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Mt. Princeton Road Trailhead
Added by BillMiddlebrook

Location:  Sawatch Range
14ers Served:  Mt. Princeton
Road Type:  Easy 4WD, good clearance recommended. 3   (0=Paved, 6=Very Difficult 4WD)
2WD dirt to the lower TH. 4WD access to 12,000'.
Directions:  From Buena Vista: From the center of town, drive west on the County Road (CR) 306 for 0.7 miles. Turn left on CR 321 and continue south for 7.2 miles. Turn right onto CR 322 at a large sign. From South of Buena Vista: Over 5 miles south of the U.S. 285 / 24 junction, turn west on County Road 162 in the town of Nathrop. Drive over 4 miles to a junction. Turn right on CR 321. After 1.2 miles, turn left on CR 322.

On CR 322, drive 0.8 miles to a fork in the road. Bear right into the Mt. Princeton trailhead. This trailhead is at 8,900' and there is a large parking area. If you have a good clearance 4WD, you can continue up the narrow 322 (Mt. Princeton) road. Just after the lower parking area, there is a fork in the road - stay right on the main road. Drive 3 miles to the radio towers at 10,800'. There is parking here for a couple of vehicles or turn left and continue on the 322A road. Between 3.2 and 3.4 miles up the Princeton road, there are some small camping spots near 11,000' - with some parking. The road gets worse after the camping spots and there is very limited parking above this point.
Winter Access:  Closed at the lower TH.
14er Trailheads on Google Maps
Date Status Information Posted By  Photos  Comments Likes Dislikes    
2012-11-18 I drove my Chevy Silverado to ~10,575 feet before I encountered a large ice patch that seemed impassible (See the photo). It is quite long, maybe like 50 yards. One guy behind our group decided not to try his luck in his 4-runner. However, on our way hiking down the road there was a Jeep Cherokee above the ice patch. Speaking to the driver, he indicated he needed to get to the Chalet so he used is 9000lb wench to pull him past the patch. If you have a wench, the road is pretty clear after that ice patch and there isn‘t any deep snow (at least until the trailhead). WSC_Geologist12  1  2      
2012-10-15 A 2wd with decent clearance could probably make it to the radio towers. To get up above that requires 4wd. Other than that no surprises, I have 8 inches clearance and got to the very top with only minor scrapes to the skid plates here and there. Just be smart about your line to get around the bigger rocks. nrubey  2       
2012-09-17 Drove a 4WD Jeep up & past the radio towers. Made it to the last switchback before the trail leaves the road with no problem. Road was as you would expect - rocks in road - no clearance issues. Snow fell today for the first time on Mt Princeton - road was wet on my way down, but no issues. Eric7040         
2012-08-08 Got my 2WD Accord (6.2‘‘ of clearance) up to the camp spots a little past the radio towers. I did not scrap anything on the way up although I was tense driving up there due to not having great visibility due to the darkness. I waited until the sun had set before heading up there to give me the best chance of NOT running into an oncoming vehicles (a less than desirable situation given the narrowness and lack of turnoffs on the road). On the way down, I didn‘t run into any oncoming which is vehicles, but I did scrape a few times. It probably could have been avoided by taking a better line over the dips and riding my brakes harder. Evaluate the probability of running into a descending car and whether you‘re willing to take that chance as well as put strain on your car‘s brakes on the descent. Fisching         
2012-07-10 Drove my Subaru Forester all the way to the trailhead. However, only one parking spot there, and not a good one, so drove back down to just above radio towers and camped on a nice flat spot. No problem in driving almost anything to the radio towers, although a little extra clearance would be helpful in some areas cfb    1      
2012-06-14 The road up to and past the radio towers was completely clear and dry yesterday. From my assessment, the big humps and dips were the only things that would be problematic for a lower car. We didn’t see any significant rutting. The road to and past the towers is wide enough for only one vehicle, except at the switchbacks where there is a little room to pull off or turn around. My manual tranny, AWD ‘07 Forester XT Limited easily made it as long as I didn‘t get stuck behind anyone going uphill (we had to stop and wait a few times for a slow-moving Xterra to make his/her way up after we caught up to them each time). My vehicle has approx 7.9" clearance and 99.4" wheelbase with extreme performance summer tires. My car could easily have made it all the way to the trailhead at the rock stairs, but we decided to camp at one of the 3-5 sites just above the radio towers. An Impreza wagon did make it to one of the first camp sites past the towers, and the driver said he only scraped the front panel once. There was a Corolla parked about 0.2mi below the radio towers, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Photos show the road on the descent. AeroFaze  3  2      
