From the summit of Mt. Princeton, the Nolans line descends by following the northeast ridge of Mt. Princeton down below treeline, until it reaches the Colorado Trail. Above treeline, the ridgeline here is easier than the ridgeline coming up to Mt. Princeton. But, breaking into below treeline entails a healthy amount of aspen tree bashing.
Once below treeline, the forest opens up a bit as you make your way down to the Colorado Trail. Several mine prospect holes will be encountered. You will reach the Colorado Trail near where it crosses Maxwell Creek, a fairly dependable seasonal water source.
Once you cross Maxwell Creek, keep following the Colorado Trail across CR 306 and through the Avalanche TH. Here, the trail climbs up to a high point of almost 12,000′. At this point, leave the trail and hike west up Mt. Yale’s East Ridge (Class 2). Refer to this route narrative on 14ers.com for more details of this part of the hike from Avalanche to the summit of Mt. Yale.
Although only rated Class 2, I would call this route one of the more harder Class 2 14er routes.
Descending Mt. Princeton
If more ridgeline walking/aspen tree bushwhacking is not to your liking, take the standard, east slopes route off Mt. Princeton (14ers route description). This route isn’t the most pleasant of all the 14er routes, as the east slopes are somewhat loose (more annoying than dangerous). The route will turn from a trail through the talus, into a dirt road near treeline, before hooking back up to the Colorado Trail. Take the Colorado Trail north and enter back onto the main Nolans line at Maxwell Creek.
Ascending Mt. Yale
When the Colorado Trail crosses CR 306 (road), take CR 306 west to the Denny Creek TH. Take the standard Southwest Slopes route up Mt. Yale (see this route description on 14ers.com). This route has been used for part a successful Nolans run. It’s also an easier route than the East Ridge route. Having to hike on CR 306 makes it a little less attractive.
Do double-check on road construction – there is a chance that the Denny Creek TH will not be accessible.
Water is first available on Maxwell Creek, right after you descend the ridgeline and rejoin the Colorado Trail. There may well be several seasonally flowing creeks along the Colorado Trail towards CR 306.
Water is available on the south side of Middle Cottonwood Creek on the Colorado Trail, before it goes across CR 306. Water may not be available again until after you descend Mt. Yale, and reach North Cottonwood Creek, on your way to Mt. Columbia.
Dispersed camping can be found on the Colorado Trail, with the easier-to-find spots more near to where the Colorado Trail parallels CR 306.
A good dispersed campsite can also be found at the start of the East Ridge route up Mt. Yale, where then route branches off from the Colorado Trail.
The closest town in the line between Mt. Princeton and Mt. Yale is Buena Vista. Hitching from CR 306 east will bring you right into town – CR 306 itself will turn into main street. Buena Vista has many of the luxuries of a trail town including grocery stores, restaurants, spirits, a gear shop, post office, and motels to sleep in.
From Mount Princeton
From the summit of Mount Princeton, the most expedient route off would be to take the standard east slopes route. The main Nolans route follows a long ridgeline which is no where you want to be in a thunder/lightning storm. Return to the main route exactly as if you were taking the Slow-lans alternative, which also uses the standard east slopes route for descent.
From Mt. Yale
No matter the route, simply reversing your route down to CR 306 would be the wisest choice if bailing climbing up Mt. Yale. The Nolans line down Mt. Yale is highly exposed above treeline, and descending into the valley floor below consists of descending down a particularly steep avalanche chute. In this sense, taking the East Ridge route up Mt. Yale could be more attractive, as bailing means going back to the Colorado Trail, where you could continue North towards Mt. Columbia, or to camp below treeline to treeline the next day.
Skipping Mt. Yale
From the Colorado Trail/CR 306, continue north of the Colorado Trail to the Silver Creek TH. Hike west on CR 365 for about a mile to the North Cottonwood Creek TH. Pick up the main Nolans line near the Horn Fork Basin and Kroenke Lake trail junction.
- Slow-lans Introduction
- Caltopo Route Map Legend
- Start to Shavano + Tabeguache
- Tabeguache Peak to Mt. Antero
- Mt. Antero to Mt. Princeton
- Mt. Princeton to Mt. Yale
- Mt. Yale to Mt. Columbia and Mt. Harvard
- Additional Resources
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