Mt Princeton
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Mt. Princeton - Sawatch Range 

Trailhead parking lot - Mt Princeton

P- summit of Princeton in the distance

Stay right here! - Mt Princeton

Take the right fork and follow the truck onto the Princeton Road

Rutting is bigger than it looks - Mt Princeton

Here's a look at the type of rutting on the lower part of the road, ruts are bigger than they appear

Rut Bend - Mt Princeton

Another spot on the lower part of the road, see the rocks I threw into the rut?

Water cuts and berms here we come - Mt Princeton

Last turn on the lower road before you hit the  water cuts and berms

Narrow stuff on lower part of road - Mt Princeton

Narrow section on lower road

Muffler ripping berms - Mt Princeton

See the big berm in the distance, lots of these on the lower third of the road

More berms - Mt Princeton

Another look at the type of berms, more pronounced than the photo shows

No passing here - Mt Princeton

Middle section of road, fairly tight corners

Oh God I hope nobody is coming the other way - Mt Princeton

More middle section of road, narrow with tight corners

Is your vehicle narrow enough? - Mt Princeton

Probably the biggest water cut, the hole is about 12-15 inches deep

Road maintenance please - Mt Princeton

Another view of the hole, pretty narrow here also, they need to cut back the slope here to widen the road

The narrow road past the big hole gets better, see the radio towers above

Aim for the tree if brakes fail -Mt Princeton

Looking back, aim for the big tree if your brakes fail here, lol!

The upper third of the road begins with a quite rocky corner

Oil pan rippers for your avoidance - Mt Princeton

Notice the oil pan ripper just waiting for your vehicle

No, you back up! - Mt Princeton

After the rocky corner its long and narrow, just the odd spot where 2 vehicles might be able to pass

Getting close to the Radio Towers now

Looking back down the road from the Radio Towers area

Some limited parking at the Radio Towers area

Short stretch of road to the actual Radio Towers

At last the objective is in view - Mt Princeton

A view of Tigger Peak and Princeton from a flat camping spot near the Radio Towers

The Rav4 at a good camp spot just past the Radio Towers

In fact a real nice camping spot, a fire and chips and salsa!

The morning trek begins up a road for about 45 minutes, that's Tigger Peak

Almost at the cairn for the Princeton trail, heading left takes you to Bristlecone Park

Shouldn't miss this right hand turn!

On the shoulder of Tigger Peak, still a long ways to traverse

The trail eventually switchbacks up to the ridge

For a long time you head for the big cairn without seeing that its further on

Looking back on the traverse route

Ahhh, those early morning starts!

Mt Antero to the south

On the way back to the road you can see it head to Bristlecone Park

Views below towards Buena Vista

Mt Princeton - Sawatch Range

Scramble: Class 2 – Steep Hiking

Altitude: 14,197 ft

Elevation Gain: 5,400 ft, 13 miles return from main trailhead at 8,900ft, 3,400ft 6 ¾ miles return from Radio Towers parking area

Start Time: 5am to 7am to be on your way down by noon and avoid potential lightning storms

Ascent Time: Around 5-6 hours from main parking or 3-4 hrs from Radio Towers

 

Highlights

This scramble could be a good opportunity to do a light backpack up the road to the Radio Towers. There are a few flat spots here at 10,820 feet. There are also a couple of nice camping spots farther up the road at around 11,000 feet. You would have to carry 2 days worth of water though.

Another option is too drive the road to shorten the scramble. This has the drawback of being a very narrow road most of the way with only a few places where vehicles coming the other way can pass. So there would be quite a bit of consternation if you met a vehicle on one of the many long narrow stretches. In the summer on a weekend I can see problems.

In the event you do drive the road you would need a short wheelbase mini-suv or 4x4 that also has a narrow vehicle width. It was no problem for my 1998 Rav4, good clearance and short wheelbase for the berms.

I think a full size 4x4 would be hitting the edge of the road in the water crosscuts making them worse and the corners would be pretty tight. I do think a compact car with a bit of clearance could make it provided the driver was very skillful but I wouldn’t recommend it. The ruts and berms would likely cause some undercarriage damage if not high center the car. The ruts and berms in my photos are more pronounced than they appear.

Getting There

From the center of Buena Vista and US highway 24 take Country road 306 for about ¾ of a mile. Turn left on CR321 and drive for about 7 miles until you see the big sign for the Frontier Ranch Youth Camp. Turn right here as this is CR322 and it’s about ¾ mile to the Mt Princeton TH. See the photos. The Mt. Princeton TH is at 8,900ft. As mentioned above in the highlight section if you have the right vehicle, timing and courage you can drive an additional 3 miles up the Mt Princeton 4x4 road to shorten your scramble.

From the town of Nathrop just south of Buena Vista you can take CR162 west for around 4 miles, turn right at the junction onto CR321, continue on CR321 for just over 1 mile then left onto CR322 for around ¾ mile to the Mt Princeton TH.

Camping

Chalk Creek Campground near Nathrop has great showers and washrooms, tent camping is around $22-26. A cheaper alternative is to just sleep in your vehicle at the trailhead in order to get an early start. Or with the right vehicle you can drive the Princeton road and about a 1/4 mile past the radio towers there are a couple of really nice camping spots with stone firepits. Very nice ambience to camp there the night before.

Route Description

From the large Mt Princeton trailhead parking lot you will see 2 roads in the North West corner. Take the right one and follow it for just over 3 miles to the Radio Towers. From here continue on up the road heading west for about 45-60 minutes until you arrive at a right hand turn onto the rocky trail which traverses around Tigger Peak (14ers.com calls it Unnamed Peak 13,273) on its east and north sides. There is a large cairn and steps built here at the start of the trail. Once you traverse around the east side of Tigger Peak the route for Princeton opens up and becomes obvious. Traverse on the trail, which then will take you steeply up to the ridge between Tigger Peak and Princeton. From here it is a steep ridge scramble up to the summit of Princeton with the big cairn being a bit of a false summit just before the true summit. Antero to the south and Yale, Harvard, Columbia to the north.