Mt. Princeton Road Trailhead


Range: Sawatch Range
Coordinates: 38.73994, -106.17558
14ers: Mt. Princeton
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Road Difficulty

Easy 4WD, good clearance recommended. 3   (0=Paved, 6=Very Difficult 4WD)
2WD dirt to the lower TH. 4WD access to 12,000'.

Driving 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.
Status Updates 
Posted By: etradio1
Info: Another than a small patch of ice that is easily avoided the road is completely dry.
Posted By: espressoself
Info: Road is dry all the way to 11,800. We parked at the towers in a 2018 Outback and had no major difficulties getting to that point. Good clearance is a must if you like your car. I wouldnt want to drive up this with any more than a light dusting of snow on the road, so pay attention to the weather, as it is set to change tomorrow afternoon.
Posted By: noob_hiker
Info: subaruable to 10,800. i turned left at 322A and found camping/parking shortly thereafter.
Posted By: Ed_Groves
Info: Mt. Princeton Road has big humps but they are smooth enough for four wheel or all wheel drive vehicles. I would have my doubts coming up with two wheel drive, but it could possibly be done with the right driver and ground clearance for the humps. (Don’t quote me on that though.) I drove to the towers with a four wheel drive V6 Tacoma and could have drove further up to additional camping and parking spaces beyond the towers. Two or three were still open when I hiked up from the towers. After completing the hike, another vehicle and mine encountered another upward-driving vehicle on our descent of the narrow one lane road. Fortunately with a bit of discussion, he found a place about 50 yards behind him where he was able to back his jeep up and allow us to pass. The only real problems with this road are how narrow it is, and the drop off on one side.
Posted By: Btuperkwh
Info: Road was dry all the way up. Drove a lifted Nissan Titan up to the radio towers (Fri 8/20 - 7AM) but could have easily driven my Cherokee Trailhawk up carefully. Interestingly enough there was a Honda Fit already parked at the radio towers - gone by the time I returned to my truck ~ 1:30p. Dispersed camping spots after the radio towers were mostly full - the high(er) one was empty. Road is OK but definitely very narrow and has very, very few spots where 2 vehicles can pass each other. I wouldn’t want to be coming down this road in weekend traffic.
Posted By: sctbke
Info: Drove up the road yesterday to check in after the heavy rains, it is still in good condition. Couple of small washouts but nothing that can’t be navigated. Subarus can still make it to the radio towers and about 1/4 mile beyond them. 5 or so parking spots 1/4 mile up from the radio towers, majority of the parking is at the radio towers.

Road after that has some large exposed rocks, but they can be navigated with good line choice. Most difficult part of the trail in my opinion is around 100 yards above the 5 parking spots. Minimum 8" ground clearance and decent torque needed to make it. 07 Honda Pilot with bigger A/T’s can still make it to the trail with spot-on line choice, cutting it close over a rock in one spot.

