28 Jul 2022
Mount Quandary is one of the most popular 14ers (mountain peaks over 14,000 feet) in all of Colorado. Quandary's outstanding views and moderate trail difficulty make it a perfect summer hike for anyone new to the challenge of 14ers. It's also the closest 14er to Copper Mountain with only a 40-minute drive to reach the main trailhead.
So, if you're visiting Copper Mountain this summer and are looking to challenge yourself with an exciting full-day hike, then Quandary Peak is the trail for you. Read on to learn more about this popular 14er as well as everything you need to know before taking it on.
Important Information About Quandary Peak
The Quandary Of Which Route To Take
There are several routes of varying difficulty to summit Mount Quandary, but the route along the East Ridge is what most people take. East Ridge is 6.6 miles out and back, and completing it takes between 5 and 6 hours on average.
Although this route is still challenging, most decently active hikers will be able to summit from this route. Adventurous families with children aged 12 and up should also be able to reach the top no problem.
If you're traveling with a dog, you can bring them on this trail so long as they're kept on a leash and picked up after. However, be aware that the final ascent to the top is a scramble over loose, jagged rocks that dogs often have difficulty traversing. So, take caution if you attempt to summit with your furry friend.
Getting To The Quandary Peak Trailhead
Due to Quandary's popularity during the summer months, you are required to make a reservation to park at the trailhead from mid-June through mid-September. Those planning to summit Quandary Peak will need to reserve a full day pass. At time of writing, these cost $25 on non-peak days and $50 on peak days. Head to ParkQuandary.com to learn more about Quandary parking lot passes, and click here for directions to the trailhead from Copper Mountain.
Alternatively, you can ride use the Summit Express shuttle service out of Breckenridge to reach the trailhead. Summit Express costs $15 round-trip for non-locals, and it runs every 30 minutes from 5:00 AM - 5:00 PM every day of the week from mid-June through mid-September. Parking for the shuttle service is at the South Gondola parking structure in Breck, and the final shuttle from the trailhead departs at 4:30 PM. Click the Park Quandary link above to also check Summit Express shuttle times to and from Quandary Peak.
When To Start Hiking Mount Quandary
A general rule of thumb for hiking any Colorado 14er is to get started early in the morning. Especially during the summer, you want to give yourself enough time to reach the top and get back down before any afternoon thunderstorms roll in.
Given that it takes an average of 5-6 hours to complete the hike, and that you should be heading off the peak no later than noon, you'll want to start up the trail no later than 9:00 AM. Any later than that, and you'll be putting yourself at risk of getting stuck on the mountain in a lightning storm.
However, even though you could safely start hiking Quandary at 9:00 AM, we recommend starting earlier to avoid large crowds and limit the chance of getting hit by a storm. Climbing 14ers is much more fun with fewer people to navigate around, and you can never be too cautious with those summer storms.
What To Bring For Hiking Your First 14er
Regarding what to bring for your Quandary Peak hike, everything you'll need for this 14er will more or less be the same as for any other 14er in Colorado. This list will cover all the essentials you'll need to pack for your ascent up Mount Quandary.
Pack Plenty Of Water
The most common mistake that people make when trekking 14ers is not packing enough water. Dehydration, especially at these high altitudes, can lead to dire consequences.
At a minimum, every individual hiking a 14er should pack a minimum of 2 liters of water. However, if you're not used to hiking at high altitudes or have never hiked a 14er before, then you'll want to pack closer to 3 liters of water per person. Remember, it's always better to pack too much water than too little.
In addition to water, it's often a good idea to bring along something with electrolytes to replenish lost salts from sweating. Packing an energy drink or some electrolyte-rich powder to add to your water are the best ways to go.
Don't Skimp On The Snacks
Once you've got your water sorted, you'll want to grab a few snacks to pack too. High-calorie nutrition bars are the go-to things to munch on for long hikes since they replenish you fast and pack easy in your day bag. Here is a list of some of the best bars to bring on your Quandary Peak ascent.
In addition to nutrition bars, there are plenty more types of snacks that are great to pack. Trail mix is a hiking staple for good reason as a handful or two of it provides a fantastic boost of energy. Fruits, nuts, and beef jerky are also good trail snacks.
Lastly, it's a good idea to pack a sandwich or wrap to enjoy for lunch at the summit. Provided the weather is clear, you won't find a picnic spot with a better view than at the top of a 14er like Quandary.
Always Dress In Layers
For Colorado 14ers, you ALWAYS want to come dressed in layers to handle the variety of weather conditions you're likely to encounter. In Colorado, there's a common saying of, if you don't like the weather, then wait 10 minutes. Up on mountains like Quandary, this is especially true.
For your base layers, come prepared with comfortable undergarments, hiking socks, hiking pants, and a breathable shirt. When choosing your base layers, it's important to avoid packing clothes made from cotton. Cotton absorbs water, so it can leave you soaked and shivering if it rains on your hike. Merino wool, polyester, and polypropylene are the best materials to use.
In addition to your base layers, you'll want extra insulating layers and a layer to protect you from harsh weather. Gloves, a beanie, and a medium to heavy-weight pullover works great for keeping you warm early in the morning as well as in the windy conditions above tree line. For rain and strong wind protection, bring a water-proof wind shell with a hood that packs easily in your day bag.
Lastly, make sure you're protected from the harsh high-altitude sun by packing sunglasses, a hat, and sunscreen with an SPF value of 30 or higher. If you want to go above and beyond, you can also get base layers that are made from UPF materials with built-in sun protection.
Have The Right Day Bag
Finally, you need to have the right hiking day bag in which to keep all your supplies. Backpacks that are good for hiking 14ers like Quandary should feature a capacity of 20-30 liters and include a water reservoir with a 2-3 liter capacity.
Also, you should look for a bag made from water-proof materials or at least water-resistant with a water-proof cover. You don't want a sudden rainstorm to soak all your extra layers or any electronics you may have in your bag.
Companies like REI, Osprey and CamelBak all make exceptional hiking backpacks with those features. Browse their websites to find the right bag for you, or shop at one of the several sporting goods stores in Copper Mountain.
And that's everything you need to know about hiking Mount Quandary as well as the essentials for what to bring on any 14er hike in Colorado! For more great tips, like how to prevent altitude sickness, be sure to check out our Copper Mountain Blog and Summer Activities page.
Of course, you'll also need a great place to stay for your Quandary Peak hiking adventure. We have a phenomenal selection of Copper Mountain vacation rentals fit for groups of any size. Check them out by clicking the button below!