.:Getting to the trailhead:.
From Denver, drive I-70 west to the Copper Mountain exit, about 60 miles. Take the Copper Mountain exit (exit 195) and drive south on CO91 over Fremont Pass and to Leadvile (about 24 miles from Copper Mtn to Leadville). Follow the signs for CO91/US24 through downtown Leadville to the southern end of town. Turn left (east) onto Monroe Street (just past the Diamond Shamrock) and drive 0.2 miles to a "T" junction. Turn right (south) on Toledo Street (Lake County 2) and follow it for about 3.5 miles to a fork in the road. Bear left onto Lake County 2B (rough dirt, but ok for most cars) and drive 3 miles up into Iowa Gulch to the unsigned trailhead (although you can tell it from a large yellow post sticking out of the side of the road. From the road, you can see trail sections down by the creek.
Very straightforward. From the trailhead, descend slightly, cross the creek and aim for the faint but easily followed trail that you'll be able to pick out where the grass and wildflowers gives way to rock. Follow the trail as it ascends to the Sherman/Sheridan saddle. Even though there are faint indications of trails breaking off on a more direct route up the basin, stay on the main trail -- most of those spurs are loose and not worth the effort. From the saddle, turn left and follow the obvious trail along the ridgeline (with variations to either side) to Sherman's wide summit.
So, you're looking for a quick 14er fix, but you don't want to teem with the crowds on Bierstadt or Grays/Torreys. You don't have the time to drive down to the Sangres or San Juans. May I suggest Sherman from Iowa Gulch, then? It's a short climb...just over two miles and 2000 feet, and at least the first half avoids the crushing crowds from the standard, Fourmile-trailhead route!
Had no trouble finding the trailhead, and at 6:30am there was only one other vehicle there. The morning was dark and unsettled, with low clouds scuttling above a 13,000' deck. On a clear day, the summit of Sherman would be visible, but today it was just the rubble and cliffs of the north side of the mountain.
The route descends for a few dozen feet and crosses a couple streams. In high-runoff times I'd think this would be problematic, as there's no bridge (formal or otherwise)...as it was I had just enough oomph to jump the cold water and land in the muck! There are a few different trails here, crisscrossing through the wildflowers, but they all end up converging at the faint but distinct trail that cuts up and right through the rocks and up into the basin below the Sherman/Sheridan saddle.
The going was easy and straightforward in the cool morning air, and the trail is is great shape here. As you ascend, there are a couple faint trails the diverge to the left and look tempting, but stick with the main trail -- these shortcuts all dissolve into the scree and just aren't worth the effort.
After an hour I'd gained the saddle and merged with the morning masses climbing from the standard trailhead. There were a few dozen people in sight, with more disappearing into the clouds covering the bulk of Sherman. Looking down the other side of the mountain, many dozens more could be seen slowly making progress past the ruins of the Leavick and Dauntless mining complexes.
From here the trail's perfectly obivous - bear left and follow Sherman's west ridge to the summit. Thanks to the low clouds and limited visibility, I felt a little bit of a sense of isolation, and the crowds didn't feel so oppressive. As usual, the wind on the ridge was pretty stiff, and the chill was biting.
After an hour following the ridge (the trail winds from the left to the right to the very top of the ridge line...but only very, very minimal exposure), the terrain abruptly widened and flattened, marking the summit area, which was still populated with several patches of snow and ice. I guess the hot, hot summer hadn't made up for the above-average spring snows! More remarkably, I actually had the summit to myself (at least, within the 50-yard radius I could see). But it was cold and windy and the low clouds were fat with moisture...my fleece vest was actually developing a little coating of rime and frost! So I lingered just long enough to chug some Gatorade and throw down a Clif Bar, and I was off.
Going down was much more of a salmon-against-the-current sort of affair. The majority of the days' climbers were now on the ridgeline, and I did my best to encourage those who looked a little ragged...and there were quite a few. I think the chill and clouds caught a few people by suprise!
Coming off the ridge you just have to make sure to bear right to head back down Iowa Gulch instead of left down the other side of the saddle. The trip down was uneventful, and the clouds even broke here and there for some good views down the valley towards Leadville. After recrossing the soggy creek it was mere steps back to my jeep. 4 miles, 2000 feet, three and a half hours -- just right for a 14er "quickie"! Highly recommended!