Beyond the 5 parking spots 1/4 mile beyond the radio towers, there is very limited parking. There are 3 tight switchbacks with a spot or two on the lower 2, and 3 spots on the highest, left turning (uphill) switchback. When I hiked Princeton, I car camped at this upper switchback. It has a spectacular view! Beyond this upper switchback, there isn’t any parking that I would call reasonable, and nowhere to camp that’s flat. Hopefully that provides some good road info for those looking. Get out there and hike!
Posted By: keatonmoney
Info: Drove up to the radio towers in my Subaru Crosstrek with A/T tires. Road is steep and loose, on the harder end of subaruable. Saw several other Subarus near the towers. Beyond the towers, the road gets very rocky and more challenging. Only saw Jeeps and OHVs beyond this point. There are 2 fire rings just past the towers, but parking is challenging if you want your vehicle right next to camp. I barely made it up the embankment (see photo). Another 1/4 mile up the road I counted 3 defined campsites, each with good parking options.
Posted By: Chelsorado
Info: I hiked Mount Princeton on July 6th. I started around 4:30 from the towers and was back at my car around 10:45. This included breaks and 20 mins at the summit. I have a stock 4Runner. Based on all of the reviews I stopped at the towers. There are a handful of spots past the towers that I could have made it to. The further up switch backs allowed for almost 2 car spots as well. Knowing that I would have parked up further. The road up to the towers is definitely a one lane for majority of the way. I was hoping this jeep and small school bus coming down would have adhered to the right of way but I ended up backing up on the side of a hill. The small school bus made it up to the towers for reference. I saw 2 Jeep Renegades and 1 Subaru parked above the towers. One of the Jeeps that was lifted made it all the way to where the road splits to the trail. I personally enjoyed Princeton and found the rocks to be mostly stable. I loved having my poles on this one. It was pretty amazing to see the people heading up after 9 a.m. with clouds rolling in and a chance of rain around 10 a.m. on the weather app. Plenty of people hiked with their dogs. The views are always worth it.
Posted By: Isross97
Info: Drove to the radio towers in my 2009 outback. Probably could have gotten further but I wasnt sure about the parking situation. Road was better than I had expected, although the tight switchbacks were a bit tricky in the dark on my way up.
Posted By: kimbuk2
Info: Completely clear, 4WD recommended. During the week this didn’t feel as sketchy (arrived 6pm on Tuesday, left 12pm Wednesday). It is a very narrow road with very few pull-offs and tight switchbacks, but once at the radio towers (not a ton of parking), if you have a 4WD you can probably make it .8 miles past that and still find camping/parking options. I would make a decision to do that vs. stay at the radio towers based on the traffic, time of day, day.
Posted By: ssowalskie
Info: The road to the radio towers (and even a little beyond that) is completely free of snow and easily doable in a stock Subaru or other AWD/4WD vehicle with slight clearance. However, as mentioned by others, the road is pretty sketchy, as it’s a one-lane road with very few spots to pass another vehicle, which may result in you or another vehicle having to drive backwards until you reach one of those spots if you end up meeting a vehicle going the opposite direction on the road. There is not much parking at the radio towers, maybe enough for 15-20 cars if you count the parking areas past the radio towers along the road. Since we didn’t know about the further parking, and the parking at the radio towers was pretty full, we ended up parking at the switchback right before the radio towers around 10,600 feet. If I had to do it again, I’d probably just start at the lower trailhead and prepare for a longer hike.
Posted By: dwoodward13
Info: Easily Subaruable to the Towers
Posted By: kohnenab
Info: Road is clear for first mile past lower TH. After that, some snow piles remain, but easily passable in standard AWD vehicle. A couple of dicey spots of deep snow up to the radio towers, but I managed without trouble as long as keeping forward momentum going up in a Toyota Rav4. Was able to park there with a couple manageable snow-free spots room for 1, maybe 2 cars. Above here road is over 90% socked in with deep snow, starting to melt towards the downslope, but not passable. Coming down late evening, minimal ice formation and easily passable on the downhill.
Posted By: JasonCrane
Info: Hiked the entire Mt. Princeton Road on an unsuccessful attempt of Mt. Princeton on 4/29. The lower TH entrance may allure you like the sounds of the Sirens, however middle/upper well shaded sections of road still covered in patchy areas of deep snow at least 1-2 feet. A number of vehicles are driving up the first 500 feet or so to the Colorado Trail sign, then trying to turnaround & descend. The road is narrow, snowy in sections & has softball sized rocks scattered about. In my opinion, it’s too early in the season to attempt driving up to Comm Towers even with a monster of an AWD. Only about 20-25% of the road is holding snow in the upper sections. Past the Comm Towers, CR322A has significant coverage of stratified snow (powder & slab.)
Posted By: Eagle Eye
Info: I drove 3.2 miles to the upper TH (radio towers) very early this morning.
Id gotten far enough along on the road to be committed to continuing on. Some steeper sections are deep in snow.
At the towers there are hard drifts not far left & right, interfering with turning around or parking. There has mostly been snowmobile travel on the road. (Their tracks go right at the towers to loop around, none continue upward or on route past the radio towers.)
Posted By: TheSheepherder
Info: Road clear to TH. Beyond TH road is very wet and snow in thick patches to radio tower. Recommend 4WD only past TH still, and with snow coming in this week.
Posted By: JasonCrane
Info: CR322 is plowed only until 8900’. Beyond the lower 2WD, only snowcat tracks up to the comm towers. The road is narrow, slick & without any place to turnaround. Would not advise attempting to drive past the 2WD, which could be extremely dangerous and/or result in blocking access for the comm tower crew. The restroom (porta potty) is open at the lower TH.
Posted By: Carl_Healy
Info: Easily navigable and nearly dry to lower trailhead at the ranch.

