The year 2021 saw a massive drop in the number of Colorado fortnights hiking compared to 2020, which came much closer to the 2019 totals and fell significantly short of the 2018 totals.
According to a report released by the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, there were 303,000 hiking days across all of Colorado’s Fourteeners in 2021 — a 27 percent decrease from the previous year. In 2020 there were 415,000 hiking days on fourteeners nationwide, in 2019 there were 288,000 and in 2018 there were 353,000.
Hiking usage estimates according to the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative.
One shift to note, found in the 2021 data, is the 65 percent year-over-year drop in estimated hiking days that occurred in the Mosquito Range, which is home to some of the state’s most popular peaks, including Mount Lincoln, Mount Bross, Mount Democrat, and Mount Sherman, connected in a route commonly referred to as the “Decalibron Loop”. The key factor behind this drop is likely a route closure established by the private landowner for much of the season between May 1st and August 6th. While an estimated 49,000 people hiked these peaks in 2020, only 17,000 hiked them in 2021. Walker numbers on this route are likely to increase sharply this year when plans to keep the route open take effect.
A significant drop was also seen at Quandary Peak, which implemented a new parking and shuttle system. About 35,000 people (best estimate) climbed Quandary in 2021, compared to 49,000 in 2020.
The annual decline in migrant numbers also meant a decline in the economic impact of the state’s Fourteens. In 2021, the nationwide economic impact of climbing fourteen was estimated at $82.2 million, down 27 percent from the estimated impact of $112.5 million in 2020. This compares to $78 million US$ in 2019 and US$95 million in 2018. Economic impact figures are based on a 2009 study that found an average spend of US$271.17 for Quandary Peak climbers, including equipment , gas, food, shelter, equipment and other retail purchases. Obviously a lot has changed since 2009, but the same baseline is used today.
There are several related factors as to why there was such a massive decline in hiker usage between 2020 and 2021.
Access and parking restrictions at some of the state’s most popular peaks are two reasons cited by the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative. Another important factor could be the reopening of the world as the coronavirus pandemic eases. As more and more stores have reopened, there have been more options for where people want to spend their free time. Additionally, as more people return to work, there may be less free time for outdoor recreation in general.
STAY INFORMED: Sign up for OutThere Colorado’s daily newsletter here