Mt. Princeton is a striking mountain rising up from Buena Vista and the Arkansas River Valley.
The trip doesn’t begin with the hike but rather the drive up. It is a very rough and narrow road for 3 miles up the canyon. If you don’t have a high clearance 4-wheel drive vehicle don’t even try it. There is a parking lot at the base of the road you can park at and we saw some people hitching rides. We ventured on in the Jeep Grand Cherokee and parked just past the towers at 3.2 miles. There are only a few campsites but they are nice. There is also cell service there if needed.
We headed out at 6am and started off on our hike. The hike up the road is much nicer on foot then in a car. There are a few switchbacks while you steadily gain vertical feet. In no time you reach the turn off to the trail marked by a staircase. You walk up to a grassy ridge and get a great view of the summit and your trail ahead.
In a few hundred yards the nice dirt trail ends and you have started rock hopping that will last the rest of the trip till you make it back to this point. Now that may sound awful to you, and it isn’t great. For the most part though its hard packed from the traffic so while you have to choose your foot placement carefully you generally don’t have to worry about that rock shifting from under your foot every step twisting your ankle.
Halfway across the ridge there is an obvious left turn but the old trail still goes forward. Please use the new trail. This helps prevent erosion and ecological damage so others can enjoy the mountain after you. There is a steep but short section up to the ridge. Reaching the ridge is probably the favorite part of my summit hikes. Standing on top of the ridge a whole new half of the world opens up to you.
From here the trail gets a little rougher and the rocks a little bigger but you follow the ridge up to the top of Princeton. The summit is nice and large with lots of wind breaks to sit in. There were a lot of people on the summit but everyone had enough room. Someone even hiked up a spare beer and offered it to me!
We spent over half an hour at the top since it was such a nice day and then headed back down. On the way back you get great views of Buena Vista when you aren’t looking at your feet.
The way back down for us was pretty uneventful. The road section feels a little longer on the way back then on the way up. Funny how that seems to be the case for the final leg every time. All our feet where starting to hurt after being on uneven ground all day and we were happy to get back to the car. Once we got back down the rocky road I made sure to save my summit with Colorado 14ers!