Hiker traffic on Colorado 14ers fell by 110,000 visits in 2021 after setting a record in 2020 | VailDaily.com

Hiker traffic on Colorado 14ers fell by 110,000 visits in 2021 after setting a record in 2020

Municipal restrictions, landowner liability issues and construction hindered access to the state’s most popular 14ers in 2021 after record-setting hiker traffic in 2020.

Hikers descend on Quandary Peak trail on July 9, 2022, near Breckenridge. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun)

After a record-setting year for Colorado’s highest peaks at the height of the pandemic, traffic on the state’s 14ers dropped in 2021, falling by more than 110,000 user days. 

The Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, using remote-sensor counters on 23 trails around the state, counted about 303,000 hikers scaling the state’s 54 14,000-foot peaks in 2021, down 27% from an estimated 415,000 in 2020. The summer of 2020 was an outlier though, with 14ers remaining one of the few activities available during the early months of the pandemic lockdown. 

Still, the 2021 traffic is an increase from the pre-pandemic numbers logged in 2019, when the initiative’s infrared trail counters and surveys showed about 288,000 hikers on the peaks. In 2017 traffic counts reached 334,000. 

Lloyd Athearn, the director of the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative called 2021 “a significant bust” as communities and landowners limited access to 14ers and other recreational options opened coming out of the pandemic. 

A large part of the decrease in 2021 came from the Mosquito Range. Traffic to the Mosquito Range’s four 14ers — Mounts Lincoln, Bross, Democrat and Sherman — collapsed in 2021, falling by more than 30,000 hiker days. That was largely caused by a two-month summer closure of the privately owned Lincoln and Democrat by landowners concerned by liability issues involving hikers and old mining structures on the peaks. 

Read more from Jason Blevins, The Colorado Sun.

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