5,400' if you start at the main trailhead (8,900') 3,200' if you start near 11,000' on the road
13.25 miles if you start at the main trailhead (8,900') 6.5 miles if you start near 11,000' on the road
Mt. Princeton Road
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.
Photo #1 and Photo #2 show the route from the east. Leave your vehicle and hike up the road. Above 11,200‘, the road has a couple of large switchbacks as it climbs up the northeast ridge of Unnamed Peak 13,273‘. Near 11,700‘, the road comes around the ridge and continues west. After about 1/2 mile, the terrain opens up and you can look up at Unnamed 13,273‘ (you cannot see Princeton from this side). The road curves up to the left and heads south to the Lucky Mine. Find the Princeton trail ( 38.74456° N, -106.21536° W), on the right side of the road, before the road curves around to the left - Photo #3. Steps have been installed on the trail and there should be a large cairn - Photo #4. Leave the road and climb up the trail - Photo #5.
Continue up to 11,900‘ on the ridge - Photo #6. The trail crosses to the north side of the ridge where you can see the Princeton summit off to the west - Photo #7. The summit is about 1.5 miles away. Continue on the trail as it crosses the north face of Unnamed 13,273‘. The trail climbs through rocks and across 4 or 5 gullies that may contain snow (spring and early summer) - Photo #8 and Photo #9. If there is snow, a fall here could send you on a nasty slide. Continue west along the trail and over mostly stable rock. Occasionally, the trail may disappear due to recent rock movement but it‘s fairly easy to follow. After crossing the gullies, turn left to reach easier terrain on the southern portion of Princeton‘s east slopes - Photo #10. Near 12,800‘, reach a small rock wall ( 38.74499° N, -106.23049° W) that blocks the old trail that continues to the west - Photo #11. Turn left and follow a new trail (Photo #12) up to the left (west) and toward the ridge ( 38.74378° N, -106.23122° W). Hike up the trail and hit the ridge (Photo #13) near 13,100‘ - the saddle between Unnamed 13,273‘ and Princeton.
After gaining the ridge, turn right and follow the ridge crest northwest toward Princeton - Photo #14. Near 13,300‘, reach a small flat area and then begin climbing up Princeton‘s Southeast Ridge - Photo #15, Photo #16 and Photo #17. Between 13,600‘ and 14,000‘, the route is a bit steep but does not exceed a difficulty of Class 2. Near 14,000‘, the final pitch to the summit appears - Photo #18. Follow the trail up to the summit ( 38.749062° N, -106.242432° W) - Photo #19, Photo #20 and Photo #21.
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