Recent data released by the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative shows that the most popular 14er for hikers last year was Quandary Peak in Summit County. Their annual Hiking Use Report showed historic trail usage rates at Quandary with a record 49,179 visitors to the trail. This was 29% more than the next most-used trail, Mount Bierstadt.
A 14er, also known as a fourteener, is a term for a mountain peak exceeding 14,000 feet. Due to a geological irregularity, Colorado is home to 58 mountains of this kind, many more than any other state. Reaching the peak of a 14er is an admirable feat and therefore a quintessential hiking challenge for both Coloradan locals and tourists alike.
At 14,265 feet, Quandary Peak has always been a popular 14er as it is relatively easy and accessible. Located just south of Breckenridge, there are a few different routes to reach the summit. The standard route, 6.6 miles along the East Ridge, is generally considered the easiest, making it a common choice for first ascents. In 2020 Quandary saw unprecedented traffic, with visitors accounting for nearly 12% of all 14er trail usage in Colorado.
Even though the numbers of hikers at Quandary keep rising every year, the trail remains well-maintained. Lloyd Athearn, executive director of the Fourteeners Initiative, credited seasonal staff, volunteers, and local partners for helping the trail achieve A- condition in 2018. This was an improvement from the C+ rating in 2011.
“Our investments in trail construction and maintenance mean the summit trail is in better condition despite significantly increased hiking use.”
– Lloyd Athearn
Other trails have also seen record numbers of visitors. Trail use across Colorado was up by 44% from 2019, with the number of hikers reaching an all-time high of 415,000. Restrictions caused by COVID-19 have likely had something to do with this surge in popularity, as people sought outdoor recreation more than ever before.