Quandary peak is one of the shorter CO14er 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 makes it a great winter hike.
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)
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
Snow showers and areas of blowing snow before midnight, then areas of blowing snow and a chance of snow showers between midnight and 1am, then a chance of snow showers and patchy blowing snow between 1am and 2am, then areas of blowing snow and a slight chance of snow showers between 2am and 5am, then a chance of snow showers and patchy blowing snow. Mostly cloudy. Low around 4, with temperatures rising to around 7 overnight. Wind chill values as low as -19. West northwest wind around 26 mph, with gusts as high as 37 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New snow accumulation of 1 to 3 inches possible.
A chance of snow showers and patchy blowing snow before 11am, then patchy blowing snow and a slight chance of snow showers between 11am and 5pm. Partly sunny. High near 14, with temperatures falling to around 12 in the afternoon. Wind chill values as low as -17. Northwest wind 20 to 24 mph, with gusts as high as 37 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%. New snow accumulation of less than one inch possible.
Mostly cloudy. Low around 6, with temperatures rising to around 8 overnight. Wind chill values as low as -12. Northwest wind 14 to 18 mph, with gusts as high as 28 mph.
Patchy blowing snow between 7am and 5pm, then patchy blowing snow and a slight chance of snow. Partly sunny, with a high near 19. Wind chill values as low as -10. West northwest wind 14 to 17 mph, with gusts as high as 24 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
A slight chance of snow before 11pm, then patchy blowing snow and a slight chance of snow. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 10. West northwest wind 15 to 20 mph, with gusts as high as 26 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Patchy blowing snow and a slight chance of snow. Partly sunny, with a high near 18. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Partly cloudy, with a low around 7.