente Peak, you can climb Mt. Wilson from the Rock of Ages or Navajo Basin trailheads. The route here can be confusing. Take time to study maps and pictures of the route before you attempt a climb, or bring someone who’s gone before!
Sunlight is one of the few peaks to be rated as having “Extreme” exposure. If you don’t do well around heights, don’t try this one. The summit block itself requires a highly exposed series of class 4 climbs to reach the top. It’s the fourth and final Chicago Basin Peak. Stay safe!
Little Bear Peak is anything but little. It’s famous for the Hourglass Gully – a steep, loose route which has claimed numerous lives. Many people choose to climb this Class 4 peak in the spring when it’s possible to kick steps in snow up the gully. Wait a long time until you’re prepared enough for this challenge.
Capitol is well-named,. Considering all the Colorado 14ers ranked by difficulty, it is by far the biggest challenge. A long, arduous approach hike, a mile of elevation gain, and notoriously loose and rotten rock make it a challenge for even experienced climbers. The crux includes the Knife’s Edge, a 100 foot section crossing a sharp rock ridge with steep drop-offs either way. Stay safe!
Colorado 14ers Ranked by Difficulty
There you have it – all of the Colorado 14ers ranked by difficulty. Use the guide to help pick your next climb, or chart out your route to climb all the state’s 14ers. Do you have your own list of colorado 14ers ranked by difficulty? Share a comment or send us a message with your thoughts!
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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.