Climbing 14ers—mountains 14,000 feet high—has become a mark of prestige for serious hikers. Unfortunately, this has resulted in crowds packing the mountains in the summer, like so many cars jammed on the interstate.
So why not avoid the rush and go for 13ers instead?
There are 600 peaks between 13,000 and 13,999 feet in Colorado. They offer greater solitude, as well as allowing hikers to spread out their impact, rather than descending on the same peaks so many others seek. In addition, there are more choices closer to the city.
If you’re looking for a challenge and don’t care about bragging rights, The Next Summit blog suggests trying these mountains on for size:
Horseshoe Mountain: This mountain can seem intimidating: “The east face of the mountain is dominated by a massive cirque cut by glaciers over thousands of years,” notes The Next Summit. Not to worry. If you take the slopes to the north of the cliffs, you’ll find a relatively easy hike that offers views in every direction. Trailhead: Fourmile Creek
Square Top Mountain: To climb this 13er, you’ll cover 6.5 miles round trip, gaining 2,400 feet in elevation. You’ll also enjoy quietude you won’t find on busier nearby 14ers, like Grays & Torreys Peak and Mt. Bierstadt. Trailhead: Guanella Pass
Mount Audubon: Located in the Indian Peaks, this 13er is “heavily trafficked, compared to most 13ers,” notes the blog, but offers reassurance for those who prefer the safety net of having others around. Also, you’ll find views of the Indian Peaks, Longs Peak, and more. Trailhead: Mitchell Lake
Mount Edwards: Among 100 of the tallest peaks in the state, Mount Edwards “shares a ridge-line with Grays Peak, and can be approached from numerous directions during the summer,” notes The Next Summit. Another plus: it’s just over an hour away from Denver and Boulder. Trailhead: Argentine Pass
Mount Lady Washington: Offering “stunning views of the east face of Longs Peak,” this hike is recommended for those hoping to summit Longs Peak and looking to scout things out first. It’s 7.8 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 3,887 feet. Trailhead: Longs Peak