Create an account

Start your adventure today.


    Already a member? Login

    Ptarmigan Lake Trail

    This reflects the 10Adventures difficulty rating for each route. We aim to keep ratings consistent across regions.
    This reflects the estimated time the majority of users will take on this trail. If you are slower, add time to the top-end figure. If you are fast, then you may complete this route faster than this time range.
    This reflects the return distance of this route as measured by the GPS file.
    9.7 km
    This reflects the total elevation gained throughout this route as measured by the GPS file. This includes all ascents and descents, and is higher than what is quoted in most route guides, which simply measure the distance between the starting-point and high-point of the route.
    448 m
    User Ratings
    These ratings are completed by users who have completed this trail and not subject to reviews by 10Adventures.
    Be the first to add a review!
    Directions to Trailhead

    The Ptarmigan Lake Trail is one of the most picturesque adventures in the Sawatch Mountain Range—in our opinion. This amazing excursion travels through dense woodlands before graduating the timberline into a vibrant alpine tundra where sits the shimmering blue-hued lake. This excursion is a must-add to your Colorado hiking itinerary.

    View Ptarmigan Lake Trail on Map

    View Map

    Join our newsletter

    Get a weekly dose of discounts and inspiration for adventure lovers

    Route Description for Ptarmigan Lake Trail

    The Ptarmigan Lake Trail is a magical high-country expedition that exhibits the beauty of the Colorado wilderness. This epic adventure exposes unparalleled vistas of the Sawatch Mountain Range and the Elk Mountains. Climbing to high altitudes, we highly suggest acclimating to the area’s elevation prior to your ascent. Additionally, wear layers as insurance against extreme conditions at the exposed terrain, and make sure to summit before noon to mitigate the chances of getting caught in an afternoon storm. When trekking in the winter months, trade your hiking boots for snowshoes or microspikes.

    The Ptarmigan Lake Trail is an incredible day hike near Buena Vista. In the summer months, the alpine terrain is laden with vibrant wildflowers and little ptarmigan birds. The shimmering waters of the alpine lake are nestled in a quintessential mountain cirque that reveals awe-inspiring vistas of the neighboring snow-capped peaks and the lush valleys below. Though steep, the easily manageable terrain is a great conditioning hike for those hoping to attempt a technical Colorado fourteener. Immerse yourself in the high-country and let the fresh mountain air fill your lungs as you venture the Ptarmigan Lake Trail.

    Embark on your adventure along the Ptarmigan Lake Trail from the trailhead off County Road 306. From here, track south along the Ptarmigan Lake Trail, crossing over Middle Cottonwood Creek. The initial segment of the trek will guide adventurers through dense woodlands interspersed with towering pine and fir trees. Enjoy the tree shade and sweet smell of the lush forestlands. Soon the trail will near Ptarmigan Creek, providing a meditative ambiance that will lull you into a state of relaxation.

    Enjoy the sights and sounds of the babbling waters and at the next intersection, keep right. Following Ptarmigan Lake Trail south, you will eventually graduate the timberline. Once you top the treeline you will be rewarded with astounding vistas of the encompassing mountainous wilderness. Enjoy up close and personal views of Jones Peak looming above as you near the lake. Once at the alpine pool you will be granted expansive panoramas of the Collegiate Peaks, the Arkansas Valley, and the Front Range summits. Rejuvenate your tired feet in the frigid waters and try your hand at some trout if you have a fishing permit. Enjoy the alpine scenery, and when you are done reveling in the beauty, retrace your footing along the path back to the trailhead.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Can you drive to Ptarmigan Lake?

    Yes, you can drive up County Road 349 to Ptarmigan Lake, but the road is extremely rough and rugged, requiring high ground clearance and 4-wheel drive.

    Where is Ptarmigan Lake?

    Ptarmigan Lake is an alpine lake in the Sawatch Mountain Range near Buena Vista, CO.

    Insider Hints for Ptarmigan Lake Trail

    • Keep your pups on a short leash to safeguard the ptarmigan habitat
    • In the winter months, trade your hiking boots for snowshoes in the winter months
    • Charge your camera, this trek is extremely picturesque
    • Grab a latte at the Brown Dog Coffee Company after your hike
    • Head out in the morning to reach the lake before noon, lessening your chances of getting caught in an afternoon storm

    Getting to the Ptarmigan Lake Trail Trailhead

    The Ptarmigan Lake Trail departs from the Ptarmigan Lake Trailhead off County Road 306.

    Route Information

    • Backcountry Campground

      Dispersed Backcountry Campsites

    • When to do


    • Pets allowed

      Yes - On Leash

    • Family friendly

      Older Children only

    • Route Signage


    • Crowd Levels


    • Route Type

      Out and back

    Ptarmigan Lake Trail Elevation Graph

    Weather Forecast

    Check Area Weather

    Ptarmigan Lake Trail Reviews

    Add a comment

    You must be logged in to post a comment.

    Nearby Trails

    Nearby Regions

    Get travel inspiration and discounts

    Join our weekly travel newsletter