Move over Mt. Bierstadt, there's a new king of the mountain.

A new report indicates Quandary Peak is Colorado's most climbed mountain. That is a distinction previously held by Mt. Bierstadt.

Colorado's fourteeners are seeing an increase in foot traffic. Approximately 353,000 people climbed a fourteener in 2018, up nearly 6% from the previous year. The most heavily hiked mountains in Colorado are Quandary, Bierstadt, Elbert, Lincoln, Bross, Democrat, Sherman, Grays, Torreys, and Longs.

The report says just over 38,000 people scaled Quandary Peak in 2017, while just under 37,000 hikers took the trek to the top of Mt. Bierstadt.

The next most popular peaks are Grays and Torreys, with an estimated 25,000-30,000 hikers. Elbert, Lincoln, Bross, and Democrat were each in the 20,000-25,000 range.

And then there are a number of peaks who's hiker numbers pale in comparison. Mount Lindsey, Crestone Needle, Blanca, Maroon, and Kit Carson are among the fourteeners seeing between 1,000 and 3,000 climbers in 2017.

One of the challenges hikers of fourteeners face is dealing with the crowds. Crowded trails and full parking lots can be a deterrent. I saw a picture posted on social media this summer by someone climbing Mt. Bierstadt and they had to park more than a mile from the trailhead. I can tell you that hiking an extremely crowded trail does suck some of the joy out of the experience.

To avoid the crowds, it makes sense to go to less popular peaks. But, there is a reason why the most popular fourteeners are the most popular. They present generally easy access off the main road, and, as fourteeners go, are generally less difficult to summit than others. So it's up to each individual hiker to decide what's most important to them, and from a logistics standpoint, which fourteener option is most realistic.

[GAZETTE]