Jones Mountain/Ptarmigan Lake

Buena Vista, Colorado (Chaffee County)

Last Updated: 09/25/2021
4.9 / 5 ( 14 reviews )
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Information
Nearby Trails
Status: Open
Typically Open: 06/15 - 10/31
Length: 2.45 miles
Highest Elevation: 12542 feet
Duration: About 1 hour
Shape of Trail: Out & Back
Best Direction to Travel: N/A
Nearest Town: Buena Vista
Nearest Town w/ Services: Buena Vista
Official Road Name: 349
Management Agency: San Isabel National Forest
District: Salida Ranger District

Highlights

Highlight: Jones Mountain/Ptarmigan Lake
The Cottonwood Creek drainage just west of Buena Vista is an area rich with mining history, alpine lakes, wildlife and an opportunity to travel off the beaten path in Central Colorado. The Jones Mountain/Ptarmigan Lake trail offers unique access to Ptarmigan Lake from an off-road trail and the ascent up Jones Mountain will not disappoint . You will travel to 12,500' of elevation, high on the side of the mountain with incredible views from the backside of Mount Princeton and the South Cottonwood Creek valley below. Make sure to bring your fishing gear as Ptarmigan Lake is a short hike and has a good population of Native Cutthroat trout.

Video

Route Information

Technical Rating

( MODERATE )

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Waypoints

1. Start (0 mi)
The trail starts where FS 349 departs from the Mineral Basin Trail to the right.

Directions to Trailhead

To reach the Jones Mountain/Ptarmigan Lake Trailhead, you must first drive to Waypoint 5 of the Mineral Basin Trail. Once at Waypoint 5, turn right onto FS 349. You are now at the beginning of the Jones Mountain/Ptarmigan Lake Trailhead.

Camping

Dispersed

Land Use Issues

This area is part of Pike-San Isabel National Forest, and as such is part of the 2011 Lawsuit where a coalition of conservation and recreation groups are suing the U.S. Forest Service over what they say is the illegal addition of 500 miles of motorized roads and trails. A settlement was reached in late 2015 requires the U.S. Forest Service to re-evaluate the roads and create a new travel management plan. Over the next year, 30 roads will be partially or completely closed while this evaluation takes place over the next 5 years. It is imperative that the OHV community let's their voices be heard on this issue. If we do nothing, those 500 miles will be shutdown. Contact the local ranger districts and let them know why the area is important to you and the history you have there. Salida Forest Service District Office Leadville Forest Service District Office

Trail Reviews (21)

