Mount Princeton is a 14,197 foot tall peak in the Sawatch Range of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. This is a strenuous day hike that features incredible views of the valley below, and nearby peaks. It features a trailhead with 4wd access, and a longer route for winter, or 2wd access.
Difficulty – Hard
Distance – 13.6 miles round trip (21.89 km) – 6.2 miles (9.98 km) round trip with 4WD access.
Height – 14,197 feet (4,327.2 meters)
Elevation gain – 5,660 feet (1725.2 meters) – 4WD trailhead 3,760 feet (1,146.0 meters)
Duration – 6-12 hours (book time)
Hike Class: Class 2
Seasons – Year-round (caution and experience needed in winter – see below)
Trailhead Location – Mount Princeton Trailhead
Mount Princeton Trailhead (4wd) | 13.6 Miles Round Trip | 5,660 Feet Elevation Gain | Class 2
Hikers will begin by parking at the Mount Princeton trailhead and begin hiking on the dirt road that is well marked with a sign that says “Mount Princeton Trail”. This road is a gradual and well groomed path that is easy to follow.
1 mile in, hikers will reach a junction (image below). To the right, the Colorado Trail continues, and to the left, the road to Mount Princeton Trail continues along. Take the sharp left turn here.
Hikers will continue to ascend and start to get stunning views of the valley below, Tigger Peak, and the Chalk Cliffs with really unique looking cliff faces.
3.1 miles in, hikers will reach the radio towers. This is also the 4WD trailhead. Here, hikers should bear left and continue along the clear road/path.
The next 1.3 miles after the radio tower continue the gradual ascent and switchbacks. The trail is very easy to follow until just breaking treeline 1.3 miles after the radio tower.
Here, hikers bear right, and head steeply up a hill on the Mount Princeton trail. This isn’t well marked, and with snow, can be very difficult to see. (We have supplied images below of this area so you are familiar).
Continue along the trail, hikers will reach the ridge at about 11,900 feet where you will be able to see the entire route to the summit ahead of you. Around .3 miles later, the trail turns into mostly rocks, and the trail can be a little more difficult to follow and walk along. Caution should be taken here.
1.1 miles from the right turn after treeline, hikers will bear left to take switchbacks up to the ridge between Tigger Peak and Princeton. This is where the trail diverges from the old trail to the summit which is no longer in use. The old trail is still noticeable. From here it is about .2 miles to the ridge.
Once along the ridge at about 13,000 feet, hikers will walk the path along the ridge for .8 miles before reaching the summit. The terrain here can get steep, and loose rock can make it a little difficult to travel.
The summit features stacked rocks that can help break up the wind on windy days.
Mount Princeton Trailhead (2wd / Winter) | 6.2 Miles Round Trip | 3,760 Feet Elevation Gain | Class 2
This is the exact same route as above, but if you have a low clearance 2WD vehicle in summer, or during winter months when the road closes before the upper trailhead, hikers will need to hike along the road an additional 3.1 miles each way. The road is well groomed due to machinery heading up to the radio towers. This makes this section usually quite easy hiking, though it does gain around 1,900 feet of elevation in these three miles.
Hiking in Winter
Mount Princeton is a great winter hike, but definitely a difficult one. The winter months add miles to the route due to snow on the road to the upper trailhead. The winter route for Mount Princeton is the same starting location as above, with a slight modification.
In winter, hikers may want to not travel along the north side of Tigger Peak (the normal hiking trail) due to avalanche risks. Instead, once hikers break treeline, they continue straight towards Tigger Peak. Then hikers will ascend and summit Tigger Peak, and walk the ridgeline from Tigger to Mount Princeton. This will add a bit of elevation gain, but will avoid the avalanche danger.
Directions & Parking
Below are directions to the Mount Princeton Trailhead. To reach the upper trailhead 4wd is highly recommended, and winter, the upper trailhead is inaccessible due to road closures. The upper trailhead is accessibly by simply continuing along the marked dirt road at the Mount Princeton Trailhead.
Current Weather Conditions
Here is a detailed forecast for the next 4 days. Check Mountain Forecast beforehand to see conditions at higher altitudes.
Buena Vista, CO
Patchy blowing snow and a slight chance of snow showers. Partly sunny, with a high near 15. Wind chill values as low as -7. Northwest wind 5 to 15 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%. New snow accumulation of less than half an inch possible.
A slight chance of snow showers before 7pm. Partly cloudy, with a low around 1. Wind chill values as low as -16. North northeast wind 5 to 15 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Sunny, with a high near 20. Wind chill values as low as -13. North wind 5 to 10 mph.
Mostly clear, with a low around 5. Wind chill values as low as -13. Northwest wind 5 to 20 mph.
Blowing snow between 8am and 5pm, then blowing snow and snow showers likely. Mostly sunny, with a high near 20. West northwest wind 20 to 45 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New snow accumulation of less than half an inch possible.
Blowing snow and snow showers likely. Mostly cloudy, with a low around -2. West wind 25 to 45 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New snow accumulation of less than half an inch possible.
Areas of blowing snow before 5pm. Mostly sunny, with a high near 7. West northwest wind 25 to 30 mph.
Max DesMarais is the founder of Hiking & Fishing. He has a passion for the outdoors and making outdoor education and adventure more accessible. Max is a published author for various outdoor and marketing websites. He is an experienced hiker, backpacker, fly fisherman, trail runner, and spends his free time in the outdoors. These adventures allow him to test gear, learn new skills, and experience new places so that he can educate others. You can read more about him here: hikingandfishing/about