Study: Colorado’s 14ers more popular than initially estimated

The trail to Handies Peak (my photo)

And now, for something completely different. From the Colorado Springs Gazette here..

The Colorado Fourteeners Initiative on Friday released a follow-up to a first-of-its kind study from 2016, which estimated the state’s 54 tallest mountains experienced 260,000 hiker days a year. Now, the nonprofit stewarding the mountain trails says that figure is closer to 311,000. That kind of activity contributes $84 million to the state’s economy, the new study found.


Along with the counters, the study derives user estimates from posts on The economic impact estimate is based on a 2009 Colorado State University report that found Quandary Peak climbers spent an average of $271 on various expenses including gas, food and equipment.

Without charging fees and getting into that can of worms, would it be possible to give climbers an opportunity to give something toward supporting and maintaining those areas. Certainly the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative does a terrific job, but if half the people donated the equivalent of 5% of their total expenses say, “$14 for 14ers” to the Forest Service, times half the estimated people climbing would be $2.177 mill. Unfortunately the trailheads probably don’t all have cell signal, otherwise it could just be a donation swipe and seemingly fairly easy to do. Personally, I’d like to have this available every time I hit a National Forest trail. Does anyone know of a place where collecting donations using any method is successful?

4 thoughts on “Study: Colorado’s 14ers more popular than initially estimated”

  1. Hi Susan! Thanks for recognizing the needs on 14ers. This year the National Forest Foundation, with Colorado outdoor stewardship groups including CFI, is launching a new 5+ year campaign to help increase the pace and scale of improvements to sustainable recreation opportunities on Colorado’s 14ers. We’re working to develop new partnerships and funding, build local capacity, and increase the pace and scale of on-the-ground trail improvement projects. More info is at We’re collecting donations and working to set up new partnerships with businesses who are interested in collecting donations from customers. We’ll also planning to launch a donation campaign this spring, where we’ll offer some hiking swag in exchange for contributions. …And we’re leveraging the funds we collect with matching federal and private funds. Fee collection at trailheads isn’t happening yet but I’ll be curious to hear what others say is working well. -Emily (Colorado Program Mgr for the NFF)

  2. Hi Sharon,
    I’m not sure you’d call it a donation, but the Pittman Robertson excise tax of 11% on firearms and hunting related equipment raises a huge amount for Colorado. I think in the neighborhood of $19 million was returned to the state from the Feds who collect it last year. I’d rather see an excise tax than a trailhead fee type system for a number of reasons. Foremost the use of public lands should be free, they are ours, likewise I’d like to see all fees eliminated at campgrounds, and to even access national forest. Get rid of those private contractors charging us money to camp on our lands! Everytime I see a day hiker with enough gear for everest I wish just 11% were going towards caring for our lands and wildlife. A federal excise tax on all gear charged at manufacture similar to that on hunting fishing gear would certainly help.

    • Thanks, Som! I wasn’t aware of that… I didn’t even know what an excise tax is but I looked it up in Wikipedia.
      “Excise taxes are taxes paid when purchases are made on a specific good, such as gasoline. Excise taxes are often included in the price of the product. There are also excise taxes on activities, such as on wagering or on highway usage by trucks.” This is a fascinating idea for outdoor recreation gear and makes as much sense as it would for hunting and fishing gear, returned to the states. Of course, the question would be how willing the states are to give it back to the feds for work on federal lands… How does the Pittman Robertson tax work in terms of that?


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