Climbing, Hiking and Backpacking in Central Colorado
Home to over 1000 miles of scenic trails.

Central Colorado has over 1,000 miles of trails in what many people considered to be the most scenic areas in the nation. The trails range in elevation from 6,000 feet on the valley floor to 14,433 feet at the summit of Mount Elbert, Colorado's highest mountain. Colorado has 54 mountains with summits above 14,000 feet. They are commonly referred to as "Fourteeners". Colorado has 54 mountains with summits above 14,000 feet and more than one thousand mountains topping 10,000 feet. This is the highest concentration of high mountains in the lower 48 states.  Most Fourteeners have easy routes up rounded flanks, and more difficult climbs up steep rock faces. Some small glaciers exist, and snow covers the high mountains from December through May, with some snow patches remaining through most of the year. The mountains are more accessible during the summer, but severe afternoon thunderstorms are common

Wildlife is abundant; while hiking you may see black bear, mountain lion, mountain goat, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, elk, and deer. The mountain wilderness also includes abandoned mountain homesteads and ghost towns, remnants of the original Colorado settlers, who came to the region to mine gold and silver. To protect the unique alpine environment of the Rocky Mountains it is recommended that all hikers practice the principles of Leave No Trace.

Hiking in Central Colorado

Climbing and Hiking Guide Services in Central Colorado

Apex Mountain School, 51 Eagle Road #1, Avon, CO 81620. 888-686-7685
Noah's Ark, 23910 US Highway 285, Buena Vista, CO 81211. 719-395-2158
Rock N Row, 19632 US Highway 50, Cotopaxi, CO 81221. 877-487-2494
Trail Wise Guides, 2121 North Frontage Road, Vail, CO 81657. 970-827-5363


Climbing, Hiking, and Backpacking the Fourteeners

Climbing, hiking, and backpacking Fourteeners can be a fun, challenging and rewarding experience. The view from the top of these high mountains is spectacular and the feeling of achievement upon reaching the top of a Fourteener is exhilarating. Some of these high mountains are so close to one another that experienced climbers have bagged more than one in a single day. There is no substitute for experience, all beginning Fourteener hikers and climbers should receive instruction before attempting their first climb or hire a local guide service. The Colorado Mountain Club trains thousands of climbers annually on how to safely and responsibly hike and climb Fourteeners. Each year the club's experienced trip leaders lead hundreds of Fourteener hikes. Visit their website for details on various programs they offer. Colorado Mountain Club  

To hike safely in the Colorado backcountry or up a 14,000 foot mountain it is necessary to plan your trip before you reach the trailhead. Define your group's goals and expectations, know the area and what to expect, carry and use appropriate equipment, and be prepared for adverse weather conditions that can be part of any trip into the high country. Virtually all backcountry accidents can be prevented through careful pre-trip planning. Fourteener climbs are challenging and require preparation, skill, and experience. For detailed information on how to safely hike a Fourteener, the best routes, and more, visit the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative website.



Find Central Colorado Climbing, Hiking and Backpacking Trails.

Hiking and Walking Trails in the Pike and San Isabel National Forests. Includes Buena Vista, Fairplay, Leadville, and Salida areas.

Hiking and Walking Trails in the Rio Grande National Forest. Includes Creede and South Fork areas.

Backpacking Trails in the Pike and San Isabel National Forests. Includes Buena Vista, Fairplay, Leadville, and Salida areas.

Backpacking Trails in the Rio Grande National Forest. Includes Creede and South Fork areas

Colorado 14ers Hiking Guide

The Colorado 14ers

Over half-a-million climbers attempt to climb at least one of the Colorado 14ers every summer. They photocopy the route description from the big guidebook (See The Colorado 14ers: The Standard Routes on page 18) and when the photocopy blows away in the wind or is ruined by rain, they are lost.
No more.

The Colorado 14ers Pack Guide measures 4 x 7 inches and weighs less than 4 ounces. In this portable book format, each description includes clear, concise directions for driving to the trailhead, where to park, a route description, a map of the route, difficulty rating, elevation gain, round-trip distance, estimated time to the summit and back, the nearest town, and the name and number of the agency responsible for the trail. As the most up-to-date book available, The Colorado 14ers covers all access issues (as of this writing in 2010, one 14er is closed to climbers and one has limited access and a fee).
All the routes have been approved by the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative (CFI) or the responsible agency, be that the US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, or the National Park Service. The CFI is a non-profit that has built or rebuilt 23 of these routes and seeks to educate all 14er climbers about protecting and conserving mountain routes.

Leave No Trace
With ever-increasing numbers of people discovering the deep personal rewards of hiking and backpacking in the mountains, the very environment that we so love risks imperilment. It is absolutely essential that all backcountry travelers respect the fragile terrain, and ever-consciously exercise a minimum impact approach so future generations can have the same rewarding experience we enjoy today. The following is a list of sound environmental practices, as recommended by the American Alpine Club:

  1. Observe local regulation and guidelines of Federal agencies or private owners.

  2. Help to prevent trail erosion. Cutting across switchbacks creates serious erosion problems. Making duplicate paths should be avoided. Trails which cut across a slope where the angle is low will cause less erosion than those which cut across it where it is steep.

