Cronin Peak is a 13er and Colorado centennial located in the Sawatch Range of Central Colorado. There are a few different routes up Cronin Peak and it’s easy to make a lollipop loop if you want. Much of this hike shares the same approach as neighboring 14er Mt Antero with a long approach on a 4×4 road. Cronin Peak tops out at Class 2 and like many Colorado 13ers, does not have a formal trail to the summit.
Cronin Peak Quick Facts
Virtual Trail Guide: Cronin Peak
Cronin Peak Rating: ★★★★ (4/5 Stars)
Distance: 11.5 Miles (Northeast Ridge) 13.5 Miles (Northeast Ridge Up, East Ridge Down)
Elevation Start: 9,416ft (Lower TH), 10,853ft (Upper TH)
Total Elevation Gain: 4,700ft (From Lower TH with Loop)
Estimated Time to Complete: 6-8 Hours RT
Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult What does this mean?
Class: Class 2 – What does this mean?
Season: End of May – November (Snow will usually close TH access after this point)
Check the Weather Forecast – Using Open Summit provides the most data points to plan a safe hike
Directions to Cronin Peak
Trailhead: Baldwin Gulch
Getting Here: From US 285, about 4 miles south of Buena Vista, turn onto County Road 162. This is the same road you can take to get to Mt Princeton as well (there will be a sign indicating this). Drive on CR 162 for 12 miles until you reach the small opening for CR 277. There will be a small brown sign with white lettering that indicates the start of CR 277. About 20 yards after the entrance of the road, you will see a large wooden informational sign. If you have a higher clearance 4×4 or AWD drive vehicle, you can continue up the road. Beware there may be a few stream crossings and there are almost no options to turn around until 3 miles in or the “upper TH”.
Parking: Cronin Peak has rather limited parking if you do not have a 4WD vehicle. Along CR 162, there are a few small pull offs that can fit about 10 cars, other than that, you will have to drive up the road for any kind of pull offs or parking areas. Parking is free and there is no bathroom anywhere along the trail. If you do make it to the “upper TH” – there can be room for 3-4 well parked cars.
Dogs: Cronin Peak is a dog friendly hike, so long as your dog is okay on steep loose scree and talus for sections. Please always pick-up after your dog.
Camping: Cronin Peak has rather limited car camping options before the 4×4 road but plenty of areas to camp once you start up county road 277. In my opinion, some of the best spots are about 3 miles into the trail after you have turned onto 278 and crossed Baldwin Creek. If you are looking for a secluded camping weekend, this is probably not your spot though as the area is heavily populated with 4×4 vehicles during the summer months.
Make it a Loop: If you are just hiking Cronin Peak, you can hike up the Northeast Ridge and then head down the East Ridge forming a lollipop loop. If you wanted to add on Mt Antero, you could easily do that as well. For an even bigger loop, you could start up Baldwin Gulch and end at the Browns Creek TH for a big point to point hike. This would be a very long day and require 2 cars or a pick-up/dropoff.
Trail X Factors: Stream Crossings
On your way up to Cronin Peak – you will have to cross at least 2 creeks and in the early spring/summer – three. Sometimes you will get lucky and be able to keep your feet dry but during others wading through the sometimes deep water is your only option. The two biggest spots that will be a problem are usually about .12 miles into the hike and once you leave the 4×4 road and venture into the woods before gaining the Northeast Slopes.
Hike Tip(s): Bring a GPS or route to follow on this hike. Although it’s pretty obvious where to go if you did your homework, having a general line to follow will make your day much more enjoyable. I also highly recommend hiking poles on this one to deal with all the loose scree near the ridge and summit.
Best Views: Typically, I find this area very stark, full of various rock and minimal plant life. However, if you hit this in the early spring or summer when wildflowers are blooming, it can be very pretty. Summit views are great to the North, South and West. Surprisingly, Cronin Peak is a sneaky, very pretty hike if the timing is right.
Cronin Peak Hike Route
Shows Northeast ridge on the way up and east slopes descent
- 14er Day Hike Packing List
- Men’s Trail Runners – waterproof can be helpful
- Women’s Trail Runners – waterproof can be helpful
- La Sportiva Trango Hiking Boots (Men’s) – waterproof can be helpful
- La Sportiva Trango Hiking Boots (Women’s) – waterproof can be helpful
- Food & Water
- Optional: Garmin inReach
- Optional: Hiking Poles
- Optional: Headlamp
- Optional: Garmin Fenix Watch
- Optional: Camera and Lens
- Optional: GoPro, Joby Tripod
- *Links included in this description might be affiliate links. If you purchase a product or service with the links that I provide I may receive a small commission. There is no additional charge to you.
My Trip to Cronin Mountain: June 2022
It wasn’t really planned – but somehow the Spring of 2022 turned into the time where I was hunting down more Colorado 13er Centennials. This weekend, the plan was to continue to rehab from a nagging injury by hiking Saturday and trail running Sunday. Cronin Peak was a great option with all its elevation and distance. It had been far too long since I had been back into Baldwin Gulch and the beauty on this hike really surprised me.
I started somewhat late because of perfect weather and made my way up the long 4×4 road. The first few miles were boring but got the feet wet right away with a cold creek crossing. Spring melt was in full effect and the beauty that Baldwin Creek added to the approach made for some great photo and video spots. After reaching the upper TH and crossing Baldwin Creek I continued up the 4×4 road for another mile before breaking off into the woods. This section was short and uneventful, but had another creek crossing where my feet got wet…again.
Towards this point, I knew where my general route was because Cronin Peak was right in front of me and the obvious line up the Northeast slopes didn’t seem too bad. What looked like a mostly grassy climb turned into sections of less than ideal scree and talus. Although it wasn’t terrible -it wasn’t what my Achilles needed. Luckily, it wasn’t a super long stretch of loose crap and before I knew it, I was on the ridge. It was stunning out – weather hot, but clear in all directions and the views of the other Collegiate Peaks in the Sawatch Range was stunning. High alpine lakes, early stages of colorful wildflowers and pockets of snow hanging onto the high peaks. Early summer in Colorado at its finest.
I continued up the ridge and eventually topped out on Cronin Peak after a steep section of Class 2. Unsurprisingly, I had the summit to myself and enjoyed it longer than I typically do. After speaking with another hiker on the way up, I decided to take the East Slopes down instead of backtracking the way I came. It started off nasty with scree but ended up a nice mellow ridge back to the slopes of Mt Antero before taking the road back down.
Overall, I enjoyed my hike up Cronin Peak way more than was expecting to and it was nice to check-off another centennial – but even better to feel strong and healthy at the end of the hike. If you are looking to bag Cronin Peak, I would recommend a early summer timing to maximize on the beauty.