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Mt. Princeton

Difficult
 3.6 (16) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

A classic Sawatch 14er with a shorter approach than most.


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Map Key

7.2

Miles

11.7

KM

58%

Runnable

14,106' 4,299 m

High

10,870' 3,313 m

Low

3,236' 986 m

Up

3,235' 986 m

Down

17%

Avg Grade (10°)

76%

Max Grade (37°)

Dogs Leashed

Features Fall Colors · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife

County Road 322 is extremely narrow and rough. I made it in my Subaru, but it was very sketchy, and I wouldn't do it again. This road is closed in the winter, and conditions are variable year-round.

Overview

Mt. Princeton is a fairly straightforward and unexciting mountain, as far as 14ers go. Following a treacherous drive up a dirt road (if you're confident enough to make the trip) it's just a short run up some more road before turning up some singletrack and continuing on some talus to the ridge and summit.

Need to Know

As always, bring rain and sun protection. While this is a shorter run, it's still a 14er. Even fast runners should plan on 4 hrs round trip under perfect conditions. The north-facing ridge of this mountain holds snow late, sometimes until July, so be prepared for more hours on the mountain. 10 hrs isn't improbable for slower runners.

Runner Notes

The 322A road is easy to run, but after the turn off this trail is really quite rocky. Parts of the ridge are runnable, but the rest sucks.

Description

From the center of Buena Vista, drive west on County Road 306. In 0.7 miles, turn south on CR 321 and drive 7 miles. Come to a fork and bear right onto CR 322. Drive under a mile to another fork, one for a ranch and one, clearly signed, for Mt. Princeton. Turn right for Mt. Princeton. Park here (8,900 ft) if you have a Subaru or less, or continue driving up the road if you're piloting something burlier. Over 3 miles up the road there are some radio towers with pullouts for 8 cars or so. There are a few campsites here as well, around 10,800 ft. Unless you're comfortable driving on a narrow shelf road with rock steps and bumps, park down low. There's nowhere to turn around for 3 miles.

From the upper TH at the radio towers, continue running up on CR 322A (the road away from, not toward, the radio towers). Continue for about 1.5 miles on the road before turning right onto Mt. Princeton Trail at 11,800 ft, just a few minutes after breaking tree line. The Jeep Road continues up along 13er Tigger Peak and is accessible by car for 1-2 months of the year.

The beginning of this trail remains class 1 but is absurdly steep. The grade relents after about 200 vertical and the trail continues below the Tigger-Princeton ridge. It's class 2 from here on out. Talus hop cautiously before continuing up some switchbacks to reach the ridge at 13,100 ft. There's an old trail below the switchbacks, but it more or less dead-ends below the ridge.

Once on the ridge, don your wind protection and continue toward the summit. Cross along some flat areas by some rock features until you reach 13,500 ft, after which the grade cranks up. Continue up some excellent class 2 trail to reach the summit - it's just a short stretch from here.

Flora & Fauna

While one would expect marmots and pika, I didn't see a single creature this entire run.

History & Background

Mt. Princeton, while first summited in 1877 by an alumna of its namesake, was named years prior by Harvard graduate - and Wyoming high point namesake - Henry Gannett.

Contacts

Shared By:

Tyler Prince

Trail Ratings

  3.6 from 16 votes

#2

in Buena Vista

#2986

Overall
  3.6 from 16 votes
5 Star
19%
4 Star
38%
3 Star
25%
2 Star
19%
1 Star
0%
Recommended Route Rankings

#2

in Buena Vista

#390

in Colorado

#2,986

Overall
343 Views Last Month
5,889 Since Jun 23, 2015
Difficult

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0%
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87%
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Photos

Mt. Princeton Summit view of Tigger Peak
Jul 23, 2017 near Alpine , CO
Mt. Princeton on 7/17/19.
Jul 18, 2019 near Alpine , CO
The turnoff for Mt. Princeton can be seen to the right, with the Jeep road continuing to the left. 13er Tigger Peak is dead ahead. The route goes below and to the right of this mountain.
Jun 24, 2015 near Buena V…, CO
The route, seen from just below the summit. The switchbacks on the trail are covered with snow, so the path is slightly different with summer conditions. Tigger Peak and the Arkansas Valley are seen in the foreground.
Jun 24, 2015 near Buena V…, CO
Mt. Princeton summit. Altitude has been shown to contribute to absurdity.
Jun 24, 2015 near Buena V…, CO
Hikers along the ridge, just a little above the switchbacking trail.
Jun 24, 2015 near Buena V…, CO

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Jun 10, 2017
Kirby Kimble
Started the 30 mile day at the Princeton 2wd trailhead. A little snow, a few people, but an overall clean route with minimal snow. 13mi