Located just a few miles from the charming mountain town of Buena Vista, Colorado, hiking to the summit of Mount Princeton offers an unforgettable experience.
Note: Please check weather conditions, current road conditions, and closures before planning your travels to Mount Princeton. High-elevation sites are often inaccessible due to snow, even in the summer months. For current conditions, click here. It’s also worth noting that Mount Princeton is very steep, long, and rocky…it’ll be hard on your knees.
There are two starting points for hiking the standard route to the summit of Mount Princeton. If you’re able to make it up a narrow, VERY rocky one-lane road, then you’re looking at a 6.5-mile heavily trafficked out and back trail with 3,230 feet of elevation gain. Please be aware, this route is only recommended for high clearance four-wheel-drive (4WD) vehicles.
For those starting at the main trailhead parking lot, located at 8,900 feet next to the horse stables, plan accordingly for a longer trek of 13.25 miles. The trail is steep, gaining a total of 5,400 feet of elevation. Keep your eye out for the trailhead that breaks off to the right after making your way up the long off-roading path located just a little over 3 miles from the main trailhead parking lot.
From either starting point, expect miles of classic Colorado beauty. Lined in wildflowers and towering granite peaks, the trail to the summit quickly turns into a rocky ascent filled with a number of grueling switchbacks. Watch your step. There are loose rocks all along this part of the trail, big and small. Rockslides are possible and can be deadly.
As you make your way to the top of the ridgeline, expect a long scramble through a series of rock fields and gullies. This part of the trail can be difficult to follow, just stay near the ridge crest as you make the final rocky push to the summit. It’s steep and treacherous, but worth it to many for stunning views of the Sawatch Range and the Arkansas Valley waiting for you at the top.
Depending on your starting point, this route can take hikers anywhere between 4-10 hours or longer, including time for peak viewing and summit photographs. The trail features a number of colorful blooms in the summer and is best used from April until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.
Keep in mind the core principles of Leave No Trace while making your ascent up this Colorado fourteener. Stay on the trail, pack out your own trash and any other trash you might find along the way. By doing so, you can help protect and preserve the fragile and timeless beauty of this Colorado fourteener.
If you’re headed to the Mount Princeton Trailhead from downtown Buena Vista, here’s the route you’ll want to take.
If you’re craving some mountainside bliss after the hike, head to the Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort for a muscle-soothing soak. Recharge your batteries for your next adventure as you relax and unwind in a number of mineral-fed pools.
For more tips from the OutThere Colorado team on safely hiking Colorado fourteeners, click here.