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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.
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Date Status Information Posted By  Photos  Comments Likes Dislikes    
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         
2011-06-28 Subaru Forester made it to the 11,000 ft parking lot about .3 miles past the radio towers without any problems although my awd did kick in a lot on the way up. A previous post said he thought his subaru could go past here but I‘m not so sure. There were places where a little snow on the side of the road was melting and getting the road wet and I doubt a non 4wd could make it on that much of an incline on a wet surface. Plus one of the wet areas was right on a tight, steep, switchback. mikefromcraig         
2011-06-08  bgerk    1      
2011-05-28 Same as previous. Can get to camping spots about 1/4 mi past radio towers. Hitched a ride up part of the road in a 2wd passenger vehicle. HIGHLY not recommended. No chance to turn around until the towers, either. Monster5         
2011-05-22 Clear of snow just past the radio towers. mattpayne11         
2011-05-07 Road is free of snow and in good condition up to the Radio Towers. Still a lot of snow up past that area and to the camp grounds and parking area beyond. Ken Dammen         
2011-05-03 I drove 1 mile up the Mt. Princeton Road yesterday and parked at the junction where the Colorado Trail heads north. This was easy four-wheeling on a partly snow-packed road that is melting out fast. It was possible (see previous post) to drive further, but there is no parking at the point where Old School decided to stop, and very limited opportunities to turn around safely. It may be possible to drive all the way to the radio towers next weekend, depending on how much snow melts and how aggressive you are. Chains would probably help. gprandall         
2011-05-02 I was able to 4wd 2.7 miles past the Frontier Ranch trailhead to an altitude of 10,400. There was about 6 inches of new snow on this section of road. Between 10,400 and the radio towers there appears to be a layer of old snow as well. One Sierra Charlie         
2010-11-28 I drove up one mile past the main trailhead to where there is a small place for 1 or 2 cars to park. This is the place where you have to diverge from the colorado trail to go up princeton. I probably should have parked at the trailhead however. I slid around a little on the way up and if you ahve ever seen this road you know it‘s the last place you want that to happen. It is very narrow with dropoffs. I was in a forester with stock tires. The road all the way up to the satelite tower campground was probably slightly worse than the first mile to where I parked. I never saw any other cars even at the main trailhead. There were tire tracks from the main trailhead about 1/4 mile up and then they must have came back down backwards. Other than the place where I parked 1 mile up the road there is no place to turn around until you get to the satelite tower. mikefromcraig         
2010-09-13 Dry all the way to 12,000‘. Rollers are higher than expected, glad to have a higher clearance rig. Very narrow with few chances for turnaround/passing. jstouder         
2010-06-25 Road is dry all the way and not as bad as I expected. No problems getting a Subaru up to the radio towers if you take the rollers slowly. The road does not get too much worse after the radio towers either, just a couple tight switchbacks. crossfitter         
2010-05-31 Road is clear to the first switchback past the radio towers. There is impassable snow at that first switchback. highplaces         
2010-05-16 Thanks to dk0 rtsch for moving all the trees and branches, plus some warmer temps, we were able to drive all the way to the switchback at the radio towers this morning (even though it snowed some Fri and Sat). It‘s possible to make it a bit farther up to the camping areas, but I didn‘t want to bother with the drifts (icy in the a.m. and slushy in the afternoon) to only save about a quarter mile. On the way up to the towers, there were some minor snowy sections here and there, but the road is mostly tracked ... and melting fast. In fact, some of it was sloppy-muddy on the drive down, but nothing too bad. Aubrey  4       
2010-04-24 I was there late Sat night (April 24, 2010) and spent a few hours running through a lot of snow banks in my humble Subaru Sport (sans snow tires). I had to tow away multiple fallen branches and trees, but I managed to make it all the way to the Colorado Trail junction.,-106.184707&spn=0.016803,0.037723&z=15&msid=116289982088556420644.000485576425ea182f0c4 At that point I realized I would have to come back next week! Sorry, I took no pictures and left only tire treads! dk0 rtsch         
2010-04-13 Trail still closed down low (winter) as of this w.end. san juan johnny         
2010-01-30 Reports are that the area was quite dry until this week‘s storm, which brought about a foot of new snow. While the southerly exposed areas were beginning to melt out, unless we get a prolonged warm/dry period, it will likely be unpassable for the remainder of the season. The parking lot at 8900 feet is huge and was completely plowed out. Dancesatmoonrise         
2009-11-29 I made it 0.5 miles up the road in my Subaru Outback before spinning out on ice. Snow and ice most of the way hiking up it. WIclimber         

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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