Mt. Yale, 4327m (14196ft)

Mountain area: Rocky Mountains, Sawatch Range (Collegiate Peaks)

State: Colorado USA

Map: Nat'l Geographic #129 - Buena Vista/Collegiate Peaks


  • Colorado's Fourteeners Volume 1, Louis W. Dawson II
  • A climbing guide to Colorado's Fourteeners, Walter R. Borneman/Lyndon J. Lampert

Primary Factor:

Hiked: Jul 2001

Click for larger image

Mt. Yale seen from
Cottonwood Pass road

Denny's Creek - Mt. Yale trail

Difficulty: Easy, but steep
Risk: Low
Time: 4-6 hours roundtrip
Starting Elevation:


Mt. Yale is the 21th highest mountain in Colorado, and is probably among the easy fourteeners, as it offers no technical difficulties. The summit ridge is rocky, but offers no problems.

Access (Denny's Creek):

Please refer to the above books for more details and alternative routes

From Buena Vista, exit west onto Colorado highway 306 (Cottonwood Pass) at the only traffic light in Buena Vista. After 12 miles, exit right onto Denny's Creek parking area (signed). The winter closure gate follows just after the parking.

The trail:

The trailhead starts at 9,910ft and takes you 1,5 miles through forest in NW direction. From time to time you see Mt. Yale summit up to your right. Cross Denny Creek and head NE (right) at the trailjunction. The left trail takes you to Hartenstein Lake.

The trail switchbacks into Delaney's Gulch, arriving open space just below 12,000ft. The trail crosses Delaney's Gulch in SE direction before it heads directly north towards the Mt. Yale ridge at approx. 13,900ft. This is where you need your strengths. No swicthbacks until you're at the mountain foothills. The trail then steeply switchbacks onto the Mt. Yale ridge.

From the bottom of the ridge, do not climb head on the ridge, but locate a vaguely visible trail going around the first ridge on the right hand side. The next ridge, or the third (I can't remember exactly) must be traversed on the middle of the ridge. But for the rest of the ridge ascent, work in general the right hand side.

In case of cloudy weather, you know you are on the summit when you see the summit log in a plastic container. When back at the bottom of the ridge, make sure you follow the same trail you came up, as there is another trail (probably down to Denny's Gulch) at the base of the ridge that might fool you.

Trip report:

I left Denny's Creek at 6:20AM, and at the 1,5 mile trail fork, I caught up with a party of some youngsters who had started in a quick tempo 10 minutes before me. I realized I was pushing it hard, and tried to relax, but failed. As I entered Delaney's Gulch, the summit was covered in fog and light rain set in. I was considering whether it was safe to continue, but realized that the weather was just like home, and morning thunderstorms over here were rare.

At 8:45AM I reached the summit, after some confusion whether I was on the summit or not. I descended on the other side for a while, but no trace of a second summit appeared, so I went back up again, and this time I found the summit log. First man on top that day.

Descending at 09:00AM, a number of parties wanted to talk ask about the weather, so I didn't reach the car until 10:40AM. Of course, as I anticipated, weather cleared up as I descended. I recognized that fog as morning chaos, to settle in a couple of hours.

I only had views towards the south, and had a Mt. Princeton in clear sight. I also noticed Turner Peak and Jones Mountain near the Cottonwood Pass in the west.

Pictures: (move cursor to read notes, and click on the images to see full version)

Mt. Yale seen from Cottonwood Pass road a few days earlier (214KB) Mt. Yale seen from Cottonwood Pass road a few days earlier (211KB) At the upper part of Delaney's Gulch, the Mt. Yale summit was hidden in fog (232KB) I had clear view towards south from Delaney's Gulch (174KB) View of Princeton's northern side from Delaney's Gulch (167KB) Southern view from Delaney's Gulch (272KB) The west ridge of Mt. Yale was visible from Delaney's Gulch (211KB) View towards north from Delaney's Gulch (176KB) The summit ridge of Mt. Yale in fog (101KB) At one moment, the clouds were in chaos. Not easy to determine the outcome of this. (112KB) On the way down, the weather started to clear. Typical... (151KB) Going down, I met this marmott. They probably don't see too well. But he was sensing me. (62KB)

Other links:

Other trail descriptions for this region: