Ptarmigan Peak Trail

Location: White River National Forest, Ptarmigan Peak Wilderness
Nearest town: Silverthorne
Distance from Denver: 68 mi / 1:15
Trail distance: 9.0 mi RT, or do the full 12.2 mi RT to Ptarmigan Peak
Elevation: 9,155 ft – 11,500 ft at Ptarmigan Peak Wilderness boundary (12,498 ft at Ptarmigan Peak)
Directions: From Hwy 70, take exit 205 at Silverthorne heading north. Go right at the very first turn onto Rainbow Dr, an immediate right onto Tanglewood Ln (to wrap around the Wendy’s), then go right at the second road onto Ptarmigan Trail, just past the Quality Inn. Follow Ptarmigan Trail 0.8 mi to the larger pull-out on the right or the smaller one just beyond. The trail begins across from the larger pull-out, next to a house.
Date hiked: 08/2011
Additional resources
ProTrails
White River National Forest
Rocky Mountain Scenery

Trail notes and photos:
For a full description of the trail, please visit the links above. I plan to re-visit this trail to reach the summit, but for now this post is based on memories from a hike a year and a half ago.

This was a great day hike to just beyond the Ptarmigan Peak Wilderness boundary to take in the view above tree line and the amazing views all along. The forest was damp from the storm passing through, but the rain held off for all but my last two miles as I descended to my dry car and a change of clothes. Although it was late summer, at this elevation the forest was green and there were still some wildflowers in bloom.

The first mile isn’t very exciting as it passes steeply through a neighborhood, across a road and under power lines. Soon the trail is in thicker forest, passing through aspen groves and opening up now and then for amazing views of the Gore Range to the west.

Views early into the Ptarmigan Peak Trail - White River National Forest

Views early into the Ptarmigan Peak Trail

Looking south to Dillon Reservoir.

Looking south to Dillon Reservoir

Looking south to Dillon Reservoir

The trail passes through a thick aspen grove where animals have marked many of the trees. Please comment if you know what animal makes these markings.

Bear marking? - along Ptarmigan Peak Trail - White River National Forest

Bear marking?

Elk marking? - along Ptarmigan Peak Trail - White River National Forest

Elk marking?

At 4.4 mi and after 2,345 ft of climbing to above treeline, the trail reaches the Ptarmigan Peak Wilderness boundary.

Ptarmigan Peak Wilderness boundary - White River National Forest

Ptarmigan Peak Wilderness boundary

I hiked just a little way beyond the sign to take in the beauty of the open landscape and the view.

View from just past Ptarmigan Peak Wilderness boundary - White River National Forest

View from just past Ptarmigan Peak Wilderness boundary

View from just past Ptarmigan Peak Wilderness boundary - White River National Forest

View from just past Ptarmigan Peak Wilderness boundary

While snacking and resting on the peak I suddenly received a few texts and email updates which hadn’t come through along the trail. I ended up posting a photo of the view on Facebook, commenting on how far I hiked to a wilderness, only to have internet access. With dark clouds lurking, I turned back down the trail for the descent.

Ptarmigan Peak Trail

Example of open trail section

During one stop on the way down I left my hat, so about a mile further down I turned and ran/hiked back up to get my hat, then back down. This added about 2-3 mi to my day…almost the same distance I could have added to have reached the peak! Next time.

The trail on to Ptarmigan Peak - White River National Forest

The trail on to Ptarmigan Peak

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