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On
Offroaded on:
Rating:
One word... EPIC!! This trail has totally epic views. The road up is a super steep, super rough, slow slog, but it is totally worth it. I can't really describe it, you just have to see it yourself.
Author:
Status: Open
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On
Offroaded on:
Mineral Basin is nice but Jones is awesome! I did it with my stock 2019 TRD Off Road and had no problems. I went on a Monday hoping for minimal traffic and it worked. I was the only truck on the route, saw a few ATV's once on the way up and once on the way down. I was concerned on seeing someone on the incline one way but had no problems. Highly recommend! Had to take the obligatory photo! Fall colors are starting!
Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Absolutely amazing, stunning trail. Loaded with a myriad of wildflowers and all the beautiful smells that follow. Went all the way up in a stock lifted 17 4Runner TRD Off-Road. Scratched my skids and rock sliders, but very minimally; more of a light grazing. Lots of fun to stretch out the suspension and gain efficiency at best tire placement.
Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Have done this several times but only to Waypoint 5, lured by fishing the lake. Even if you don't fish, take the short hike to the saddle overlooking the lake for the outstanding 360 views. The valley below the lake is dotted with smaller ponds, some also loaded with jumping cutthroat.
Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Completely open. It was foggy and raining with some sleet mixed in. Did have to use 4lo due to the slick rocks but trail was extremely easy
Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Trail is open to the top.
Author: Official Crew
Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Open for 1 mile with heavy snow.
Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Trail is still open after the light snow last night. The top however was freezing cold and extremely windy so it wasn’t worth hanging out for long!
Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Awesome fall day. Picked up hikers at the lake.
Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Made it up and down in a stock 4th gen 4runner (no scrapes) and 2wd stock silverado. This as about all we felt our vehicles would clear but was well worth it. The one switchback was a 3 point turn for both of us with a pretty steep drop off but felt manageable and safe.
Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
This is a really cool trail. Only one small obstacle and the rest is just bumpy but the views are fantastic from the very start. This was a little further than I anticipated making for a long day and then it started raining so unfortunately we didn't make the hike to the lake. Next time!
Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Fully open to the end as of June 28. Beautiful trail with some spectacular views at the top, and a nice posing rock as well.
Author:
Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Trail is blocked by a snow drift between waypoints 4 and 5. Hiked up to Ptarmagin Lake. Definitely worth it.
Author: Official Crew
Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
The trail is currently open to almost Waypoint 4 with deep snow on the road.
Author:
Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Trail is open to waypoint 5, past that there is a snowdrift blocking the trail a ways up the hill. I wouldn't go up to the snowdrift because there is nowhere to turn around. Saw a RZR make it all the way up but no full-sized vehicle could. Camped there all weekend at about 12,000 ft and it was very quiet besides day traffic going up to the lake. Great views from the campsites as well. Hike to Ptarmigan Lake was definitely worth it, very pretty. I wouldn't necessarily do this trail if you are looking for a challenging trail, it's quite short and not technical, but the views, camping, and hiking access are worth it. Also it's proximity to Cottonwood Lake is definitely a plus!
Author:
Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Wonderful trail, done with stock `08 4runner easily. There are only a few places where you need to really focus on your lines. The very last section of road is still closed due to snow, but it's easily hikeable to the end (another 500 ft at most). I won't say this is the most exciting trail ever, but the view at the top is certainly one of the best in Colorado. There's no way to come down from it and be in anything but a great mood.
Author: Official Crew
Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Trail is open to just above timberline. Should be fully passable in the next week or two.
Author: Official Crew
Status: Impassable
Offroaded on:
Snow has fallen closing this trail for the winter.
Author: Official Crew
Status: Permanently Closed
Offroaded on:
Snow has fallen making this trail impassable until next season
Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
I did this trail along with Mineral Basin back in the fall. At the time it was open but snow and ice were present above tree line making for a few slick spots. It was very windy and cold at the time but I will definitely be back next season to make the hike to Ptarmigan Lake.
Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Did this trail in a stock CJ-5. This trail provides outstanding views of the nearby mountains, and the top is cool for a picnic too, if its not too windy. Most of the trail is smooth, but there are some rocky sections, which is probably why its rated as moderate.

Questions & Answers (1)

Q: I’ve been wanting to go up This trail for awhile, but always lost track of time. I’ve recently traded in my wrangler for a Silverado 1500. Just curious the trail width.
–Michael Mastalski (05/19/2021)
–Marcus Trusty (05/21/2021)

Writer Information

Marcus Trusty

Mapping Crew - Colorado

Marcus is a 3rd generation Buena Vista, Colorado native who grew up bouncing around the central Colorado mountains in the back of his dad's CJ5. During his younger years, Marcus grew to appreciate public lands and the recreation opportunities backroads and 4-wheel drive trails offer. Marcus has been wheeling for 20 years now and has wheeled in Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and California. Until a few years ago Marcus had just been a participant in the wheeling community, but he has become much more active in preserving trails and working to make sure the wheeling community has their access maintained for future generations. Marcus helped to found Colorado Off Road Enterprise - CORE, based out of Buena Vista. CORE has worked with the Forest Service and BLM and has volunteer agreements in place with both organizations. CORE also has a Forest Service trail adoption agreement in place for Grizzly Lake, Pomeroy Lake, Hancock Lake, Hancock Pass, and Tincup Pass, Tomichi Pass, Williams Pass, Ptarmigan Lake, Mineral Basin, Clohesy Lake, Lost Canyon, Champion Mill, Iron Mike Mine, and Slide Lake. If Marcus is not working you can generally find him somewhere out on the trails around Buena Vista.
For individual use only, not to be shared.