Mount Princeton Trail

Difficulty
This reflects the 10Adventures difficulty rating for each route. We aim to keep ratings consistent across regions.
Very Hard
Duration
This reflects the estimated time the majority of users will take on this trail. If you are slower, add time to the top-end figure. If you are fast, then you may complete this route faster than this time range.
4.5-6.5h
Distance
This reflects the return distance of this route as measured by the GPS file.
10.9 km
Elevation
This reflects the total elevation gained throughout this route as measured by the GPS file. This includes all ascents and descents, and is higher than what is quoted in most route guides, which simply measure the distance between the starting-point and high-point of the route.
1,012 m
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Directions to Trailhead
Mount Princeton Trail

Looking to challenge yourself? The Mount Princeton Trail is a demanding adventure up to the summit of one of Colorado’s famous fourteeners (14ers). Put your stamina to the test as you ascend over 1,000 m to the summit of the Collegiate Peak that sits in the Sawatch Mountain Range. The unparalleled vistas of the encompassing mountains will motivate even the most discouraged hikers to persist and complete their trek.

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Route Description for Mount Princeton Trail

​Summiting a Colorado 14er is a bucket list item atop of many adventure travelers’ lists, so why not check off this goal by hiking the Mount Princeton Trail? Located in the Sawatch Mountain Range, Mount Princeton is surrounded by several impressive Colorado peaks. Immerse yourself in the breathtaking wilderness as you trek up this demanding peak. Reserved for experienced hikers or intrepid explorers, this can be a dangerous feat. Traveling to such high elevations, it is important to be acclimated to the area’s altitude and wary of afternoon storms common to the Sawatch Range peaks. In addition, the fall and winter months necessitate trekking poles and crampons to navigate the snow-packed and likely icy terrain.

Marked by rock cairns, the trail up to the summit of Mount Princeton can be challenging to follow on blustery days, so we recommend bringing along the trail GPS. Additionally, the road up to the trailhead is primitive and rough, so 4x4 vehicles are highly suggested. Note that the route up to the summit is subject to sporadic closures, and the road up to the trailhead is closed seasonally from November until June.

Reconnect with nature and put your stamina to the test as you ascend the Mount Princeton Trail. The stunning scenery and awe-inspiring vistas from the peak are well worth the effort and exertion required. Though there are several Colorado 14ers in the area, Mount Princeton may just be our favorite. This adventure is one of a kind with unique geological features such as the sheer chalk cliffs and expansive sights of the Upper Arkansas River Valley and the Elk Mountains. Though you can trek up to the summit year-round, we suggest an early fall hike when the foliage is at its peak vibrance and the air is cool. We love this hike, and we know you will too.

Embark on your adventure along the Mount Princeton Trail from the trailhead on CR 322. From the parking lot and trailhead, the route tracks east along the Mount Princeton Trail. The initial segment of the ascent will be sparsely lined with pines before graduating from the timberline. Once you summit the treeline, the peak and chalk cliffs will come into view. Let the wonderful sights of the impressive mountain, and the sheer rock face motivate you as you begin your challenging climb.

Soon after your departure from the trailhead, you will have to navigate a set of switchbacks through the luxuriant alpine tundra. Hiking through the high-altitude environment, lookout for pikas and marmots. Be sure to keep an eye on the sky as an afternoon storm can envelop the summit in a matter of minutes. Soon you will have to maneuver a rocky ridge along the eastern flank of the 14er. Mind your footing along this narrow route marked by rock cairns.

Eventually, the terrain will become increasingly steep and technical as it demands a scramble up the talus to the summit of Mount Princeton. Revel in the expansive views of the neighboring peaks and the surrounding mountainous landscape from the peak. In the south, notice Mount Antero, and Mount Yale and Sheep Mountain in the north. Appreciate the grandeur of the Colorado wilderness and the impressive peaks that jut out of the landscape. Rest and recharge before commencing your descent. Retrace your footing along the path back to the trailhead when you are ready.

Trail Highlights

Mount Princeton

Mount Princeton is a 4,327 m peak in the Sawatch Mountain Range near Buena Vista. Mount Princeton is one of the Collegiate Peaks, a group of Colorado 14ers named for Princeton, Yale, Harvard, Oxford, and Columbia. Named in honor of Princeton University, the impressive peak ranks 15th on the list of mountains in Colorado.

Changed in 1906, the summit used to go by the name of Chalk Peak, a nod to the chalk-like cliffs that contrast with the verdant vegetation on the southeast side of the slope. The chalk-like walls are made of kaolinite, a chalk-like rock formed as hot springs carry heated water through faults in the mountain. Even today, the hot springs continue to flow, attracting tired and sore hikers year-round.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long is the hike up to Mount Princeton?

The Mount Princeton Trail travels over 10.0 km up to the summit.

How difficult is the Mount Princeton Hike?

The Mount Princeton Trail is an extremely strenuous trek that travels 10.9 km with over 1,000 of elevation.

What Mountain range is Mount Princeton?

Mount Princeton is a Colorado 14er in the Sawatch Mountain Range.

Where is Mount Princeton?

Mount Princeton is in the Sawatch Mountain Range near the town of Buena Vista, Colorado.

Insider Hints for Mount Princeton Trail

  • Wear microspikes and use trekking poles in the fall and winter months to navigate the icy and snowy terrain more safely
  • Though dogs are permitted, we highly suggest leaving them at home as the technical scrambles are challenging for pups
  • When it is blustery the path can be very difficult to follow, so we suggest using the trail GPS
  • Make sure you are acclimated to the area prior to your ascent up Mount Princeton
  • Wear layers as insurance against extreme conditions at the summit
  • Check out the Mount Princeton Hot Springs after your trek

Getting to the Mount Princeton Trail Trailhead

The Mount Princeton Trail departs from the trailhead off County Road 322.

Route Information

  • Backcountry Campground

    No

  • When to do

    April-October

  • Pets allowed

    Yes - On Leash

  • Family friendly

    No

  • Route Signage

    Average

  • Crowd Levels

    High

  • Route Type

    Out and back

Mount Princeton Trail Elevation Graph

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