7 Leave No Trace principles

1. Plan ahead and prepare

2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces

3. Dispose of waster properly

4. Leave what you find

5. Minimize campfire impacts

6. Respect wildlife

7. Be considerate of other visitors

Source: http://lnt.org/learn/7-principles

Climbing a fourteener is basically a Colorado rite of passage.

These 54 peaks, which are taller than 14,000 feet, are sprinkled throughout the state.

Climbing a fourteener takes preparation, though. Afternoon storms mean you want to be off the mountain by afternoon, many experts say. For some peaks, that calls for a 2 or 3 a.m. wake-up call and starting your hike in the dark.

And they're all quad-burners.

The weather can change in a second, and you'll be far from the trailhead, so be prepared. Bring a first aid kit, plenty of food and water, rain gear and warm, dry clothing, because even on a sunny day, it will be warm on top.

Hike with friends, and watch out for heat exhaustion, frostbite, hypothermia, dehydration and altitude sickness. Yes, really, all of those things.

Finally, be a good steward by practicing Leave No Trace ethics while climbing -- don't leave anything behind and leave what you find (see sidebar for the seven principles of LNT).

Now, read more about these awesome peaks to aim for if you're new to fourteeners.


Grays and Torreys peaks


Height: 14,270 feet, 14,267 feet, respectively

Difficulty: Easy

Elevation gain: 3,000 feet

Length of route: 9 miles round trip

Grays and Torreys are considered some of the most accessible fourteeners in Colorado, partly due to their proximity to Denver and the rest of the Front Range, but also because both the hike and the road to the trailhead are manageable. If you're looking for solitude, maybe try another peak. But if you want to hike easy-ish fourteeners that aren't too far from civilization (and don't mind enjoying the views with some fellow hikers), these fourteeners are a good option.

Two hikers start making their way toward Torreys Peak from the summit of Grays.
Two hikers start making their way toward Torreys Peak from the summit of Grays. ( JOSHUA LAWTON )

Furry bonus: It's not uncommon to see mountain goats chilling out near the top.

This peak is just south of I-70, a roughly two-hour drive from Boulder.

Regardless of which you climb first, as you head downhill from the summit, look for a connecting trail across the saddle between the two peaks to make your way up the second mountain.



Mount Elbert

Peak elevation: 14,433 feet

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Elevation gain: 5,100 feet

Length of route: 9 miles

As Colorado's highest peak and the second highest mountain in the lower 48 states, Mount Elbert is a king among kings.

Plus, Elbert sits amid many other fourteeners in the Sawatch Range, near Leadville, and is surrounded by other mountain ranges. The views from the top lay bare high peaks in all directions. It's totally worth the trek past the disheartening false summit. (Don't say we didn't warn you.)

If you climb it on a weekend, you're going to see huge crowds of people, so try to hike it mid-week. Elbert is southwest of Leadville in the San Isabel National Forest, a roughly 3.5 hour drive from Boulder.


Longs Peak

Peak elevation: 14,255 feet

Difficulty: Moderate to difficult

Elevation gain: 4,700 feet

Length of route: 14 miles

Longs is only an hour from Boulder, in Rocky Mountain National Park. And as the only fourteener in the park and in these parts, it's a popular one, but not an easy one.

The hike to the Keyhole is straightforward -- and seeing a string of headlamps up and down the trail as you hike in pre-dawn hours is awesome. But beyond the Keyhole, you'll have to do some scrambling and route finding, looking for Longs' bull's eyes as you make your way to the top.

From the broad summit block, have a snack, take some pics and enjoy the sunrise. You've earned it.


--Follow Sarah Kuta on Twitter: @SarahKuta.