Hiking mount Princeton: A Brilliant Colorado 14er
Mt Princeton rises dramatically above the Arkansas River Valley and the town of Buena Vista in central Colorado, dominating the skyline to the west. With a road ascending high up its slopes dating back to the mining era, it offers an easy approach for those with 4WD and high clearance on their vehicle. Those without have a slightly longer hike from the lower trailhead. Regardless of which you start at, it’s a classic Colorado climb and a good moderate difficulty fourteener. Before hiking Mount Princeton, plan your trip with my route guide below.
Hiking Mount Princeton: Fast Facts
Mt Princeton Route Guide - East Slopes
Any trip hiking Mount Princeton starts with the trailheads. If you have a a 4WD vehicle, you can make it up the Mt Princeton Road up to around 11,000 feet where there’s an area to park. Otherwise, park below at the main trailhead and either hike or hitchhike your way up. At 11,800 feet take a right on to the trail near the end of the road.
Continue along the trail as you near the ridge crest. Beyond, at 12,000 feet you will be able to see the route ahead: a traverse along the slope ahead of you to the ridge that brings you to the summit.
As you traverse the slope the trail becomes rocky, and less easy to follow. Rock movement here obscures the trail, look for cairns (small manmade rock pikes) to mark the way. Cross several small gullies along this section as you near the ridge. Near 12,800 feet turn left to take a new trail to the ridge, and continue hiking Mount Princeton. d
From the ridge turn right and begin climbing towards the summit. The route here becomes more solidly Class 2, but never exceeds that difficulty so long as you stay on route.
The final few hundred foot crux of the route below the summit. While not technical, scrambling at this altitude takes a lot of energy and it’s easy to trip. Take your time picking your way to the summit.
Once you make it to the top, enjoy your accomplishment! Get a photo, enjoy a snack, and make sure you head back with plenty of time to reach tree line before afternoon thunderstorms become a problem. I hope you found my Mt Princeton Route Guide helpful and informative! Good luck hiking Mount Princeton, and safe travels on the trail!
My Mt Princeton Route Guide includes this helpful topographical map of the area to bring with you. I recommend downloading it on your phone or other digital device and printing out a paper backup to bring with in case anything happens to your electronics while you are hiking Mount Princeton.
My Mt Princeton Route Guide includes these weather forecast sources for the route. It’s a good practice to check the forecast multiple times, from multiple sources, as your climb date approaches so you can plan appropriately and cancel if necessary. It’s a critically important step if you plan on hiking Mount Princeton.
Hiking Mount Princeton is an inherently high-risk activity – do so at your own risk, and use the following best practices to help keep yourself safe.
- Research your route and bring a compass & topographic map.
- Check the weather forecast and stay home during inclement weather.
- Bring the Ten Essentials and the knowledge/skill to use them.
- Leave your plans with someone back home along with a detailed itinerary.
- Start early, and end early: Be back at tree line by noon to avoid lightning.
- Bring a buddy on your first ascent, preferably someone experienced.
Hiking Mount Princeton is an inherently dangerous activity. There is a significant risk of injury or death, even with proper planning and experience. Those using my Mt Princeton route guide accept all risks associated with climbing 14ers and do not hold this website or any information they obtain from it liable for any accidents or injuries that occur while engaging in these activities on Colorado’s high peaks. It is each hiker or climber’s responsibility to research their route carefully, bring the ten essentials, and practice other safe practices, though even these precautions do not eliminate risk and danger. Visit these summits at your own risk.
Alex is a mountaineer and blogger based in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others explore the mountains, stay safe, and preserve the peaks for the future. Subscribe to the Next Summit Newsletter here.