Do your homework

Boulder author Gerry Roach updated his "Colorado's Fourteeners" guidebook in 2011.

For those researching beyond the books, here's a guide to fourteeners websites:

14ers.com is free and has a plethora of trip reports and forum posts.

The popular pay-for-access site fourteenerworld.com went on the lam in spring of 2012.

14ers.org is a wilderness-preservation initiative and has route descriptions for the fourteeners as well as environmental concerns you should be aware of along the way.

G et off the Hill and into some real hills.

Colorado has more than 50 mountains that exceed 14,000 feet in elevation -- though exactly how many there are is up for discussion in the fourteener crowd, since some have satellite summits that exceed that height. If you're into that kind of geeking out, go for it. But the rules for what does or doesn't constitute a fourteener will fade when you're huffing your way up a big peak during a rosy Colorado sunrise.

Reaching the summit of all the fourteeners can be anything from a lifetime goal to a summer sprint or, in the case of the Vail-based pro skier Chris Davenport, a one-winter ski mountaineering marathon. But whether you choose to tackle one or all fourteeners, make sure you're ready for quickly changing weather and get up early in the morning to avoid being caught well above treeline in afternoon storms.

And take plenty of snacks.

Mount Elbert --

14,433 feet

Colorado's tallest fourteener is an accessible one if you can put one foot in front of the other uphill for about 4.5 miles. It's easy to reach the trailhead, and the standard route is a straightforward hike up a long ridge.

And that ridge feels extra long when you realize you've been staring longingly at a false summit for a chunk of the hike.

In the world of fourteeners, Elbert is centrally located. So from its summit near Leadville, you can see a slew of other fourteeners all around you, just waiting to be climbed.

Mount Evans --

14,264 feet

No excuses with this mountain. You can drive (or bike -- there's a hill-climb race to the top every summer) almost to the top, which makes the mountain a bit of a tourist destination, much like Pike's Peak.

That said, don't let that touristy feel deter you from checking out this craggy peak. It's a beautiful drive to the top, and a short walk from your car gets you the true summit. Odds are good you'll see mountain goats perched on precipices along the way.

If this all feels way too easy, ride your bike to the top. Or feed your inner alpine climber with the Sawtooth Ridge, which connects Evans and neighboring Mount Bierstadt (see below).

Mount Bierstadt --

14,060 feet

Though you can see Bierstadt's summit (and that serrated Sawtooth Ridge) from Mount Evans, the approach for the easiest route up Bierstadt is far from the Mount Evans Road, on Guanella Pass. But this, too, is an accessible fourteener. You'll start through willow flats well above 11,000 feet for this shorter (in fourteener terms), 3.5-mile hike up to Bierstadt's summit.

Grays and Torreys peaks --

14,270 and 14, 267 feet

With Grays and Torreys, you can hit two fourteener summits in one hike. After hiking by bubbling brooks and wildflower-lined trail, climb above treeline and through talus to summit one, then drop down to a trail connecting the two for a traverse over and up the other.

Since these peaks are so close to I-70, they can get a little busy. Be ready to park down the road a ways and have lots of friends for the hike.

Quandary Peak --14,265 feet

From various locales in Summit County, you might spy this rounded-off fourteener hulking on the horizon south of Breckenridge -- but north of the three-fourteener cluster of mounts Democrat, Lincoln and Bross in the nearby Mosquito Range.

The trail starts off a forested road and doesn't look like much as it ducks into the woods. But above treeline, the trail leads you up Quandary's broad, block-strewn flanks to the summit, with views of Breck and those fourteener neighbors to the south.