There lies a lot of hype around hiking a fourteener. They’re on people’s bucket lists, vacation plans, to-do lists, and so are super popular, busy, crowded, and not really an escape into the outdoors. If you want to stand on the peak alone you better get there at sunrise, and even then there is no guarantee, especially on the weekends. And the first couple weekends in August are the worst. I have noticed an influx of people jumping on the 14er bandwagon, which is great. I’m not dissing 14ers by any means, but sometimes one needs a little more solitude in a hike.
What many hikers fail to realize is that thirteeners are more remote and just as difficult, and therefore, rewarding. While everyone scrambles for a position on the hiking trail to a 14er, you can stand alone at the top of a 13er and look out at a Wilderness devoid of people. You can’t always say the same thing in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness, for example, with all of its 14ers.
Researchers have encyclopedias, doctors have medical journals, and we have guides to the wilderness. In these handy little books you can find great trails, both popular and remote. The trails are even rated so you can start out at the intermediate level and work your way up to the expert level by the end of the summer. Personally, I use The Complete Guide to Colorado’s Wilderness Area by Mark Pearson with photographs by John Fielder, but that won’t be the right fit for everyone.
Next time you’re trying to find a parking spot along Independence Pass or Cottonwood Pass remember that there’s a 13er out there a lot less crowded. And there’s even a 13ers.com page to help you plan your trip.