Hiking Adventures

Backpacking Recipes

Winter Backpacking

Hiking Supplies

Hiking Trails

California Hiking

Survival Tips

Hiking Tips

Tips For Hiking Colorado's Fourteeners

The good news about hiking Colorado's fourteeners (the term for mountains over 14,000 feet high), is that it can be done. In fact only a handful of the 54 fourteeners require special equipment to summit. Depending on your skill level, as many as 50 can be scrambled up with hiking boots or - as I like to climb them - in running shoes.

This doesn't mean they are without risks though. There are risks related to weather and isolation and the particulars of the mountains themselves. With that in mind, here are some tips for keeping it safe when you hike and scramble to the top.

Learn About The Mountain

It's easy to get information online now about all of Colorado's fourteeners. Check out the one you hope to hike up to make sure it is a hikable one. Discovering that you need a safety line for the last two hundred feet is discouraging to say the least, and you may be tempted to risk too much to complete the climb.

Other information you need is where to park, the usual conditions of the trails (are they snow covered until July?), and the route that makes the most sense for you (most have several). Take notes, and bring them with you.

Be Physically Prepared

If you haven't been hiking in a month, don't aim for the summit of a large mountain. Do some shorter hikes first. Although you may make it to the top of a fourteener on willpower alone, it is coming down that is often more dangerous. That's not a time to be out of energy or with blistered feet.

Pack Right

Even if it is one of the easier mountains to go up, there are some essential things you should always carry, and other items which are usually a good idea. Essentials include water (I like to carry two one-liter bottles), a first aid kit, snacks for energy, a map, a compass, and rainwear. Other things you may want to bring include a GPS unit (mark your car before starting the hike), extra socks, and a cell phone. The cell phone generally won;t work until you are high enough, and I don't recommend using it or having it on. It is just a nice emergency device in case of an accident.

Leave Early

This is important with Colorado's fourteeners. In fact, try to leave by the first light - even before sunrise. Storms are common in the early afternoons in these mountains, so your goal will be to be to the top and on your way down before noon. Almost every year hikers are killed by lightning in the mountains of Colorado, which brings us to our last tip.

Know The Risks and How To Handle Them

If you are not familiar with hiking in mountains, learn a few risk-mediation skills before you go too far from your car. Lightning, for example, is attracted to lone trees, so don't hide out under one (that got six people struck last year in the Spanish Peaks). Know how to stay dry, because hypothermia is one of the biggest risks. Get used to hiking on loose rocks before doing it on top of a mountain. Learn how to recognize "hot spots" on your feet before they become blisters, so you can treat them early. Practice using a map and compass before you get ten miles out.

Apply the tips here and you can safely hike up most of Colorado's fourteeners.

Mountain Hiking Home | Colorado's Fourteeners