Ptarmigan Lake

Distance: 6.2 - 6.8 miles (round trip)

San Isabel National Forest, near Buena Vista in Central Colorado

Ptarmigan Lake, Turner Peak and Mount Yale

Ptarmigan Lake, Turner Peak and Mount Yale


This family-friendly scenic hike climbs on moderate grades to a lovely lake with terrific views of Mount Yale (14,196-ft.) and Turner Peak to the north, the Gladstone Ridge to the east and Jones Mountains to the West.
See Trail Detail/Full Description

  • Distance: 6.8 miles (round trip) to Ptarmigan Lake
  • Elevation: 10,680-ft. at Trailhead
    12,300-ft. at Ptarmigan Lake
  • Elevation Gain: 1,620-ft. to Ptarmigan Lake
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • More Hikes in:
    Buena Vista / Central Colorado

Why Hike Ptarmigan Lake

This popular, scenic half day hike ascends on moderate grades to beautiful Ptarmigan Lake (12,150-ft.), cradled at the base of Jones Mountain (13,218-ft.). The first 2.4 miles of the trail climbs through trees with intermittent views of the Turner Peak (13,237-ft.) and the Gladstone Ridge (13,208-ft.).

As the trees thin the trail passes a pretty lake and pond with good campsites nearby. Soon the trees give way to beautiful meadows renowned for their spectacular wildflower displays. Great views, which improve as you gain elevation, open to the Jones Mountains (13,218-ft.) and Mount Yale (14,196-ft.).

At 3.1 miles pretty Ptarmigan Lake Spring into view. Continue along the trail as it skirts the lake’s eastern shore. At the south end of the lake a panorama of high peaks, including Turner Peak and Mount Yale, fills the skyline to the north.

Extend the hike by climbing the short, steep trail to a saddle between Gladstone Ridge and Jones Mountain with stunning views of the peaks to the north and bird’s-eye view of Ptarmigan Lake below. To the south the high peaks along the South Cottonwood drainage dominate the view.

Don’t expect solitude along the trail. This hike is a favorite of locals and families looking for a moderately-easy hike. The lake’s healthy popular of cutthroat trout also makes it a popular destination for fishermen.

The trail, with nice camping spots near the lower lake, is a great backpacking destination for families with young children. The hike is also a good option for flatlanders trying to acclimatizing before tackling the area's 14ers.

Elevation Profile

Elevation Profile - Ptarmigan Lake

Best Hiking in Central Colorado around Aspen, Marble, Leadville, Buena Vista and Crested Butte

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Trail Resources

Trail Detail/Full Description / Trail Photo Gallery / Trail Map

Basecamp(s) Information:
Buena Vista

Region Information:
Central Colorado

Other Hiking Regions in: