Mount Yale (14,196 ft)
14er Peak Rank #21/53
The last Collegiate Peak in this blog series, Mount Yale – featured on Colorado 14ers Map 8 of 16 – is the southernmost 14er in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness, though Mount Princeton (not in the wilderness) is south of that. Though largely non-technical, Mount Yale does have its fair share of talus (loose rock) to negotiate up the standard route and is one of the more popular Sawatch Range 14ers hiked each year, so you’ll rarely be alone in the Summer.
As discussed in more detail in the post dedicated to Mount Harvard, the first recorded ascent of Mount Yale was by a team made up of the first graduates of Harvard’s Mining School in 1869. The leader of the team was Josiah Whitney, whose alma mater was Yale University, after which the peak was named. These two peaks – Harvard and Yale – were the first of the named Collegiate Peaks, starting a trend that later added peaks named for Oxford, Princeton and Columbia. As Mount Yale is only one foot shorter than Mount Princeton, alumni from each of these schools used to build rock structures at the top of each peak to increase their respective heights.
The standard route up Mount Yale used to be via Denny Gulch, a gulch due south of the summit whose trailhead originated at the Collegiate Peaks Campground off Cottonwood Pass Road. This route was closed by the Forest Service years ago due to overuse, which caused significant erosion, environmental damage and loose rock hazards. The new route begins at a trailhead one mile further west from the Collegiate Peaks Campground and is called, somewhat confusingly, the Denny Creek trailhead (Denny Creek does not run down Denny Gulch).
Starting at the Denny Creek trailhead (elevation 9,930′), the route follows the Browns Pass Trail #1442 for 1.2 miles north to a junction. Heading right/northeast at this junction will take you to up the Mount Yale Trail #1447 along Delaney Gulch. After about 1.5 miles, you reach treeline before another 1.5 mile slog up to the ridge and the summit. This Class 2 (more difficult hiking) route is 4.2 miles one-way with a net elevation gain of 4,270′.
Another fun Class 2 route to Mount Yale is as a more primitive trail that leads off the Colorado Trail about 3.1 miles north of the Avalanche Trailhead off Cottonwood Pass Rd (County Road 306) or 3.3 miles south along the CT of the Silver Creek Trailhead from North Cottonwood Creek. This trail follows the east slopes of the mountain from the Colorado Trail due west to the summit. When hiking the Colorado Trail, this side trip leaves the Colorado Trail at 11,900′ elevation gaining 2,300′ in elevation to the summit over 1.9 miles (one-way) to the summit. Though somewhat undefined, this trail is fairly easy to following along the ridge the whole way. Going to Mount Yale via the Colorado Trail may avoid some of the summer crowds!
When visiting the beautiful Mount Yale, remember the most important thing in a 14er outing is your safety. Ensure that you’re fit enough to attempt a strenuous hike, watch for afternoon thunderstorms, stay hydrated (often little or no water above treeline!), and don’t forget your 14ers maps. Mount Yale is one of two fourteeners featured on Outdoor Trail Maps Colorado 14ers Series Map 8 of 16.
Directions to Trailheads:
From Buena Vista, go west on Cottonwood Pass Road (Chaffee County Road 306) for 12 miles to the large Denny Creek Trailhead on the right side of the road. This is one mile west of the Collegiate Peaks campground along the same road.
For the Avalanche Trailhead (access via the Colorado Trail), starting in Buena Vista follow County Road 306 for 9.1 miles to the trailhead parking on the right.
For the Silver Creek Trailhead, take County Road 350 (Crossman Avenue) west from Buena Vista, CO off US Hwy 24. After 2.1 miles, this road ends a T-junction with County Road 361 where you turn right/north. After 0.9 miles, turn a very sharp left onto County Road 365 where you drive 3.6 miles to the trailhead on the left.