Mount Yale Summit Trail

HARD 101 reviews

Mount Yale Summit Trail is a 8.7 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Buena Vista, Colorado that features a river and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from July until September.

DISTANCE
8.7 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
4238 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

birding

camping

hiking

nature trips

rock climbing

snowshoeing

trail running

walking

forest

river

views

wild flowers

wildlife

rocky

scramble

no dogs

From the fork the trail is fairly easy up until around 13,000 feet. From here follow the switch backs up to the saddle around 13,900. This area is steep and probably the most demanding part of the hike. Once you reach the saddle you have about 300 more feet of elevation gain which requires class 2 scrambling with options of class 3.

hiking
5 days ago

Great weekday hike. Not crowded. Great conditions. No real snow except a few patches towards top. Amazing amazing amazing views! Wildflowers are out also. Dry, dusty, sandy hike with loose rock/gravel and numerous sections with both and small boulders to navigate. Mostly exposed. Couple of small stream crossings with narrow log bridges. Road to Denny trailhead is open, construction hasn’t started yet. Got hiking by 6 AM. Took us about 7 hours of actual hiking (4.5 to summit); 8.5 hours total with all stops included. Last mile or so is challenging. Rock scramble to summit and hard to see which path is best, so be careful. Stay towards the middle as you reach summit; sides of summit were more dicey with loose rock/gravel and fewer footholds. Enjoy!

6 days ago

No snow, nice steady incline to the top

hiking
6 days ago

One of my favorites yet. The views all the way up are spectacular. You can see all the work that has went into maintaining this trail over the years.Trail is 9.2miles round trip. Dogs on leash are allowed but they should be very good scramblers to make this summit. If your dog gets scared from exposure, large rock gaps, or water crossings, leave them at home.

hiking
19 days ago

Summited this one for the second time over the weekend. Awesome 14'er to start the summer season. There were still a few sections of snowpack, but nothing that would require spikes. Yale has one of the best views of a majority of the 14'ers, so hang in there for the climb up the tundra.

hiking
1 month ago

Summited this pretty late in the season. The trail was easy to follow below treeline. Traces of snow but mostly dry and clearly marked. Most everything above treeline was snow-covered to the point that I lost the trail and ended up scrambling to the summit. I had no sense of where the trail was for the last quarter mile. Views from the top were incredible, though! Definitely a difficult hike but well worth it.

1 month ago

Not an easy trail in spring weather, snow was soft and not stable. Still doable for determined people. Had to change between spike to snowshoes to often. Made it to the top an it was all worth it. Views are stunning!

hiking
2 months ago

I reached the summit at 12:00 pm on 3/21/2018 with only micro spikes, snowshoes were not needed. The trail was lost and I followed snowshoe tracks that went directly straight up through the tree line. I was a bit tough to get up but once above tree line it was easy to find the trail. Just be weary, there are a ton of tracks that go to dead ends. Once above the tree line head towards the saddle and you are bound to find the trail. This was my 3rd 14er of 2018 and I found it to be pretty safe, as for avey danger.

hiking
4 months ago

As others have stated, the most challenging part of the trail is above the tree line. Challenging but well worth the views at the top!

hiking
7 months ago

Hiked this trail in late October. Had wanted to get to CO to hike a 14'er a month or two ago, but work got in the way. Picked this 14er due to the fact that it has a South approach, and most North approach 14ers have much more snow now. From San Antonio so the elevation was a challenge. Read somewhere about pressure breathing, and it did seem to help. Started at 7:30am, summitted at about 12:30. 5 hours up, 3.5 down. Trail is more like 4.9 miles one way though. Tough trail (for me), but the views are spectacular. Once I got to the saddle, the last ~100-150ft are just sheer boulders. I considered stopping at the saddle because the trail to the top is barely visible. Probably made up my own trail the rest of the way, but decided "I came all this way, why quit now". Totally worth it. Barely any wind. It was probably in the high 30's at the top, but was still stripping off layers due to the strenuous work. Definitely recommend.

hiking
8 months ago

Hiked this trail on October 2nd. There was a good deal of snow above the tree line. Many drifts were knee high. Would recommend spikes. Very windy as well, still worth the view from the top

hiking
9 months ago

Hiked this mountain yesterday with my dad. Was my 12th and his 28th fourteener. Definitely a harder climb than any other mountain I've done. Started the trail at 5am with headlamps through the forest. Gets pretty difficult when the trail gets above tree line. Lots of steep switchbacks leading to the saddle and then boulder field beyond. Scrambling was super fun leading up to the summit. Overall, awesome views of the Three Apostles, Mt. Harvard, Mt. Columbia, and Mt. Princeton. Took us a little over 3 hours to summit but worth every second.

hiking
9 months ago

Great hike. It's definitely difficult in terms of steepness-- 4.5 miles and 4,500 feet. The last bit (maybe 500 meters) is a full scramble to the top. Gorgeous though, and it helps that the trailhead is so easily accessible. Perfectly paved roads all the way to the trailhead.

9 months ago

Camped out Sunday night at a pretty good spot a couple miles past the trailhead. Still managed to get a late start in the morning, but it didn't matter because the weather was perfect. Beautiful, but steep hike through the woods with great views of the changing aspens. However, as most have stated, Yale saves the toughest parts for last. The elevation gain is no joke. Well worth it for the views, and my 6th 14er!

hiking
9 months ago

My first 14er! Great experience. Loved the green forest area with the running creeks, dirt smells and cooler air. After the tree line I felt very exposed. Quite a steep hike until we reach the rocks. I gotta say I loved scaling the rocks. Takes me back to childhood and growing up around the desert buttes of my he Mohave desert.

