Bagging 14ers is all the rage in Colorado, right up there with counting how many days you’ve skied and how long you waited in line for brunch at Snooze. They are badges of honor that many of us wear to establish our belonging in this growing state. But how do you get started in your peak bagging journey if you’re new to it? What peak should you climb first, and how do you decide? Let me help you.
There are a variety of things to consider when deciding what peak to attempt on one of your free weekend days (or week days if you want to beat the crowds), so I built this dashboard to help guide your decision. Let’s get into more detail here and point out some of the specific considerations.
First and foremost, you should think about the difficulty of the peak. Elevation gain and mileage don’t tell you much about the terrain itself, but Class does. Class measures technical difficulty using the Yosemite Decimal System scale. Are you new to climbing mountains? Stick with Class 1 or 2. Do you have lots of climbing experience and are just new to Colorado? Consider Class 3 or 4 if you’re looking for a challenge. Hover over the info icon on the dashboard to see more details:
Altitude impacts us all differently, and regardless of how much total gain there is, we’re all ending up above 14,000’ on one of these peaks. But limiting the total amount of gain – meaning how much elevation you climb from trailhead to summit – may mean less exposure to the inherent risks of hiking and climbing (inclement weather, lightning, altitude sickness, etc.). Less total elevation gain likely means less time on the mountain. On the flip side, maybe you’re looking for a long day with lots of gain. In that case, head up Pikes Peak from Manitou Springs for a resounding 7,000’ in 13 miles one way. Or play around with these options and find something that suits your needs and abilities.
Just like elevation gain, think about what you’re looking for and what best helps you manage the risk of being out there. If you’re new, maybe start with something short in mileage with limited elevation gain. Training for the Hardrock 100? Go do some laps on long, steep routes, you beast!
I’ve been up a handful of these myself. Toggle the Show Peaks Brenden Climbed button to see which ones. My favorite is Longs Peak. It’s a classic with lots of terrain variety, and the easiest way up is a comfortable but airy scramble.
And of course, please follow Leave No Trace guidelines while you’re out there. We all love these spaces for their wild nature and scenic beauty. Let’s help each other continue to enjoy them. Have a nice hike!