Colorado boasts 54 peaks with an elevation of over 14,000 feet. Often called "14ers," these peaks range in difficulty from Class I (yet still demanding due to altitude and navigation) ascents to Class IV climbing. The historic mining town of Telluride offers a plethora of nearby 14ers, a few of which are some of the most iconic peaks in Colorado.
The Wilson Group is a series of three 14ers, set roughly 10 miles southwest of Telluride.
Photo: The Wilson group of peaks
Mount Wilson stands at 14,246 feet, making it the second-highest peak in the San Juan Mountains range, after the nearby Uncompaghre Peak. Located within the Wilson Group trifecta of 14,000-foot peaks, including Wilson Peak and El Diente Peak, the range is one of Telluride's most photographed. Mount Wilson is an advanced Class IV climb and is ranked as one of the top 10 hardest Colorado 14ers to summit. In the fall, the base of the mountain is decorated with changing foliage of Aspens, set against the rugged vertical rock of the mountainside.
Wilson Peak stars in an iconic beer logo you've seen gracing a can of Coors and is set within the Wilson Group. Located 1.5 miles north of Mount Wilson, Wilson Peak stands at 14,017 feet tall. Although less difficult than it's surrounding peaks, Wilson Peak requires at least Class III climbing skills, but offers rewarding sweeping vistas of the surrounding landscape for as far as the eye can see on a clear day.
El Diente, or "the tooth," is the third peak in the Wilson Group and stands at 14,159 feet tall. This peak is only three quarters of a mile west from Mount Wilson. The two are joined together by a knife ridge traverse that sits at over 13,000 feet and requires Class IV-V climbing skills to summit both peaks in one day. El Diente itself is a dramatic, steep and loose Class III climb, not for the faint of heart.
Some call the beautiful Mount Sneffel's the "Queen of the San Juans." Standing at 14,150 feet, this iconic mountain is often as recognizable as the Wilson Group and the Maroon Bells. While it is ranked a "difficult" Class II climb, multiple routes make this peak navigable by many. Views from the top include Telluride Ski Resort, and Uncompaghre Peak, the tallest peak in the San Juans.
Photo: Mount Sneffels
A bit further away, southeast of Telluride, the beautiful Chicago Basin 14ers beckon hikers and backpackers. The remote Basin includes Sunlight, Windom and Eolus Peaks. The Silverton Durango Narrow Gauge Railroad, a historic remnant of the area’s mining days, takes hikers into the Weminuche Wilderness where they can set up camp to explore the surrounding three 14ers from the Needleton Trailhead.
Mount Eolus is a Class III hike and stands at 14,083 feet. Situated to the west of the upper basin, Mount Eolus looks out across to Sunlight and Windom Peaks. Many miss North Eolus, a nearby lower peak that is just a quick 15-minute hike away but offers astounding views of the San Juans.
Craggy and loose, Sunlight Peak lies within the Chicago Basin on the northeastern corner at 14,059 feet tall. This Class IV hike ends in a very technical and challenging climb to the small, exposed summit block.
The third peak in the Chicago Basin, Windom, measures at 14,082 feet tall. Windom Peak is a rated as a "difficult" Class II hike, and many combine the ascent of this peak with Sunlight. As the easier climb of the trifecta, this peak is very popular amongst hikers.
A bit further and east of Telluride, Sunshine, Redcloud and Handies Peaks are popular hikes, especially for those looking to bag all of Colorado's 14ers.
Sunshine Peak & Redcloud Peak
At just 14,001 feet tall, Sunshine is one of the lowest 14ers (there are some reports the peak has gained elevation, and is therefore no longer the "lowest"sunshine ). It is usually summited in conjunction with Redcloud Peak, which is just a mile away, standing at 14,034 feet tall. This combo is rated Class II and is a moderate hike compared to some of the other surrounding peaks.
Handies Peak sits just west of Sunshine and Redcloud, offering views of the other two mountains. At 14,048 feet tall, Handies is a Class II or I hike depending on the route and trailhead taken, and a perfect beginner 14er. Many climb this peak before or after Sunshine and Redcloud, camping at Grizzly Gulch Trailhead.