Many of the state’s “14ers” can be done as day hikes from nearby campgrounds that offer rental accommodations
With nearly 60 mountain peaks at least 14,000-foot above sea level, Colorado is a wonderland of high-altitude adventure.
The good news for flatlanders is that many of these peaks can be done as day hikes because the trailheads themselves are at high elevations.
But if you’d like to stand on top of the world this year, you’d better make your reservations soon because many campgrounds have a short camping season due to the early arrival of winter snows at those elevations.
“If you’ve always dreamed of climbing a 14,000-foot peak, Colorado is the best place to do it,” said Mary Arlington, executive director of the Colorado Campground & Lodging Owners Association (CCLOA), which hosts CampColorado.com, a statewide travel planning resource for camping enthusiasts.
Keep in mind you don’t even have to have a tent or RV to camp in Colorado. Many campgrounds offer fully furnished cabins and other rental accommodations.
The 10,000-foot Cripple Creek KOA Holiday, the highest KOA campground in the world, offers both primitive and deluxe cabins and is only a 30-minute drive from the The Crags Trail to 14,110-foot Pikes Peak.
Trailheads to 14,439-foot Mount Elbert, Colorado’s tallest peak, and Mount Massive, its second tallest, are less than 10 miles from the 9,700-foot Sugar Loafin’ RV Park in Leadville.
“Both mountains are just a day hike,” said Don Seppi, a second-generation owner of the Sugar Loafin’ RV Park. “Pretty much everybody does day hikes.”
Arlington added that many visitors to Colorado enjoy renting jeeps and exploring the views of 14,000-foot peaks from scenic backroads most people never get to see.
People who spend the night at Silver Summit RV Park in Silverton can rent jeeps at the campground and do the Alpine Loop to Lake City and back, which takes them over 12,800-foot Engineer Pass and 12,620-foot Cinnamon Pass, the latter of which offers views of 14,308-foot Uncompahgre Peak. Highlander RV Campground in Lake City also offers jeep rentals for its guests, who typically take the same route but from a different direction.
If you prefer to explore the higher elevations of Colorado from the comfort of your own vehicle, you can do that, too.
The Mount Evans Scenic Byway, the highest paved road in North America, literally surrounds you in views from the top of the world. You can even drive to the top of 14,110-foot Pikes Peak.
Here’s a sampling of several of Colorado’s 14ers with listings of nearby campgrounds that have rental accommodations in addition to their campsites (unless otherwise noted) that can serve as base camps for high-altitude hiking, backcountry jeeps or scenic tours using your own vehicle:
— Blanca Peak (14,345), Culebra Peak (14,047), Ellingwood Peak (14,042) Little Bear (14,037) and Mount Lindsey (14,042)
— Circle the Wagons RV Park in La Veta
— Mount Antero (14,275), Mount Shavano (14,232) and the Collegiate Peaks, including Mount Columbia (14,078), Mount Harvard (14,423), Mount Princeton (14,196) and Mount Yale (14,199)
— Arrowhead Point Campground & Cabins in Buena Vista
— Buena Vista KOA
— Chalk Creek Campground in Nathrop
— Mt Princeton RV Resort in Buena Vista
— Snowy Peaks RV Park in Buena Vista
— Mount Bross (14,072), Mount Cameron (14,238), Mount Democrat (14,148), Mount Lincoln (14,295) and Quandary Peak (14,265)
— Middlefork RV Resort in Fairplay (no rental accommodations)
— Uncompahgre Peak (14,308) and Wetterhorn Peak (14,016)
— Highlander RV Campground in Lake City (no rental accommodations)
— Mount Sneffels (14,150), Mount Wilson (14,246) and Wilson Peak (14.023)
— 4J+1+1 RV Park in Ouray
— Ouray RV Park & Cabins in Ouray
— Long’s Peak (14,259), which is visible from Interstate 25, Denver and the Fort Collins areas
— Jellystone Park of Estes Park
— Estes Park KOA Holiday in Estes Park
— Pike’s Peak at 14,110’ and visible even from eastern Colorado (There is also a paved road to the summit)
— Bristlecone Lodge in Woodland Park
— Lone Duck Campground in Cascade
— Cripple Creek KOA Holiday in Cripple Creek
— Colorado Springs KOA Holiday in Fountain
— Garden of the Gods RV Resort in Colorado Springs
— Golden Eagle RV Campground (no rental accommodations) in Colorado Springs
— Goldfield RV Park (no rental accommodations) in Colorado Springs
— Mt Evans (14,265), Mount Bierstadt (14,060) and The Mount Evans Scenic Byway
— Base Camp at Golden Gate Canyon in Black Hawk
— Prospect RV Park in Wheat Ridge
Arlington notes that while many hikers aspire to summit one of Colorado’s 14ers, many of these hiking trails can also be quite busy. If you’re looking for more solitude in the wilderness, you might want to consider climbing one of Colorado’s 580-plus 13,000-foot peaks, which tend to be much lesser known with far fewer people. You can find listings of Colorado’s 13ers here (https://www.colorado.com/articles/what-are-14ers) along with tips on how to prepare for a high altitude climb.
CampColorado.com also has a search function that enables you to pinpoint privately owned and operated campgrounds with rental accommodations in the areas you would like to visit as well as numerous blog posts with helpful information to plan your dream trip to Colorado. CCLOA works closely with the Colorado Tourism Office, which hosts colorado.com, where you can find out about attractions and events all across the state. These two statewide travel planning websites will jumpstart your dream list!