Want to start hiking in Colorado and end up above timberline 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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The trial climbs up a steady moderate incline with enough areas that leveled off to take any needed rest or catch your breath.  


After about 2.7 miles the trial opened up to meadows, views of Turner Peak and the Gladstone Ridge, and to our left a beautiful lake.


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We did what lots of others have done, 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 more trail that went higher above tree line, our curiosity took over and off we went. So glad we did


This is not Ptarmigan Lake! Keep going…



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The trial lead us past a pond to our right and up the valley through a pretty meadow laced with wildflowers and thick willows. 


We could see other hikers ahead and couldn’t wait to see what was above the ridge ahead of us. 


Colorado at high altitude is known for its ever changing weather. This is a  trail you want to be prepared for with appropriate hiking gear. Please check out “ What’s in Your Day Pack”  for a list of items to consider anytime hiking.


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This last push to the lake was the most strenuous section of the hike but worth the extra breath!


Now this is Ptarmigan Lake. So happy we keep going. I can’t seem to find the right beauty words. It’s amazing.


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To my delight, little Pikas were scrambling everywhere among the rocks making a lot of noise with their cute squeaky voice.  


We followed the trail around the lake amid people fishing, families picnicking and a few dogs swimming. 





What made this such a pristine hike, was not only the lakes, but the expansive views of so many high peaks. Like being on the top of the world.


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Just before leaving Ptarmigan Lake we stumbled upon another lake. Does not get much better than this! Another beauty, aqua blue/green and shimmering in the sunshine. 

Ptarmigan Lake is the perfect first time or family 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. 


Rated: moderate

6.2 miles out and back

Trail #1444

Elevation start: 10,680 ft.

Elevation end: 12,300 ft.

Outhouse at trailhead

Dog friendly

Chaffee County

San Isabel National Forest

Nearest town: Buena Vista



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

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