Distance: Varies depending on your starting point 6-13 miles
Elevation Gain: Varies 3,200-5,300
Starting Elevation: 8,900′-11,000′
There are a lot of variables for this Mt. Princeton hike from starting points to finding the trail and driving the scary road. I wouldn’t recommend anyone without a 4-wheel drive vehicle to drive this road. There are some books that say it’s okay but personally I wouldn’t take the chance.
We parked at the mid parking area close to some cell towers at about 10,820′ and this worked out well since we have a 4-wheel drive truck. There are only a few parking spots here so get an early start. I think we arrived around 6-6:30am.
We started hiking up the Mt Princeton road heading up to what we thought was the east slopes route and fortunately we ran into some other hikers coming down and asked them about the trail. They told us that we had just missed it about 1/4 mile back and that we were heading for the much more difficult southwest ridge.
Pay close attention as you hike up the road and look for some stone steps and an obscure trail to the right shortly after you come out of the trees ( I didn’t check the mileage on this from the cell tower but approximately 3/4-1 mile.) Don’t keep hiking up to the upper parking lot.
Once we got on the right path we could really begin our hike. First off, let me say this is not a hike for dogs. There are so many boulders and sharp rocks that it would make this so hard for them. The trail is somewhat hard to follow in places and it’s easy to get sidetracked and we did. There are cairns if you look hard but we missed a few and ended up in some huge boulder fields which made this hike much tougher.
Now to the good stuff. The views as with many of the fourteeners are stunning. You will not be disappointed. On this particular day we couldn’t spend much time on the summit as the typical afternoon clouds were rolling in even though it was still pretty early. It’s best to get off the mountain by at least 12:00 to 1:00 pm.
If you’re not local, I would recommend staying somewhere in Buena Vista and there quite a few options for accommodations. We stayed in a Sagewood cabin between Buena Vista and Leadville that was perfect. Buenie as the locals call it is a cute, quaint town with quite a few dining options. I really enjoyed the Eddyline Brewery and dinner at Mothers Bistro.