| My trip to Princeton
My season is starting late this year because I don't have gear for winter hiking and was very busy in May/June. So looking at the calendar after a family cruise to Alaska, I realized there was only one more weekend to get a 14er done in June. I’m in probably the worst shape I’ve ever been in, so searched for a shorter, (relatively) easier hike that’s within same day driving distance. Mt Princeton from the upper TH fit all the criteria I was looking for but knew I needed to get there early because the upper parking is limited.
I left my house in Littleton at 3:25am heading to Buena Vista via 285, got to the lower TH at 5:25, and the 3 miles up to the upper TH in another 20 mins. I turned left at the top before going all the way to the towers and there was 5-6 parking spots there and then another handful as you head up the road further up the trail. Another guy from Littleton (Rich) pulled in right behind me and that filled up the small area I was in with 5 vehicles by 6:00am. The road is bone drive and no problem if you have some clearance, my Rav made it easily and if you want to continue up, the road never gets much worse, there’s just not a lot of parking past this point.
Hit the trail right at 6:00 with plenty of light. The sun was already coming up and it looked like there was enough light with dawn that a headlamp wouldn’t be needed even as early as 5:00. It was in the upper 40’s when I started the hike and with the sun shining bright, got warm fast.
Could have easily done the hike with shorts and short sleeve shirt including jacket for summit wind. Follow the road up 3 switchbacks where there’s a parking spot or 2 in each curve.
Above the trees and about half way up on final stretch of the road, the nice rock stairs where the trail really starts is on your right.
From the Route Description: “The road curves up to the left and heads south to the Lucky Mine. Find the Princeton trail, on the right side of the road, before the road curves around to the left. Steps have been installed on the trail and there should be a large cairn. Leave the road and climb up the trail”. Once you crest over this short climb and turn west, you’ll see Princeton in front of you and should enjoy this short section because it’s the last time you won’t be on rocks for a while.
From here, the trail is very gradual across mostly talus with some being loose but manageable.
When you hit the small rock wall blocking the old path, the trail turns left and straight up. It’s only 300’ up to the ridge but it’s very steep and slick between the rocks and worn dirt. After you gain the ridge, you’ll want to stay as high on the ridge as possible.
I often went low and regretted it and had to scramble back up to the crest. The rocks are bigger and better on the ridge. The final hike up begins around 13,300’ and the first 400’ of that or so is slick again and tough going because of the unavoidable slipping and sliding you’ll do. After that the rocks get bigger, the trail is less steep, and the final pitch is no big deal. Hit the summit at 8:45 with a fairly light wind for a summit. A jacket was needed but nothing really heavy and no gloves or head gear.
Summit shot looking south.
Spent about half an hour on top chatting with some nice experienced hikers (Rich, Kim, and Ana/Anya?). Took off because some clouds were building way off and wanted some time to descend. Obviously all the loose ground going up is a pain going down too but it has to be done. The storm moved in around 11:00
but I only got a little drizzle and never heard thunder or saw lightning, so I hope everyone still above didn’t have any problems.
Got back to car and on the road by 11:30, temp was now in mid to upper 70’s at upper TH. Was back home in Littleton right at 2:00.
So in summary:
> the upper TH parking does get crowded early - don't really think you need 4WD, just good clearance, IMO
> everything is dry up there and loose ground in places
> estimated 30-40 people on the trail during the time I was there
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):