A beautiful route in the heart of the Collegiate Peaks, Mt. Yale offers a great trip for hikers and runners alike. Easier than neighboring Harvard and Columbia
, shorter than Belford and Oxford
, and more of a real hike than the off-roaded Mt. Princeton
, Mt. Yale defines the Sawatch experience.
While an easier Sawatch peak, this is still a 14er. Bring plenty of water and sun protection. Due to its situation near Twin Lakes and other peaks, some hikers claim that Mt. Yale gets more precipitation than other nearby 14ers - so bring rain gear, too. Fast hikers can expect 4 hrs round trip; slower hikers 8.
From US 24 in the center of Buena Vista, drive west on County Road 306. Drive 12 miles to reach the Denny Creek Trailhead on your right. There is ample parking here. It will be paved the entire way, making this track a good choice if you're limited by your vehicle.
From the Denny Creek Trailhead, head up this excellent trail with easy to moderate grade. While easy to follow, this trail has a fair number of rocks and roots, so be careful. In 1.2 miles, turn right, up the Mt. Yale Trail
(staying straight would take you up Brown's Pass
). There should be a sign at this junction.
Continue up the trail through the forest. Eventually, you'll be hiking parallel to a stream. Cross the stream at 11,200 ft and continue through some small meadows on switchbacks as the trees begin to thin and the grade gets steeper. Reach tree line at 12,000 ft. Continue along excellent trail, passing by numerous boulders on either side of the path at the bottom of a basin. From here, the remainder of the route is visible. Work your way north before the trail winds to the right along some rocks. Continue up some steep switchbacks to reach a saddle just shy of 14,000 ft. Turn right and scramble along some easy, low-grade rocks to the summit, just another 200 ft up.
Stop, enjoy the view, and do it all backwards.
With a lush forest down low, and plenty of wildflowers up top, this is a scenic hike. Expect marmots and pika, and a good chance of mountain goats and deer.
Ivy leaguers formerly had a tradition of carrying stones to the summit of their eponymous 14er so as to increase its elevation. Mt. Princeton
, one foot higher than Yale, has thus been the bane of many a sore, stone-carrying Yalie.