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Study: 14ers are busier than previously thought

DENVER — The 14ers are busier than previously thought, according to a study released Friday from the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative.

The study reports 311,000 hiker-use days on Colorado’s 14ers in 2016. That’s up 51,000 hiker-use days in 2015.

A hiker-use day or person day is defined by the CFI as one person hiking one peak on one day.

“By doubling the number of trail counters placed on the peaks last year, we were able to get a more accurate picture of the number of hikers out on Colorado’s 14ers,” said Lloyd F. Athearn, executive director of the CFI.

“It turns out our estimates were a bit conservative in projecting 2015 hiking use.  Some monitored peaks actually saw year-on-year increases, in particular Mount Elbert, the state’s high point.  But for most 14ers, the apparent increase in hiking use was just more accurate estimates.”

Mount Elbert was the most-climbed 14er with an estimated 29,000 hiking-use days. That’s up from an estimated 25,000 hiking-use days in 2015, a 16 percent increase.

Other than Elbert, the study shows the greatest amount of hiking occurred on the Front Range peaks closest to Denver.

  • Grays and Torreys: 20,000 to 25,000
  • Bierstadt: 20,000 to 25,000
  • Pikes Peak: 15,000 to 20,000
  • Mount Evans: 10,000 to 15,000
  • Longs Peak: 7,000 to 10,000

The study also shows a significant economic benefit to Colorado.

“This level of recreational use suggests a statewide economic impact of more than $84.3 million directly attributable to hiking 14ers based on economic expenditure studies performed by Colorado State University economists John Loomis and Catherine Keske,” Athearn said.

“Their 2009 study found that climbers of Quandary Peak near Breckenridge spent an average of $271.17 per day for gasoline, food, lodging, equipment and other retail purchases.”

As the demand on the 14ers increases so does the need for preservation.

“Building out and maintaining the network of sustainably designed, durably constructed summit hiking trails is CFI’s top priority,” Athearn said.

“If we can provide a robust network of 14er hiking trails that protects the fragile alpine tundra ecosystems through which these trails pass we can protect these signature Colorado peaks while helping foster this source of hiker-generated revenue for years to come.”

The CFI accepts donations to help with preservation.

The CFI was founded in 1994 to preserve and protect the natural integrity of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks through stewardship and active education.

Courtesy CFI.