Ptarmigan Lake Trail is a Colorado favorite trail for a fantastic half-day or full-day hike. Ascend a moderate grade through a spectacular forest. Pass a sweet lake and dreamy dispersed campsites along the path before breaking out at the tree line. Views of the highest peaks surround you as you hike across an expansive meadow and upward to Ptarmigan Lake.
It’s early morning in July, and I am thrilled to show off this trail to friends who love alpine lake hikes. We started off hiking through lush, dense forests on a moderate grade with occasional views between the pines of Gladstone Ridge (13,208ft) and Turner Peak (13,327ft).
BEAUTIFUL FROM THE START!
LOTS OF SHADE FOR THE FIRST 2.5 MILES
A popular trail in summer, yet we are finding ourselves with only a couple more hikers today. Lots of areas to stop and catch your breath, making it an excellent hike for even a novice hiker.
The first lake appears to our left after hiking about 2.5 miles. This is not Ptarmigan Lake; keep going… However, It’s a wonderful spot to take a break, check out the dreamy campsites mingled in the trees around the lake, and take in views of Turner Peak and Gladstone Ridge.
I wanted to share my favorite outerwear for Colorado hiking. Two items I love are the Nano Puff Vest and a Nano Puff Jacket. They are pricey, but you will have them for years of hiking & everday use.
Back on the trail, heading out of the shade of the trees and into an expansive meadow full of alpine tundra and fields of wildflowers. It’s steep, and we are full of anticipation as we get closer to reaching Ptarmigan Lake.
ABOVE TREELINE NOW
You can’t see Ptarmigan Lake, but the ridgeline ahead keeps enticing you to keep going as the terrain gets a bit steeper. Last push and we are here!
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We are at Ptarmigan Lake, surrounded by terrific views of Mount Yale (14,196-ft.) and Turner Peak to the north, the Gladstone Ridge to the east, and the Jones Mountains to the West.
As you arrive at Ptarmigan Lake, if you look to your left and hike over a small ridge, you find another lake. Explore!
NOTE: You can continue towards the south of the lake and hike up Jones Mtn. It’s another 0.6 miles with a 941’ elevation gain over the open tundra to the summit.
6.8 miles out and back
Elevation start: 10,680 ft.
Elevation end: 12,300 ft.
Restroom at trailhead
Nearest town: Buena Vista
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