Want to start hiking in Colorado and end up above treeline at an alpine lake surrounded by views of 13ers & 14ers. Ptarmigan Lake Trail is it! We were smitten from start to finish…
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PTARMIGAN LAKE STARTS ON A STEADY MODERATE INCLINE
The trail climbs upward for about 2.7 miles through the forest but has enough areas that level off to take any needed rest or to catch your breath.
ARRIVING AT THE FIRST LAKE (NOT PTARMIGAN LAKE)
HIked out of the forest and into a meadow, with stunning views of Turner Peak and the Gladstone Ridge, and to our left a beautiful lake.
We thought we’d arrived at Ptarmigan Lake. Dreamy campsites surrounded this area and thinking “we’re here” we scrambled up some rocks to take it all in.
Having our lunch and noticing that behind us looked like the trail continued above treeline, we continued on and found that this was not Ptarmigan Lake. We had not gone far enough.
The trail leads us past a pond to our right and up the valley through a pretty meadow laced with wildflowers and thick willows. Hiking up through the rocks with water cascading down beside us we ascended to treeline.
Colorado at high altitude is known for its ever changing weather. Please check out “ What’s in Your Day Pack” for a list of items to consider anytime hiking.
ARRIVED AT PTARMIGAN LAKE
This last push to the lake was the most strenuous section of the hike but worth the effort! Catching my breath, not at the hard hike but at what laid before us. Ptarmigan Lake was incredibly beautiful.
EXPANSIVE VIEWS OF SO MANY HIGH PEAKS
To my delight, little Pika’s were scrambling everywhere among the rocks as we wandered around the lake amid people fishing, families picnicking and a few dogs swimming.
Just before leaving Ptarmigan Lake, we stumbled upon another lake. Another beauty, aqua blue/green, and shimmering in the sunshine.
PTARMIGAN LAKE WOULD BE A PERFECT 1ST TIME BACKPACKING TRIP
LOCATED: On CR 306 (Cottonwood Pass). From Buena Vista turn west onto CR 306 off of Hwy 24 (at the stoplight). Drive approx 14.5 miles. You will see the sign for Ptarmigan Lake Trailhead on your left. Turn left (south) and follow a short dirt road to the parking area.
6.2 miles out and back
Elevation start: 10,680 ft.
Elevation end: 12,300 ft.
Outhouse at trailhead
Nearest town: Buena Vista
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