If you are hiking in Colorado, getting out early is important. The afternoon storms can roll in bringing with them lightening and rain. The sun is harsh at these high elevations and the clouds are appreciated until the lightening starts.
The first time we attempted this hike several years ago, the snow was too deep even though it was June. Then Cottonwood Pass was closed for three years for paving.
This time it was a go! We got an early start, 7:30 am at the trailhead and were back before noon as the raindrops started falling.
This popular, scenic half day hike ascends to beautiful Ptarmigan Lake, cradled at the base of Jones Mountain (13,218-ft.). The first 2.4 miles of the trail climbs through trees.
We were all alone as we started up but passed several hikers on our descent.
As the trail traverses a few rockslide, we would see small pica dipping in and out of the rocks while chirping at us. No bears but we were on alert.
Elevation: 10,680-ft. at Trailhead
12,300-ft. at Ptarmigan Lake
Elevation Gain: 1,620-ft. to Ptarmigan Lake
The lake’s cutthroat trout also makes it a popular destination for fishermen.
Unnamed lake and the Gladstone Ridge. many people stopped here but we carried on to Ptarmigan. I didn't need to climb to the top of the Ridge this time. It's over 13,000 feet. 12,000 had me breathing hard.
The wild flowers were just starting to bloom at this elevation.
We had a couple of creek crossings and appreciated our poles to maintain our balance.
I felt my legs slowing at 12,000 feet.
I am not sure what he is pointing to, but I was done.
We made it!
At 3.1 miles we came over the ridge to the view of Ptarmigan Lake. The trail continues along 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.
Now, that's a skyline!
We had tired knees as we made it back to the trailhead. I wasn't sure why anyone would put the parking lot up a short hill. But it felt like a steep climb to the truck. This was one hike I am glad we didn't miss even if it took a couple of attempts.