Beyond that it’s only snowcats and tracked ATVs for the guys working the communication towers.
Posted By: supranihilest
Info: Plowed to the parking lot at the Frontier Ranch but no farther. The snow conditions on the road are terrible and not conducive whatsoever to driving beyond the lower trailhead so don’t even try.
Posted By: mtgoatmike
Info: The road to the lower trailhead at Frontier Ranch is paved and has a large parking area with a single port-o-potty. The road to the cell phone towers begins just past the port-o-potty and becomes dirt. There are plenty of large waterbars and some sections with loose rock and pot holes. I had no problems in my stock 2012 Tacoma. There were a handful of spots to "pull off" if needed, but they would for sure be tight if two large vehicles needed to pass one another.
Posted By: Cricket
Info: We drove up the night before to camp and summit. Maintenance has just been done on the road and it is smooth up until the radio tower (10800) and even a bit further. There are also some nice car camping spots ~.1 (10900) up the road from radio tower. HOWEVER, the road is narrow and there are very few pull off points for vehicles to allow each other to pass. If you plan on coming up past the initial parking area (especially on a busy weekend) this is definitely something you should keep in mind as there are very few places to park and/or turn around. I think it would be thoughtful of those coming up to allow those heading down the right of way since it is more difficult to backup. Just wanted to inform everyone of the narrow (but nicely maintained road) that it is a bit sketch for two vehicles to be passing each other.
Posted By: ellenmseb
Info: Huge thanks to the road work team who improved the road last week! It’s now VERY EASILY Subaruable to 10,900 (not "if you pick the right line and have your mechanic on speed dial"...)
Above 10,900, it looks Subaruable with more difficulty. I saw mostly 4wd and one rav4 above 10,900, mostly right at 11,800.
Low clearance should still park at the bottom
Posted By: yardman
Info: Road work appears to be completed and the road is in great shape. Very smooth surface up to the Radio Towers and a bit beyond.
Posted By: scottda
Info: 09/14/20: IMPORTANT Princeton Road Update! I just got word from the USFS engineer that soil conditions are optimal for completing the road work on Mt. Princeton Rd. (322). Heavy equipment should begin work to repair failed water bars tomorrow (Tues. Sept. 15) and will likely continue through Wed. Sept. 16.
If folks do decide to go on those days, they will need to park at the parking area at about 8,900 ft. and be cautious of the construction as they walk up the road from there.
Posted By: scottda
Info: As requested by USFS... I am posting a "heads-up" regarding a potential Take 2 on getting some road work done on Mt Princeton and the required closure of the road for the interim. Still dependent on moisture retained through this weekend, they are hoping to get started on Tuesday or Wednesday and need to close the road for two days. If the project happens, that means the Princeton Road would be closed next week for a couple days. I should hear on Monday whether the project is a Go or No-Go, but want to let those who might be thinking of Princeton for next week have some advance notice. (NOTE: This is NOT a recent photo of the Princeton Road! From what I see from my front window, Princeton is plastered at the moment.)

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