2012-05-20 The conditions were clear! Drove up in 4-wheel drive, higher clearance vehicle, and stopped near the radio towers at 10,800‘. Barely any snow. We could have kept driving up to the last parking area before the road ends, near the forest service building, but walked that instead from the 10,800 route. I‘d recommend a higher clearance vehicle. We saw a Subaru Outback parked near where we parked, so they were able to make it, but I‘m guessing they probably scraped bottom a few times. RossZahuranec         
2012-05-20 As a reference for others wondering about this trailhead, we took a Subaru Outback Sport (not a full Outback but the Impreza frame) with 6.1" of clearance past the radio towers to the camping/parking spots with very little trouble. I completely agree meeting someone going the opposite direction on much of this road would require some creativity but the road is not THAT rough (completely personal opinion of course). The water bars are the toughest parts but if you have the right approach/deproach angles you should be good with anything above the 6" clearance. It was close a few times with the Outback Sport so I‘m sure a sedan can do it but there might be a bit more scraping. No real significant rocky/rough sections otherwise. E-dorvs         
2012-05-20 Road is snow free almost to where the trail leaves the road and could be driven to that point by any 4wd with some clearance. I managed to make it all the way to the end of the road, so its basically summer conditions at this point except for a few drifts past the point where the trail leaves the road. metalmountain         
2012-04-29 The road is snow free and driveable to the radio towers by any 4wd with decent clearance. For this section I‘d be more concerned about meeting an oncoming car than I would be about the possibility of bottoming out. We met someone who took a Honda Accord and said it was "too aggressive," so maybe don‘t bring one of those. You can drive a bit past the radio towers to some spots (room for ~2-3 cars) on the right hand side of the road, or even further to a prominent switchback if you want. Beyond this switchback the road has snowdrifts and is impassable. Where the trail branches off the road is completely snow-covered, so it‘ll be at least a few weeks before you can drive to here. My Honda CRV (stock, AWD 2007) could have made the radio towers easily. Photo 1: Dillon standing across the road from where the trail branches off, the stairs and cairn are completely buried but you should be able to spot footprints in the snow pretty easily. Photo 2: A poor shot of the parking just past (~.25 miles) the radio towers. Space for 2, maybe 3 cars here. Photo 3: Typical road conditions. I wouldn‘t worry about bottoming out in an SUV, but running into an oncoming car could be a real problem (you can forget about passing anyone on this road, or turning around for that matter. Unless you like 5000 point turns). RJansen77  3  4      
2012-04-22 The road is clear all the way to the Radio Towers. You can go about another 300 ft. but thats it. Nothing but deep snow drifts after that. Taillon75         
2012-03-30 Road is accessible to any 4x4 to around 9500 ft. There are some parking spots near the Colorado Trail junction. There is a large snow drift on the right side of the road at 9,553. Above that drift the road is relatively clear until 10,260 ft, after that there is a lot of ice. dehrlich101  1       
2012-03-23 No snow on the CR 322, and is accessible by any vehicle to the parking lot. We only went .4 miles up the CR 322 "Mount Princeton RD" towards the radio towers and encountered some snow. A 4x4 could probably make it up the road a little farther. dehrlich101         
2012-03-15 Road above the Frontier Ranch trailhead parking lot is still blocked with snow and ice. Mujahid    1      
2012-02-22 Road is clear all the way to the Radio Towers. You can drive about another 300 ft past that and then the snow starts. No point in going any further. You have two feet, use them. Taillon75         
2011-12-29 Clear access to the lower parking lot. Snow-packed all the way to the trailhead. Possible with a snowmobile or ATV with snow tracks. See pictures for a better view. mrtimmo  2       
2011-08-21 If you have a 2WD car and low clearance, my recommendation is to park in the lower lot and hitch a ride! We took on the Mt Princeton Road in a 2WD Ford Focus and survived, but I wouldn‘t try it again. We had to go extremely slowly to avoid bottoming out on the many large rollers. We scraped several times and spun our tires, but escaped without getting stuck. The road is very narrow and there is no room to pass or turn around - 4WD vehicles were catching up to us and adding to the stress. We parked at a pullout below the radio towers not knowing what was ahead. However, we did see a comparable 2WD car at the radio towers. dac437         
