By Audrey Andrews | July17th, 2021
Summit County, Colorado
Out & Back:
3,248 feet elevation gain
Standing 14, 265 feet above sea level, Quandary Peak is one of Colorado’s 14ers. The trail appears fairly straightforward online, so I selected it as my first solo 14er ascent. I knew there would be others on the trail, but was not prepared for what I found. I arrived at the trailhead on a Friday at 6:15am and was shocked to find both parking lots completely full. I was able to squeeze into a not-exactly parking space in the lower lot and headed up the trail.
About the first mile of the trail winds through forest and wildflower-filled meadows. Colors in the forest always shine bright in early morning light, and this was no different. The entire trail is very simple to navigate. Where a dirt road crosses the trail in the trees, signs clearly point hikers in the right direction. Although hikers should always carry a map, one is quite unnecessary on this route.
Above the tree-line, the trail continues to wind upwards. I stopped when I saw the line of hikers- literally hundreds- on their way to the summit. It reminded me of the infamous crowded-Everest photograph from 2019. I wanted to turn around, but drove two hours to get here and was already well into my hike, so continued upwards.
Most individuals kindly moved aside with a smile when I or other hikers needed to pass. Others refused to move, inching their way up the trail. I do not like to venture off-trail unless absolutely necessary, as the grass and flowers above tree-line are far too precious to trample. Thus, I was stuck marching upwards in line.
The route is an easy climb in comparison to other fourteeners. There is no false summit and plenty of room for people to stretch out along the top ridge. Views stun in every direction, but the mountains west of Quandary Peak in the Rockies are prime view real estate.
Unfortunately, navigating down was as tricky as up due to the rampant overcrowding. While I was part of the problem that day, it was difficult to not be astounded by the number of hikers. I can only wonder what the weekend crowd is like. As Quandary Peak is just outside of Breckenridge and a mere two-hour drive from Denver or Colorado Springs, I understand the easy-access appeal.
I am glad I completed Quandary Peak once but will not head back solely due to overcrowding and would recommend others find another trail. I now understand the need for permit systems to hike these beautiful peaks. We are truly loving them to death.