Mount Yale (14,200ft.) is a 14er mountain located in the Sawatch Range, and more specifically within Colorado’s Collegiate Peaks Wilderness. Near the quaint town of Buena Vista, Mount Yale is the 21st tallest mountain in Colorado and is one of five fourteeners within the Collegiate subrange named in honor of prominent universities (Mounts Yale, Harvard, Columbia, Princeton, and Oxford).
The Southwest Slopes route to the summit of Mount Yale is the most popular route and considered the standard. Beginning at the Denny Creek Trailhead at 9,900ft., which is directly off of County Road 306, this Class 2 route is non-technical, but requires a steep 4,337ft. ascent and a roundtrip of 9.2 miles. But the hard work pays off with unparalleled views of neighboring high peaks in the Sawatch Range and far into the Arkansas River Valley.
Hike Review Series: Mount Yale
Mount Yale is named in honor of the alma mater of geologist Josiah Whitney who had climbed the mountain in the 1860s with fellow surveyors from Harvard. Many may recognize the name Whitney, the former State Geologist of California, as Mount Whitney is named in honor of his contributions to American and Californian geology.
Located within the impressively beautiful Collegiate Peaks Wilderness of the San Isabel National Forest, Mount Yale towers over the Arkansas River Valley and the nearby town of Buena Vista. At 14,200ft., Mount Yale holds the distinction of the 21st tallest mountain in Colorado and the 7th tallest mountain within the Sawatch Range.
The Southwest Slopes route to the summit of Mount Yale is as straightforward as it is steep. Hikers can access the Denny Creek Trailhead right from the main parking area. There is no need for a 4WD vehicle, which is a major contributor to the massive popularity of this hike. A well established trail takes you through dense forest of lodgepole pine, spruce, and aspen. The ascent crosses Denny Creek and up Delaney Gulch and switchbacks to Mount Yale’s saddle, just below the summit. From the saddle, a few hundred more feet of ascent remain, which requires some steep Class 2 to easy Class 3 rock scrambling following rock cairns. At the summit, hikers are treated to awe-inspiring views of the surrounding Sawatch Range and more.
Provisions and Dining
The town of Buena Vista, CO is very close to the Denny Creek Trailhead. If you plan to camp or stop somewhere for a bite to eat after your hike, you’ll have a few options to choose from. Below are a couple of our recommendations for places to stop in town.
Recommended Hiking Apparel and Gear
In our opinion, the best guidebook for information on Colorado’s 14er mountains is Gerry Roach’s Colorado’s Fourteeners: From Hikes to Climbs. All other guidebooks pale in comparison. Thus, this book will suit you well for hiking Mount Yale. Although Roach’s book is incredibly detailed, you’ll still want to carry a topographical map such as National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map for the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness Area. In addition, we included a couple of our favorite field guides for plant and bird identification. These guides provide useful information that adds to the outdoors experience and help answer questions about animal and flower species.
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