A number of famous peaks near Telluride draw mountain climbers from all over the world, but it’s hiking Colorado’s “14ers” (mountains with an elevation over 14k feet), that puts hikers and mountaineers in a special club.
Here are SilverStar’s “top picks” of the best Colorado hiking trips near Telluride with some fun facts and details on bagging each peak.
Top 5 14ers Near Telluride
Set roughly 10 miles southwest of Telluride, the Wilson Group is a series of three 14ers with Mount Wilson standing at 14,246 feet, making it the second-highest peak in the San Juan Mountains range. The range at the top is absolutely breathtaking (and is Telluride’s most photographed) with a 360-degree panorama, but Mount Wilson is one of the top-10 hardest Colorado 14ers to summit requiring an advanced Class IV climb. Mt. Wilson’s Southwest Slopes and East Slopes are shorter (12.50 and 12 miles, respectively), and the North Slopes are 16 miles round trip. Learn more about climbing Mt. Wilson.
If you’ve ever watched a TV commercial for Coors Brewing Co., you’ve seen Wilson Peak featured prominently in the advertisements and on its logo. Its base is accessible by four-wheel drive roads 11 miles west of Telluride. Summer is the most popular time of year to summit the peak. Wilson Peak requires Class 3 technical climbs, with some scrambling over rocks, but overall, a stunning climb with a round-trip distance of around 10 miles. Learn more about climbing Wilson Peak.
El Diente, Spanish for “The Tooth,” looks like a pointy canine from an elevation of 14,165 feet, and is one of the more challenging climbs of the Colorado 14ers (although well worth the dramatic vistas!). With a nearly 17-mile drive from Telluride, all routes involve at least Class 3 scrambling on loose talus with a round trip distance of 12 miles. Via the connecting ridge, you can ascend El Diente and descend Mount Wilson, but it will be a very long day. Learn more about climbing El Diente.
Even though this peak nestled in the San Juan Mountain sounds as though it were named after a Sesame Street character, this 7.6 mile out-and-back trip is considered a punishing hike. With about a Class 3 difficulty, Mt. Sneffels affords a beautiful view of wildflower meadows near the trailhead but requires talus-hopping up steep slopes toward the summit in order to get a view of “America’s Switzerland.” Learn more about climbing Mt. Sneffels.
Rated by experts as one of the more accessible 14ers for beginners, getting to the trailhead of Windom Peak can be a romantic experience if you first take the historic Narrow Gauge locomotive to Needleton. The train will drop you off next to a suspension bridge that crosses the Animas River nestled deep in the Weminuche Wilderness. Experts in the climbing community say, “The hardest route is an easy Class 3, maybe even Class 2+. The easiest route is mostly Class 1 and a bit of Class 2.” Rated a Class 1, the distance is 17 miles round-trip for one ambitious day or spread out over several days. Learn more about climbing Windom Peak.
Preparing to Hike a 14er
If you are planning to hike a 14er during your next Telluride vacation, proper planning is a must. Here are a few tips from our team:
— Start early. It is common for thunderstorms to build mid-day and in the afternoon in the San Juans. An alpine start gives you the time you need to climb the peak and return safely before weather may become an issue.
— Hydrate. Hydration is always an important component of exercise, but in this case, it’s even more important. Being well hydrated helps your body acclimate to the high elevations. Proper hydration starts before your climb by drinking extra water the day and night before.
— Bring plenty of fuel. You’ll need to bring more than your standard trail lunch to hike a 14er. Plan for 7-10 hours of strenuous exercise and break up your food into smaller portions so you can fuel throughout the day. As you climb to 14,000 feet, you may find your appetite wanes. Thus, bringing tasty snacks like a candy bar or pizza can be a great way to ensure you get the calories you need.
— Layer up. Whether you are skiing, hiking, or biking in Telluride, dressing appropriately is all about layering. Bring non-cotton layers including long underwear, fleece, and rain gear. A warm down jacket is also a must. Prepare for big fluctuations in temperature and weather as you ascend a 14er.
— Do your research. Explore maps, read trip reports, and view photo logs so you know what to expect. 14ers.com is a great go-to resource.
— Hire a guide. If you are new to hiking or climbing or want to increase your safety and chances of success, consider hiring a guide. Telluride Mountain Guides, Mountain Trip, and San Juan Outdoor School are three local guide services that specialize in climbing Telluride 14ers.
Hiking in Colorado is but one gem that makes up Telluride’s vast appeal. For more great ideas on how to enjoy the area’s four seasons, contact SilverStar Telluride Luxury Rentals at 970-728-3001.