I will definitely do it again.

9 months ago

Probably the most rewarding 14er I've done so far. Steep for the majority of the route, but the trail is well marked and gorgeous through the treeline. Above it was quite difficult for me at least, the steepness wearing out my legs. But the views from the top, and really throughout the whole hike, were to die for. I take away a star because there's no way this is 8.7 mi round trip, poor estimate.

9 months ago

A little over seven hours round trip in perfect weather conditions. Left the trailhead at 6:15am. Last 200 yards to the top a real challenge. The trail below timberline was awesome!

hiking
10 months ago

This was a great 14ier! The trail is well marked till you get to the rock pile. Then you scramble through the rocks. Beautiful scenery through the trees

hiking
10 months ago

My first 14er. A good all day hike with steep climbs, especially at the end. Don't let the relatively short distance fool you, this is a strenuous hike with a big climb in altitude. Not technical, but not easy. A lot of "mountain goat" scrambling across rocks to get to the top. Great views, quiet, not too many people (on a Tuesday morning), nice wildflowers. The trail is well marked for the most part, but easy to lose in a few places.

10 months ago

Attempted to summit Yale yesterday. Started in the rain at about 6:30 and ended in the rain at 11:30 The trail is well maintained, and the views were stunning with the fog hanging at tree line among the peaks-a rare view for an early morning hike in Colorado. We made it to about 13,000 ft then turned back because the cold rain had soaked and exhausted us all. The trail was busy, even for a rainy day. Will be back for this one on a bluebird day in the future!

hiking
10 months ago

7/27/17 Hiked this today! Was my first 14er and it was awesome. It was way harder then expected. It took my brother and I about 8 hours. We took a lot of breaks. The trail is decently marked the whole way up. Make sure to try to use the bathroom before reaching the alpine zone/clearing. There aren't many good spots after that. Also, once you reach that, be prepared for the hardest part. Lots of stepping/climbing up rocks in the switchbacks which takes awhile till you reach the summit. Well worth the hike!

hiking
10 months ago

This 14er was awesome! Our first! The views once you get above the tree line are amazing. Definitely save your energy for the back end where the switchbacks are crazy hard. Once you get to the saddle you are basically there and have made it passed the hardest part. The boulder field at the end is more fun than hard just make sure you follow the markers so it isn't unnecessarily hard. We went up on a Sunday and it was VERY crowded so I recommend not doing that. Other than that it was awesome.

10 months ago

First 14er for me to climb. Beautiful and well marked trail all the way to the ridge. The switchbacks as you get to the top are definitely difficult. To reach the actual summit you have to climb across a lot of boulders. Very difficult to maneuver and not marked.

11 months ago

This is NOT 7.8 miles like indicated here. It's more like 9.4. A big portion of the top is scramble thru big rocks.
The road is paved all the way to the TH.
The trail runs next (and across several times) a river so there is plenty of water for refill (will probably need to treat it)
Crossing the river over logs can be fun .. or not! :)

hiking
11 months ago

In Colorado on vacation from Michigan and wanted to do one big hike so we decided to do Yale. After summiting and completing I can honestly say it was one of the coolest things I've ever done, along with the most challenging physical wise. I'm 18 years old and work out regularly and this hike kicked my ass, so be ready to push your limits especially in the final stretch. I recorded the hike to be about 10 miles long from the Denny creek trail head. Overall amazing experience, itching to do more!

11 months ago

Great long hike!! Holy crap, my wife is still tired from the trail a couple days ago. We started at 3:30 and made good time. Excellent trail, but be sure to use gps to figure out which streams to cross, there are lots of side trails.

hiking
11 months ago

Just did this hike today and it was awesome. We took the Southwest route. 12 miles from Buena Vista on a paved road. Park at Denny Creek Trailhead. Bathroom is at Trailhead if you need it. This is not an easy hike but a good challenge that's for sure. We loved it. We hit the trail at 6am and it took us 3hrs 45 mins to summit. The first couple of hours are on a beautiful trail through the forest. You do cross several streams. Above timberline, it starts to get steep and there's definitely some Spider-Man scrambling to get to the top. No flag or plaque at summit so bring a sign for pics. We spent 20 mins at the summit enjoying the view and lunch, then another 3 hours to get down, which was surprising since I felt we booked it down. So 7 hours total. It was legit!

Also, our Garmin watches said it was nearly 10 miles. Couldn't believe all the people still coming up as we were going down. I would not start later than 7am, 6am or earlier is better.

hiking
11 months ago

Just gorgeous! We're from Arkansas, and this was our first hike in high elevation. We didn't quite make it to the top before the altitude got to us. We did make it well passed the timber line, and we were simply blown away by the views. We highly recommend this trail, even if you can't quite make it to the summit.

hiking
Friday, June 16, 2017

Hiked June 9, 2017, still quite a bit of snow on the trail causing on and off loss of trail. Hike early to avoid postholing, no need for microspikes.

backpacking
Sunday, May 28, 2017

Awesome hike! Did this yesterday. Still a lot of snow but it's pretty packed. I had my dog with me and had to turn around bc the snow was cutting up her paws and there was a snowstorm blowing in at 10am. I'd definitely hit the trail early to avoid running into that. Also the "winter trail" is a mile or more longer than the regular trail.

hiking
Sunday, April 23, 2017

Amazing hike, wish I had more time to go all the way to the top. It is difficult if you are new to hiking but if you have some experience you should be good. If you want to see what it looks like check out my video I made while up there.
https://youtu.be/hWEQ8Z2bXeQ

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