Colorado is home to more mountain peaks exceeding altitudes of 14,000 feet above sea level than any other state in the country. If you are new to hiking the Colorado Trail, Chaffee County and the Sawatch Range offer adventure for both beginners, as well as experienced hikers. There are over 15 mountains to choose from around the area including Mount Elbert, the highest point in Colorado and the second highest peak in the contiguous 48 states.

Salida’s Top Peaks

The Salida, Colorado area is perhaps best known for its easy access to several 14ers, to accommodate a wide range of hiking abilities. The Collegiate Peaks are some of the best known as well as most accessible by way of Highway 24 otherwise known as “The Fourteener Highway.”  The mountains are known as Collegiate Peaks because of their namesakes derived from five famous universities: Mt. Princeton, Mt. Harvard, Mt. Yale, Mt. Columbia, and Mt. Oxford (the odd-mountain out, since the rest are American universities).

Mt. Princeton is a recognizable peak, in part because it is visible from the highway. It is also readily known by its unmistakable ghostly ash-colored face and prominent peak. Mt. Princeton is also home to world-class hot springs bearing its name. Your 6.8-mile journey will get you to the top along with a gain of 3320 feet.

Once you have knocked Mt. Princeton off your list, you can begin to check them off, one by one and in no particular order.  The views from these behemoths are like none other in the world, rising high above treeline and offering spectacular vistas of high mountain desert plains, endless woodlands, or other snow-covered peaks. Climbing 14ers is a lot like eating potato chips. You can’t stop with just one!

The Collegiate Peaks are located in a wilderness area which prohibits motorized vehicles and allows for an uninterrupted experience with nature without all the trappings on the modern world. In many ways, the land here is as untamed as it was hundreds of years ago!

mountain access road in Colorado wilderness in the Rocky Mountains

Access road near the South San Juan Wilderness Area. Southern Colorado.

Preparedness

Before you head out on your day of adventure, remember a few tips from the locals.

  • Start Early: Even the long summer days are no match for Colorado weather. By beginning early in the morning, you can have enough time to dodge any weather that might come your way.

 

  • Hydrate: Many visitors are not accustomed to the altitude of Colorado but when you are gaining several thousand feet in elevation over a matter of hours, keeping fluids in your body is extremely important. Guests and locals agree that approximately three liters are appropriate.

 

  • Wear a Winter Hat: Keeping your head covered will keep your body from releasing too much heat. There is also a significant drop in temperature as you reach the peak.

 

  • Apply Sunscreen: As you continue to climb the sun becomes more intense with less tree cover as you near the peak. Apply before you begin your trip and make sure to have a small bottle of at least SPF 50 to apply before the descent.

There is no doubt that hiking should be included in your itinerary. But adding a 14er to the list could be just the right addition to spark the adventurer in you.  The Collegiate Peaks aren’t the only 14ers in the area. You can fill in the gaps between these five famous inclines with other beautiful summer hikes as well. Many of our guests repeat their trips to the area year after year making them the best resource for many of the tips and trails we recommend. Do you have a trail you love to take in the summer? Let Us Know!

Post Hike Adventures

If you need a break between untamed wilderness locations, look no further than Salida, Colorado.  Salida offers lodging and dining close to what you would expect from a major city, yet with the charm and small-town hospitality of the local inhabitants. There is no shortage of activities for the nature lover, from climbing and mountaineering to kayaking and mountain biking. Salida and Monarch Pass are the birthplace of mountain biking as we know it today!  

Salida has just about everything you need to set up base camp and make a whole week of your expedition!   Whitewater rafting, all-terrain sports, horseback riding, rock climbing, and backpacking expeditions are great to do in the summer months. There are plenty of options to choose from for a daytime adventure with reputable guides throughout the area. Salida is just a few hours drive from the Front Range, but it experiences none of the congested tourist traffic that other destinations in Colorado are known for.  It remains one of the hidden treasures of Colorado.

The area is an adventurer’s dream. There is lodging, modern conveniences (when you want them), and an area rich in geothermal activity for a late afternoon or evening soak after a long day of hiking. Combine that with locally owned breweries, an active nightlife scene, and the charm and hospitality of a sleepy mountain town, you might find yourself setting up camp in this part of Colorado year after year, no matter which season you pick!

Stay Awhile

Creekside Chalets offer some of the best the area has to choose from as well.  When you want your home away from home to be nestled in the middle of aspens, at the foot of some of the highest mountains in the country, there is just not a better place to be.  Ideal for family get-togethers or romantic weekends where you want to get away from it all, Creekside Chalets offer you the kind of place you have been looking for for years. Contact us if you want to learn more about the Salida, Colorado area and what it has to offer.  

 

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