Guide to 14er Season - Part 1



Guide To 14er Season, Part 1:  Do's and Don'ts

Do You Want to Summit a Colorado 14er? Here’s How!

14er season generally begins in late June or early July and lasts through September, depending on how much snow is sticking around at higher elevations. That means it’s almost time to get deep into the mountains for some fantastic hiking! Are you prepared to hike a 14er? Here are the do's and don'ts of hiking one of those lofty 14,000+ foot peaks, including what time of day is best, what gear you need, and the best mountains to get started on.

Do get started early and plan for a long hike

While some people can trail run up and down Mt. Bierstadt in well under 3 hours, beginner hikers probably won’t have that same level of intense conditioning. Give yourself plenty of time for the hike and start early — many hikers start their 14er climbs well before sunrise. Speaking of Mt. Bierstadt, the peak is an excellent mountain for beginner 14er hikers. The average time it takes to complete the route is 5 hours, but adjust that based on your own fitness level. Remember, there’s a reason so many people start the long trek up the infamous Longs Peak around midnight: summiting that mountain can take as long as 14 hours. Plan ahead and do your research to ensure you’re well prepared.

Don’t plan to be on the summit in the afternoon

Summer storms are common in Colorado, and the power of those storms is amplified when you’re 14,000+ feet above sea level. As a general rule of thumb if it’s past noon there’s a solid chance a storm will roll through shortly. Estimate how long it will take you to reach the summit of whichever 14er you’re hiking or climbing and make sure you can be back below tree line before early afternoon.

Even if a summit is labeled as an “easy” 14er that doesn’t mean it’ll be a short hike. Mount Elbert is one of the easier 14er summits to reach, and it’s a great hike for beginners, but it’s a lengthy trail that generally requires 6 to 8 hours of hiking. And, while you’re at it, be sure to pack a light rain jacket in your pack in case you do get caught in the rain.

Do push yourself physically and mentally

14ers are supposed to be challenging, so embrace the discomfort. Your legs will be on fire and your lungs will be gasping for more oxygen, but you’ll forget all about those sensations once you’re on top of the world. If you’re concerned about the impact on your knees and joints consider investing in a pair of quality hiking poles. You’ll appreciate the extra support, especially on the way down.

Don’t push for the summit if conditions are unsafe

If you see storm clouds, hear rumbles of thunder, or notice your arm hair standing on edge from static electricity, don’t proceed any further. The summit isn’t going anywhere and you can always try on another day. Lightning storms are a very real danger and shouldn’t be taken lightly, especially on rocky ridges and summits with nothing to cover you.

Do bring plenty of water and snacks

You’re bound to work up an appetite while hiking one of Colorado’s many 14ers, so don’t skimp on the snacks and water. You can stave off the effects of altitude sickness by keeping your stomach full and your entire body hydrated. Of course, you’ll need a daypack for your fuel. Many hikers are big fans of Camelbak’s backpacks and hydration systems, but that brand isn’t your only option. If you need a new pack make a visit to your local outdoor recreation store to get fitted by an expert.

Don’t forget to have fun

Finally, make sure you’re ready to have a blast on the trails! Hiking 14ers during the summer is a blast, and you just might get hooked.