9 Must-See Mountains in Colorado

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9 Must-See Mountains in Colorado

With a whopping 58 fourteeners (mountains exceeding 14,000 feet above sea level), Colorado offers no shortage of striking peaks. These spectacular mountains lure hikers and nature enthusiasts seeking to challenge themselves and capture the picturesque scenery of the Centennial State. Here are 9 must-see mountains that should be on anyone’s Colorado bucket list, whether you’re looking to hike to the summit or simply park at a lookout spot to relax and enjoy the beauty.

1. Mount Elbert — 14,438 feet

Named in honor of Colorado statesman Samuel Hitt Elbert, Mount Elbert is located in the San Isabel National Forest, southwest of Leadville, Colorado. As the tallest mountain in Colorado and the second highest peak in the contiguous United States (after Mount Whitney), Mount Elbert is part of the Sawatch Range, which includes other prominent peaks like Mount Massive, Castle Peak, Grizzly Peak, and La Plata Peak. A popular way to view Mount Elbert is by hopping onto the Leadville Colorado & Southern Railroad, a 2.5-hour train ride offering plenty of photo opportunities and scenic views. Hikers can choose from multiple routes, with the 9.1-mile round trip standard path reaching the summit with an elevation gain of nearly 4,500 feet. Rated at a difficulty of class 1, many hikers can confidently embark on this trip with moderate experience and physical fitness.

Pro Tip: The best time to visit Mount Elbert is between early summer and early fall when the trails are mostly clear of snow and ice.

2. Maroon Bells — 14,163 feet & 14,019 feet

The iconic view of the two sister peaks that form Maroon Bells is one of the most photographed in Colorado. Maroon Peak and North Maroon Peak are complemented by a reflective lake at their base, casting a striking contrast of the pyramid-like rocky formations. Various hikes are available for all skill levels. The Maroon Lake Scenic Trail is an easy 1-mile round trip hike that includes a view of an active beaver pond, while the more challenging Maroon Creek Trail traverses alpine meadows and aspen forests along a 3.2-mile one-way route. From May to October, a shuttle from Aspen Highlands operates between 8 AM and 5 PM to alleviate parking constraints. Drivers can visit outside these hours but may need to make reservations.

Pro Tip: The shuttle service is operated by the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority with fares of $16 per adult and $10 for children under 12 and seniors over 65.

3. Pikes Peak — 14,115 feet

Named after explorer Zebulon Pike, who never reached the summit himself, Pikes Peak is the highest point in the Colorado Front Range. Attracting three-quarters of a million visitors annually, the Pikes Peak Summit House offers the world’s highest-elevation pastries, a delightful reward for hikers. The Pikes Peak Highway, with over 150 turns, provides numerous photo-worthy vistas. Alternatively, visitors can take The Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway for a scenic ride. The mountain can also be viewed from the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, and Woodland Park.

Pro Tip: The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, also known as "The Race to the Clouds," takes place on the last Sunday in June (June 30, 2024).

4. Longs Peak — 14,259 feet

As the tallest summit in Rocky Mountain National Park and the highest point in Boulder County, Longs Peak features sharp corners and a flat summit. The Keyhole Route to the summit spans 14.5 miles round trip and is considered a risky climb even for experienced hikers. Those not wishing to summit can view Longs Peak from various locations within the park or via the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway.

Pro Tip: Timed entry reservations are required from late May through late October, and many hikers make reservations months in advance.

5. Mount Evans — 14,130 feet

The Mount Evans Scenic Byway, the highest paved road in the United States, allows visitors to drive over a mountain exceeding 14,000 feet. Closed to vehicles from Labor Day until Memorial Day due to snow, a short hike from the top of the road leads to the summit. The panoramic views of surrounding ranges and valleys are stunning. Located close to the Denver metro area, Mount Evans is a popular summit with views of Pikes Peak to the south.

Pro Tip: A per-vehicle recreation fee of $15 provides access to Summit Lake Park, Mount Goliath Natural Area, and the Summit of Mount Evans Interpretive Site. Upcoming fee-free days include June 17, 2024.

6. Mount Sneffels — 14,155 feet

Mount Sneffels, the highest point in Ouray County, is part of the San Juan Mountains and located in the rugged Mount Sneffels Wilderness. The peak, often viewed on the way to Telluride across the Dallas Divide on State Highway 62, offers 15 miles of constructed trail. The primary trailhead is the Yankee Boy Basin Trail. Summertime is ideal for visiting, with rolling meadows and abundant wildflowers.

Pro Tip: Hiking Mount Sneffels can be dangerous due to loose rocks and jagged peaks. It's best for experienced hikers.

7. Crested Butte — 12,168 feet

Crested Butte, though not a 14er, is a must-see peak in the Elk Mountain range. Home to the world-class Crested Butte Ski Resort, thousands ski its 1,500+ acres each winter. The hike to the summit from the Silver Queen lift takes about 2 hours round trip. Lift tickets are $20 for adults, with free rides down for those who hike up.

Pro Tip: The Wildflower Festival in Crested Butte runs from July 7-16, 2024, offering over 200 workshops on wildflowers.

8. Castle Peak — 14,265 feet

Castle Peak, located in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, is adjacent to a glacial snow field and offers solitude compared to more popular fourteeners. The 12.3-mile Castle Peak and Conundrum Peak hike is popular with backpackers, taking 8-9 hours to complete. The Northeast Ridge Trail is the standard climb, requiring some scrambling.

Pro Tip: A 4WD vehicle can get closer to the trailhead, reducing the hike distance.

9. Capitol Peak — 14,131 feet

Capitol Peak, one of Colorado’s most majestic mountains, is also one of the hardest fourteeners. The Capitol Peak trail is 15.1 miles long, requiring scrambling and exposure to significant heights. The infamous "Knife Ridge" has claimed multiple lives. Located near Aspen, Capitol Peak can be admired without summiting from the trailhead or the Spring Park Reservoir area.

Pro Tip: The trail is best from July to September. Snowfall increases the already challenging trail’s difficulty.


Colorado's fourteeners offer a range of hiking and viewing experiences, from the easily accessible Mount Evans to the challenging Capitol Peak. Whether you're an experienced hiker or a nature enthusiast, these must-see mountains provide unforgettable adventures and breathtaking views.