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.

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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).


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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.

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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. 

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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.


Like wildflowers? Most popular guide: “Wildflowers of  Colorado Field Guide.”

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BEAR SPRAY by COUNTER ASSAULT – I carry it and fortunately have never had to use it! Smart to have with you.



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!

For practical gear that we love at Crazy About Colorado and have in our backpacks on every hike. > CLICK 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.


Rated: Moderate

6.8 miles out and back

Trail #1444

Elevation start: 10,680 ft.

Elevation end: 12,300 ft.

Restroom at trailhead

Dog friendly

Chaffee County

San Isabel National Forest

Nearest town: Buena Vista

Note: Many of the links are affiliate links which means I receive a very small commission (at no added cost to you).


Kroenke Lake Trail

Kroenke Lake Trail

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Inter-Laken Trail

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Harvard Lakes via Colorado Trail

Can't wait to see you on the trail!

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