Ptarmigan Pass

Red Cliff, Colorado (Eagle County)

Last Updated: 08/06/2019
4.5 /5 ( 6 reviews )
Nearby Trails
Status: Seasonal Closure
Typically Open: 05/21 - 11/15
Length: 10.9 miles
Highest Elevation: 11750 feet
Duration: About 2 hours
Shape of Trail: Straight Through
Best Direction to Travel: South
Nearest Town: Red Cliff
Nearest Town w/ Services: Minturn
Official Road Name: 747 & 702
Management Agency: White River National Forest
District: Eagle - Holy Cross Ranger District
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Highlight: Ptarmigan Pass
Ptarmigan Pass is a beautiful drive with amazing views of the Gore Range as well as the Sawatch Range including Mount of the Holy Cross. The trail itself has become increasingly difficult over the past few years notably through Wearyman Creek. Wearyman Creek flows all summer long and makes this trail a little more interesting due to the fact that you literally drive upstream through various obstacles for the first half mile or so of the trail. At the northwest end of the trail is Camp Hale, a WWII facility, which is where the U.S. Army trained soldiers in mountain warfare.



7 day forecast for Ptarmigan Pass

Route Information

Technical Rating:

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1. Shrine Pass Trailhead (0.00 mi)
The trail starts off into Wearyman Creek almost immediately right after the one lane bridge.

Directions to Trailhead

Trailhead Coordinates: 39.523572, -106.325645

Starting Point: I-70

From Avon - Take Highway 24 south to the town of Red Cliff. Take Shrine Pass northeast out of town for 2.5 miles. The trailhead is on the right at a narrow bridge and a sign for McAllister Gulch and Wearyman Creek. From Copper Mountain - Take I-70 to the top of Vail Pass and exit at Exit Number 190. Take Shrine Pass southwest 8.3 miles. The trailhead is on the left at a narrow bridge and sign for McAllister Gulch and Wearyman Creek.



Trail Reviews (8)

Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Ran the full McAllister - Ptarmigan loop on 9/28. The main loop is now open but the short segment of Wearyman Creek connecting to Shrine Pass is still closed. We had to come in from Camp Hale. This is a gorgeous fall colors trip with frequent patches of aspens along the trail. The leaves were probably about a week out from peak but still beautiful. I found this trail a little less challenging than I expected, with no real obstacles to speak of. The south side coming down from Ptarmigan Pass was just a 2WD gravel road. Still gorgeous scenery though. Glad this trail was open for at least a little while this season.

Status: Temporary Closure
Offroaded on:
Gated. Pass was still closed as of 8/11/2019. Sign stated high water and landslides.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Temporary Closure
Offroaded on:
North side of the pass is closed due to a Forest Order.

Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
Beautiful trail with many scenic views. Agree with other reviews where a few spots with large rocks require extra clearance or careful tire placement. One of our crew was in a stock Wrangler and made it through the obstacles. Snow is deep starting just past waypoint 10. We had to turn back near the tree line as the snow made the trail impassable.

Status: Impassable
Offroaded on:
This was a fun and challenging trail in a few spots. With the most recent snowfall we were unable to make it all the way through. We made it in a bit over 3 miles then had to turn around. The trail through the creek has some large rocks in lots of spots and high clearance is recommended.

Status: Open
Offroaded on:
First part was VERY narrow, saw 2 full size vehicles stuck or turning around early on, followed by me before we got to the meadows. I have a 2 inch lifted jeep grand cherokee laredo and definitely had to flex in some spots. I would say a full size jeep or wider vehicle may be too much for this trail, and you definitely need lift and/or larger tires. A local said a hummer got stuck up there last week, and the rock passings in the creek are very narrow. Sweet trail if you had a SS or quad!

Status: Open
Offroaded on:
This trail was a lot of fun. Going up the stream was very unique and interesting. It is narrow, though. I'm sure I picked up some stripes. A wider vehicle might be forced to take lines which could be a little more challenging. I drive a basic Cherokee XJ - 4.5 inch lift and 31s. No lockers.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Ran this trail with a group for opening weekend. It seems the first part of the trail gets a little more difficult every year. In 2014, I ran this trail with no problems with my stock 2014 4Runner. Now, in 2018 I would not even think about bringing a stock 4Runner through. We did have one well build GX470 bend a rear lower link that we were able to repair on trail. Overall a very fun trail and one of my favorites in the area.

Questions & Answers (4)

Q: Hey there, What would be the total round trip time to run from Vail to Red Cliff and then do Ptarmigan/McC Gulch? Thanks!
–owen bybee (07/06/2019)
–Ryan Boudreau (07/08/2019)
Q: Hi there, new to this site, new to off-roading. I will be running a Polaris RZR on this trail. Is there any trailhead parking to offload my UTV?
–Nathan Wood (09/17/2018)
–Ryan Boudreau (09/28/2018)
Q: What's your opinion on trying the first part of this trail in a stock Polaris Ranger XP900? Going up the creek is the only concern to me due to water depth.
–Yance Farney (08/02/2018)
–Ryan Boudreau (08/02/2018)
Q: Is this passable in a stock rental Jeep. We are in Vail until July 9 and I’d like to find some nearby trails to try.
–Jerry Goodenough (07/03/2018)
–Paul (08/28/2018)
–Brian Spittell (07/17/2018)

Writer Information

Ryan Boudreau

Mapping Crew - Colorado

Hi, I'm Ryan! I am a Colorado native and I've been wheeling since I was 16 years old. I grew up with a relentless passion for all things Jeep and off road related, and that passion has never died out. I am a member of the Mile-Hi Jeep Club, Patrol 16 Sasquatch Jeepers and currently own an '06 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited (LJ) nicknamed "Minion". I am a huge supporter of Stay the Trail and Tread Lightly, and have participated and even been in charge of many trail restoration projects. I have been a trail leader several times for events such as All-4-Fun, ColoradoFest, Set Them Free, 14er Fest, and other. I am also the creator of the Unlimited LJ Adventure. My rig is built for extreme offroading, but I love to get my tires dirty on any kind of trail whether it's rock crawling or just scenic high Alpine drives. I've wheeled all over the country including Colorado, Utah, Kansas, the Carolinas, AZ, and California. I love a great adventure, and love even more to share those adventures with others. If you see the "minion" out on the trail, make sure to stop and say hello.
For individual use only, not to be shared.