2011-08-13 Stock Ford Ranger 4x4 made it up with no problems. Other comments regarding the road conditions are accurate - i.e. the road is rough, but passable, and improves after the radio towers. What you need to worry about is finding parking above (given the limited number of spaces available) and whether you are going to have to pass someone going up or down on the narrow sections of the road. If you have a wide vehicle, out of courtesy to others on the road, you might want to find another way up. jeremy27         
2011-08-05 We drove up Mt. Princeton Road yesterday in our Chevy Silverado 4X4. Road to the radio towers is definitely the roughest part of the trip. We were actually disappointed that we parked at the radio towers as the road above is really good! If you make it to the towers, you will have no problem going to the campground. Even the road beyond the campground was better than the bottom of the road. We could have easily made it to the mine at the top and parked there. Joygo         
2011-08-01 Road is easily passable for AWD with a little clearance. Our Forester made it (8.7" of ground clearance), no issues whatsoever, all the way to radio towers (about 3.1 miles past paved parking lot). We could have gone all the way to the turn off just before the old mine. Road is VERY narrow in most places and probably only 6 or so parking spots from radio towers on. Not too many rocks on road, but numerous spots where the road dips sharply or has a steep bump. For info only, we did see a Mazda minivan up past the towers. Worst part is probably the exposure in some areas, if you‘re afraid of heights. rolly         
2011-07-31 We were able to drive up to exactly 1.2 miles past the radio towers. The trees start to thin out and the view completely opens up; once that happens - park. There‘s a sharp left hand switchback turn, and off to the right, there‘s parking for about 4 cars. There is no more parking before the trail turns off the road after this spot. I drive a Subaru Outback and it made it up the road just fine. EBO418         
2011-07-16 Climbed Princeton today. We followed the advice here regarding the drive up to the radio towers and parked in the lower lot. We wished we would have driven up to the radio towers - road looked to be completely passable for a 2WD vehicle and/or certainly a 4WD vehicle without high clearance. I drive a crossover Honda Pilot and could have easily made it to the radio towers and beyond. No sign of any washed out areas or even rough spots. blinhart         
2011-07-09 Recent storms have washed out parts of the road and have created large dips in the road. High-clearance 4WD vehicle is mandatory past the lower trailhead. The temperature gauge for our 2011 Jeep Liberty came on just before we arrived at the radio towers, so be mindful of that. Toni Marie    1      
2011-07-04 If the road is dry, a high clearance vehicle and some basic off-road skills is all that is needed. The narrow 3 mile trail consists of a number of large berms that divert water off of the road. My stock Jeep Cherokee didn‘t have any problems and never grounded out. The real challenge of the road is it‘s narrowness. The first mile of the road heading up from the trailhead is fairly wide and has plenty of spots to pass or turn around. About the 1.0 mile mark is a switchback with a large pullout (relatively speaking). Past this point, the next 1.5 miles provide almost nowhere for two vehicles to pass. Forget about turning around during this section. At roughly the 2.5 mile mark is another switchback with a wide pullout for passing / turning around. A half mile remains to the radio towers. At the radio towers are a handful of camping spots and if you‘re creative, quite a few parking spots. The road above the radio towers is very smooth but offers only a handful of parking spaces. I recommend heading up the trail early in the morning to avoid any head on traffic. Keep an eye on your odometer so you know exactly how far the last pullout is just in case you need to back up or try to convince another vehicle to go back. Good Luck! MonGoose    4      
2011-07-01 Road is clear all the way up to where trail departs the road. normal 2WD vehicles were making in up to the radio towers with no problem. 2WD could make it all the way up, but there is very limited parking beyond the radio towers. mrschaible         

Just past the switchback at the radio towers, these icy blocks block your path. (Added by: Aubrey on 2009-05-03)Not technical, but you need hi–clearance for erosion bumps. Few places to pass. (Added by: Aubrey on 2009-05-03)Not technical, but you need hi–clearance for erosion bumps. Few places to pass. (Added by: Aubrey on 2009-05-03)Going up the road Saturday 16 Oct 09  mid afternoon (Added by: ColoNativeinPA on 2009-10-20)1st Choice after Hot Springs (Added by: ThePopp on 2013-05-22)2nd Choice (Added by: ThePopp on 2013-05-22)3rd and last choice (Added by: ThePopp on 2013-05-22)

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