Colorado Fourteeners Initiative


Mission Statement

Colorado Fourteeners Initiative protects and preserves the natural integrity of Colorado’s 54 14,000–foot peaks —the “Fourteeners”— through active stewardship and public education.


Colorado’s Fourteeners contain rare and fragile native alpine tundra ecosystems that are uniquely adapted to living on these high peaks. These tundra plants –some of which exist nowhere else on earth– are ill-adapted to being trampled by the estimated 334,000 hiker use days that occur on these peaks every year. In many places, resource damage is past the point of natural recovery.
CFI partners with the US Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and passionate volunteers and donors nationwide to:
  1. Create a structure for engaging local communities in the protection of Colorado’s highest peaks
  2. Build and maintain sustainable hiking routes on Colorado’s 14ers to accommodate hiking use while minimizing damage to native alpine ecosystems
  3. Close, stabilize, and restore trampled and eroded areas to protect sensitive alpine plant and animal communities
  4. Educate Fourteener hikers about Leave No Trace principles and sustainable recreational practices designed to lessen ecosystem impacts
Through this unique, voluntary partnership, Colorado’s 14er ecosystems are protected from harm while continuing to make the peaks accessible to hikers without burdensome restrictions and fees.

Program Details

2019 Field Season
Colorado Fourteeners Initiative is excited to report that 2018 was our most successful summer of trail construction, maintenance, and habitat restoration to date. Last year, more than 1,000 individual volunteers contributed 2,150 days of volunteer stewardship – an all-time record! 2019 is CFI’s 25th anniversary and we are excited to continue improving our efforts on the Fourteeners. Below are some brief descriptions of our projects and initiatives planned for the year ahead.
Mount Elbert
This season CFI will continue work on the third season of a multi-year trail construction project on the Southeast slopes of Mount Elbert. Four CFI crew leaders will work in conjunction with an eight-person Rocky Mountain Youth Corps (RMYC) crew. CFI and RMYC will also utilize a “peak apprentice” position to coordinate communications and work objectives between the weekday crew and the weekend volunteer groups led by CFI’s Adopt-a-Peak crew. In 2019, crews will begin construction of the upper trail re-route. In addition, restoration and stabilization efforts will continue along the old, socially-created route. The installation of timber resto checks and soil fill will serve to recontour the old, eroded trail surface and provide a healthy habitat for plant transplants. CFI will begin restoring the “Cat’s Claw” – a large section of tundra with multiple deeply-eroded trail braids – by using some experimental restoration techniques.
CFI’s Adopt-a-Peak crew will lead an estimated 10 volunteer trail stewardship projects that will engage more than 250 days of volunteer stewardship on Mount Elbert.
Mount Columbia
In 2019, CFI will intensify our focus on the Mount Columbia trail reconstruction project. Staff size will increase from four to six highly-experienced trail crew leaders. CFI’s six-person fixed-site team, working together with an eight-person Southwest Conservation Corp (SCC) crew, will begin work on the fourth of five-planned seasons. This summer, the crew will perform complex and technically-challenging construction work on the steep slopes just below the summit ridge. Due to the intricate nature and remote location of the project, volunteers will not be recruited.
Grays and Torreys Peaks
CFI’s two-person maintenance crew finished the final season of intensive trail reconstruction on Quandary Peak in 2018. This smaller scale fixed-site team will move to Grays and Torreys Peaks to address major trail braiding and erosion issues occurring above 13,000 feet. Together with a single RMYC crew member, the crew will aim to close these braids to prevent additional loss of fragile alpine tundra soil and vegetation. This highly-skilled crew will perform the majority of their work on the upper reaches of the peak, in areas that CFI has not previously been able to reach with volunteer groups.
While the fixed-site crew focuses their efforts on the higher portion of the trail, CFI’s Adopt-a-Peak crew and volunteers will work below the junction for Kelso Ridge to perform corridor clearing, drainage cleaning, and routine maintenance work. CFI plans to host more than 10 volunteer projects on Grays and Torreys Peaks in 2019 and engage approximately 250 days of volunteer stewardship.
Lake City 14ers
Additional funding from the Chrest Foundation and Gates Family Foundation, paired with funds from the National Forest Foundation’s “Find Your Fourteener” campaign, will allow CFI to expand its fixed-site work in 2019. This two-person crew will be a hybrid of sorts, spending half of the summer on the BLM peaks (Handies and Redcloud) and the remaining time on Uncompahgre and Wetterhorn Peaks.
The crew will work alongside a Southwest Conservation Corps team to perform routine trail maintenance work. CFI’s Adopt-a-Peak crew will perform an estimated eight multi-day volunteer projects on these peaks in 2019.
Adopt-a-Peak Crew
Last year, CFI’s eight-person Adopt-a-Peak crew hosted more than 74 volunteer projects on 19 peaks across the state. These projects engaged an all-time record high number of volunteer trail stewardship days – 1,012 individuals contributed 2,150 days. In 2019, CFI will once again deploy an eight-person Adopt crew to perform general trail maintenance and restoration work on peaks across the state. This year, we plan to reduce the number of peaks on which we perform work to focus on higher priority areas. We estimate hosting more than 60 projects that will engage approximately 1,600 days of volunteer stewardship. Want to volunteer with CFI this summer? Project registration will be released in early March. Follow us on Facebook or sign up for our newsletter to receive notifications.

Sustainable Trails Program

The baseline data collection effort that was conducted in 2011-13 is now finished and published as the 14er Report Card. In 2017-18, the Sustainable Trails Coordinator Tom Cronin returned to capture baseline data on more than 15 peaks that were not initially inventoried in Phase I. Tom also continued the re-inventory process and collected secondary data on multiple peaks to help CFI determine how on-the-ground conditions are improving or degrading over time. CFI plans to release an updated 14er Report Card later this summer.
In July 2018, CFI released the third edition of its “14er Hiking Use and Economic Impact” report which estimated that 334,000 hiker use days occurred on Colorado’s 14ers in 2017 – an 8% increase over 2016. In 2019, CFI will place traffic counters at 22 locations monitoring use on 19 peaks. An updated report on hiking use and economic impact will be released later this summer.
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1600 Jackson St, Suite 205
Golden, CO 80401
United States
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