  3. Protect the trees. Continuous use of belay and rappel anchors can damage and even kill trees. Tree climbing should not be a substitute for routes on rock.

  4. Protect the alpine meadows. In general, the lower forested areas or the rocky alpine areas are more tolerant of use than the delicate sub alpine meadows and are therefore preferable for campsites.

  5. Pack a stove. In many alpine and sub alpine areas, downed wood is in short supply. The lower dead branches of alpine trees are part of the natural scene and should be allowed to remain. Blackened campfire rings left in place are a sign of human impact on the wilderness environment; on the other hand, dispersing fire rings will damage the environment if many users are doing it.

  6. Avoid polluting. Soap pollutes streams and lakes. Excrement should be buried a short distance into the top soil where natural processes will decompose it. All trash and garbage should be packed out. If it is buried, animals will dig up the soil to get at it.

  7. Pack out litter left behind by thoughtless users, who unfortunately will always be with us.

  8. Use restraint in the employment of climbing aids such as pitons and bolts which can permanently deface the rock and degrade the route for subsequent climbers.

There is no substitute for experience, all beginning climbers, hikers and backpackers should receive some instruction before attempting their first trip. The Colorado Mountain Club trains thousands of hikers annually on how to safely and responsibly hike and backpack, and their experienced trip leaders lead hundreds of trips into the backcountry of Colorado each year. Most Central Colorado towns have local guides that will take you into the the backcountry for a day-hike or multi-day backpack tip. Some of these guide services include equipment or it can be rented.

General Backcountry Safety
This training program was prepared by Charley Shimanski of the Mountain Rescue Association Education Committee. It is an introductory course in backcountry safety for those with little or no experience in mountainous and backcountry terrain. This file is in Adobe Acrobat (PDF). You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view this file. (All backcountry recreationalists should read this. It could save your life in an emergency.) image

Important Links recommends anyone interested in climbing, hiking and backpacking in the Colorado Rockies visit these web sites. Here you will find a wealth of information about the world's mountains and backcountry travel throughout the US and in other countries across the globe.

American Alpine Club
The American Alpine Club is a national 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that has represented mountaineers and rock climbers for almost a century. Since its inception in 1902, the AAC has been the only national climbers organization devoted to: Exploration and scientific study of high mountain elevations and polar regions of the world; promotion and dissemination of knowledge about the mountains and mountaineering through its meetings, publications and libraries; conservation and preservation of mountain regions and other climbing areas; and representation of the interests and concerns of the American climbing community.

Colorado Fourteeners Initiative
The Colorado Fourteeners Initiative is a partnership among nonprofit organizations, concerned individuals, and public agencies, to protect and preserve the natural integrity of Colorado's Fourteeners and the quality of the recreational opportunities they provide. This website provides valuable information on mountaineering in Colorado.

The Colorado Mountain Club
The Colorado Mountain Club is organized to: unite the energy, interest, and knowledge of the students, explorers, and lovers of the mountains of Colorado; collect and disseminate information regarding the Rocky Mountains in behalf of science, literature, art, and recreation; stimulate public interest in Colorado's mountain areas; encourage the preservation of forests, flowers, fauna, and natural scenery; and render readily accessible the alpine attractions of this region.

The Colorado Mountain Photo Library
The Colorado Mountain Photo Library provides a collection of over 400 digital images of Colorado's Rocky Mountains. Featured are the "Fourteeners", the "Highest Hundred", and the named peaks in the Indian Peaks Wilderness and Rocky Mountain National Park. These images may be download for your own personal use.

The High Altitude Medicine Guide
The High Altitude Medicine Guide provides current medical information on the prevention, recognition, and treatment of altitude illness, as well as other health issues affecting travelers to high mountainous regions of the world. Information content is designed for the use of physicians and non-physicians alike.

Hiking in Colorado
Provides information on a full range of subjects about hiking and backpacking in Colorado.

Mountain Rescue Association
The Mountain Rescue Association is a volunteer organization dedicated to saving lives through rescue and mountain safety education. More than 80 units, in the US, Canada, and other countries provide unpaid professional mountain search and rescue at no direct cost to the taxpayers.

Peakware World Mountain Encyclopedia
Peakware World Mountain Encyclopedia is an excellent resource on world mountains and mountaineering. Here you can explore the world, and network with others who share your love for the high country. This site is built and maintained by its visitors - you can help build this site by signing a summit log, submitting a mountain photo, or adding your own peak to their database.

Wilderness Medical Society
The Wilderness Medical Society is an organization composed of qualified physicians, allied health specialists and other qualified individuals that will concern itself with matters related to wilderness medicine and the benefits, health, safety and medical care of the individual in the wilderness environments and human activities in these environments.