Peak(s):  Mt. Princeton  -  14,197 feet
Date Posted:  08/31/2013
Date Climbed:   08/29/2013
Author:  moamb1
 beautiful day, rocky, rocky trail  

Let me start with a summary and then provide a more detailed trip report. It was a beautiful day, the views from Princeton are amazing, but I really disliked this hike. Clearly, it is because I dislike rocks, and Mt. Princeton is ROCKY. This was my 19th 14er and is probably my least favorite.

We left Fairplay at 5:30 a.m. and were to the trailhead parking area at 6:30. Taking my husband’s KTM, we were able to get very close to the stone steps leading to the peak. (The spots at the radio tower were fairly full this morning, but the spots at the camping areas a bit further up the trail were still open.) We started hiking at about 7:00am. The first ¼ mile of the trail is very nice through an alpine meadow. Then you hit the rocks. Everyone mentions the rocks in their trip reports, but I didn’t fully appreciate how rocky this trail really is. After the alpine meadow, there is about 1.5 miles of rocky trail. Now, in fairness, I hate rocks. I’m not very good at rock hopping or scrambling. Many 14ers have a section of rocks, and although I never like them, they are just part of the hike. But for Mt. Princeton, the rocks are the hike. I’m sure for folks who don’t have a problem with walking across the rocks (like my husband), this is not an issue. But I really disliked it.

Once you leave the meadow, you traverse across the rocks until you take the switchbacks up to the ridge. The turn here was well marked—someone has tied an orange piece of tape around a rock. The switchbacks are steep, but easy to climb. Once on the ridge, it’s pretty much rocks—with a few patches of dirt (most of which are steep and slippery) from there to the summit. There were about 20 people on the mountain the day we climbed. We shared the summit with about a dozen people, a pup named Jupiter, and a priest from Minnesota saying mass. On the way down, after descending from the summit to the ridge, most folks were taking a different path down, one that was right at the base of the final pitch to the summit. We followed this path, too. It is very steep and slippery—but was a welcome relief from the rocks. There are a couple of options on this descent for starting the traverse back to the main trail. We took the dirt path down as far as possible, and I think this was a good choice. At the bottom of the dirt trail, we were (according to my Garmin) .59 miles from the summit, which means we had about .9 miles of rocks to traverse to get to the alpine meadow trail. This part of the trail has some cairns (this is probably the old trail), but mostly, you just have to pick your way over the rocks. Eventually, you hit the main trail and continue the traverse (picking your way over the rocks), back to the trail in the meadow and down to the road. The trip from the summit back to the road took us about 3 hours (it’s just under 1.9 miles). I’m a slow hiker, but this was really a slow trip, even for me. However, to put it in perspective, we left the summit about 5 or 10 minutes before the two gentlemen from Minnesota and a group of 8 hikers (from Penn., I think). We saw them as they were descending from the ridge to the traverse on the same path we took, but we never saw them after that. Not even during the 15 minutes it took us to get packed up for taking the bike back down to the trailhead. So, at least on the day we hiked, our time from summit to trailhead seemed fairly typical.

Tdanderson2’s trip report described Mt. Princeton as “not my favorite.' I’m a little less positive and as I indicated above, it is one of my least favorites. I won’t be hiking it again. But, my husband, who doesn’t mind rocks and just walks across them, will probably be doing this hike again next year with a couple of his buddies. I think how much you enjoy this hike will depend on how you feel about the rocks. We could not have had a more perfect day, in the 50s at the start of the hike, clear skies for most of the day, one dark cloud that produced about 4 drops of rain, and then clear skies again, but those darn rocks!

 Comments or Questions

08/31/2013 19:13
I don't mean to laugh but the irony of climbing 14ers in the Rocky Mountains and hating rocks is pretty hilarious

You should post some pictures of said rocks.


I can relate
08/31/2013 19:35
Princeton was my most recent 14er, and while I wouldn't say I ”disliked” it, it definitely wasn't my favorite. I don't mind rock-hopping; I just wasn't a fan of that rocky lateral traverse halfway up Tigger Peak on a 40-degree slope. There's always potential for rockfall on a slope like that. That said, I generally felt that the rocks on the ”trail” were stable. The one thing I disagree with you on, on steep terrain near the summit, I always prefer rocks over that loose dirt. I think the injury risk (from slipping or falling) is greater on the dirt.

Bill Morrison

Not my favorite either
08/31/2013 23:09
After my first climb of Princeton, I swore that I wouldn't do it again. A couple of years later, after thinking about it, I climbed it a second time. Princeton may be my least favorite of the 34 I've climbed!


+1 more on dislike of standard route
08/31/2013 23:49
But if you climb it again, do the SW ridge and you'll gain a whole different perspective and appreciation of the mountain.

   Using your forum id/password. Not registered? Click Here

Caution: The information contained in this report may not be accurate and should not be the only resource used in preparation for your climb. Failure to have the necessary experience, physical conditioning, supplies or equipment can result in injury or death. and the author(s) of this report provide no warranties, either express or implied, that the information provided is accurate or reliable. By using the information provided, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless and the report author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.

© 2017®, 14ers Inc.