Quandary peak is one of the shorter Colorado 14er hikes. In 3.3 miles, hikers ascend 3,370 feet to the summit, making for a steep incline for the majority of the hike. This is one of the better beginner 14er hikes, and is also a great option for those looking to test 14ers in the winter. The well traveled, well marked, and class 1 trail all lead to incredible views. Here’s everything you need to know.
Difficulty – Intermediate
Distance – 6.6 miles round trip (10.62 km)
Height – 14,265 feet (4,347.97 m)
Elevation gain – 3,370 feet (1,027.2 m)
Duration – 5 to 7 hours (book time)
Hike Class: Class 1
Seasons – Year-round (caution and experience needed in winter)
Trailhead Location – Kite Lake – 12,030 feet (directions below)
Need To Know Information:
- Quandary Peak now requires parking reservations or a shuttle. You can read about this, and get permits here: https://www.parkquandary.com/
- The parking reservation system is currently not year round, but they do not have dates published, so simply check the parking reservation site to determine if they are required during the time you plan on hiking. Reservations can be made up to 14 days in advance.
Quandary Peak Trail | 6.6 Miles Roundtrip | 3,370 Feet Elevation Gain | Class 1
This is the most common route up Quandary Peak. It is one of the most common CO 14er trails due to close proximity to populations, and shorter mileage. Hikers will begin ascending steadily and quickly reach treeline 1.1 miles into the hike. The views from treeline until the summit are outstanding. This first 1.1 mile stretch is extremely well marked and traveled. The dirt path features steps and very easy walking.
For the next 1.3 miles, hikers continue to rise steadily and steeply. The trail remains high quality and easily traversable. It is the last mile where the ascent gets quite steep and remains until just shy of the summit. This part of the trail features a lot more rocks along the trail, making the terrain slightly more difficult as well.
Views from the summit are absolutely stunning. Hikers will retrace their steps back to the trailhead. The trail is easily recognizable when looking back where hikers began.
West Ridge Trail | 6 Miles Roundtrip | 2,650 Feet Elevation Gain | Class 3
The West Ridge is a less common route, and features much more difficult hiking. Hikers begin at the dam at the upper Blue Lake. The road is usually open in early June. When it is closed, hikers will have to park and hike up the road. Going along the right side of the dam, hikers will find the trail. This trail is only for hikers that are comfortable with class 3 hiking. We recommending checking out 14ers.com for this route.
Cristo Couloir | 4 Miles Roundtrip | 2,650 Feet Elevation Gain | Class 2
This route begins the same as the West Ridge trail and is also less traveled. This is a spring skiing route. Hikers can often ascend up a snowfield. This is more of a climbing/skiing route. We recommend checking out 14ers.com for this route.
Hiking in Winter
Quandary Peak is a fantastic winter hike option. The Class 1 trail is well traveled and well marked. Depending on snow conditions, microspikes or snowshoes will suffice. The avalanche risk on quandary is still moderate. Hikers should avoid during high avalanche risk times. Be sure to check conditions beforehand.
Quandary does not have campsites at the trailhead. Hikers can find campgrounds in nearby towns. Since this is a quick hike, local campgrounds within a half hour work just fine. There are also dispersed sites past the trailhead further up McCullough Gulch road.
Directions & Parking
This parking area is open year round. Keep in mind, this is a busy hike, so spots and spots along the road fill up very fast. Leave very early, or go on weekdays to avoid the largest crowds.
Current Weather Conditions
Here is a detailed forecast for the next 4 days:
Blue River, CO
A chance of snow and patchy blowing snow before 2pm, then areas of blowing snow and a chance of snow between 2pm and 4pm, then a chance of snow and patchy blowing snow. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 12. Wind chill values as low as -9. Northwest wind 21 to 24 mph, with gusts as high as 40 mph. Chance of precipitation is 50%. New snow accumulation of less than half an inch possible.
A slight chance of snow before 9pm. Mostly cloudy, with a low around -4. Wind chill values as low as -22. North northwest wind 12 to 17 mph, with gusts as high as 30 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%. Little or no snow accumulation expected.
Sunny. High near 15, with temperatures falling to around 8 in the afternoon. Wind chill values as low as -20. Northwest wind around 14 mph, with gusts as high as 22 mph.
Patchy blowing snow after 2am. Partly cloudy, with a low around 0. Wind chill values as low as -20. West northwest wind 12 to 22 mph, with gusts as high as 31 mph.
Patchy blowing snow before 11am, then blowing snow and a chance of snow between 11am and 5pm, then snow and blowing snow. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 15. West wind 22 to 46 mph, with gusts as high as 53 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New snow accumulation of 1 to 2 inches possible.
Snow and blowing snow before 11pm, then blowing snow and snow likely. Mostly cloudy, with a low around -6. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New snow accumulation of 1 to 2 inches possible.
Areas of blowing snow and a slight chance of snow before 11am, then a chance of snow and patchy blowing snow between 11am and noon, then areas of blowing snow and a chance of snow between noon and 4pm, then a chance of snow and patchy blowing snow. Partly sunny, with a high near 1. Chance of precipitation is 40%.
Max DesMarais is the founder of Hiking & Fishing. He has a passion for the outdoors and making outdoor education and adventure more accessible. Max is a published author for various outdoor and marketing websites. He is an experienced hiker, backpacker, fly fisherman, trail runner, and spends his free time in the outdoors. These adventures allow him to test gear, learn new skills, and experience new places so that he can educate others. You can read more about him here: hikingandfishing/about