Chaffee County 14ers

hikingMeet the Mountains

By Sue Bjorkman

If you’re a “peak bagger,” you already know this area well. That’s because Chaffee County holds a unique distinction. It has the highest concentration of mountains over 14,000 feet (or 4,266 meters) in Colorado and the nation. Colorado officially has 54 fourteeners, with 15 of the majestic peaks found in the Sawatch Range in the Upper Arkansas Valley. A dozen of these are between the “Now This is Colorado” county lines. This 100-mile range also includes more than 300 peaks over 12,000 feet, elevating the area to one of the most dramatically scenic in the state.

The Ute word, “Sawatch” translates to “the blue-green waters of the earth,” a poetic description of this flowing “sea” of mountains. The peaks are within the San Isabel National Forest and the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness that includes the famous Colorado Trail and 100 miles of trails. This adventurer’s paradise is also right in Salida and Buena Vista’s backyard. That means your pre-and-post summit activities can include hot springs, craft breweries, distilleries, art galleries, live music and remarkable meals at independently-owned local restaurants.

Collegiate Peaks

Half of Chaffee’s peaks make up the subset of the Sawatch Range known as the Collegiate Peaks, all named after Ivy League colleges.

Native American and Spanish Influences

*Elevations of 14ers are often adjusted and vary according to the source. The ones used here are courtesy of the Traihead Company in Buena Vista and believed to reflect the latest surveyor measurements.