County Road 306 – A Fishing & Hiking Goldmine
A Riverhouse Lodge in Buena Vista makes the perfect base camp for your fall hiking or fishing get away. County Road 306, in Buena Vista, is a hiking and fishing goldmine. This road alone holds trailheads for Cottonwood Pass, the Colorado Trail, Mt. Yale (a fourteener), Cottonwood Lake, Hartenstein Lake, and, my new found favorite, Ptarmigan Lake.
If you come out in mid to late fall, the trails aren’t nearly as crowded as in the summer, but the weather is still mild enough not to worry too much about winter gear.
Be aware of hunters and wear bright orange, or at least bright colored clothing so hunters can see you easily*
Just Over 3 Miles to the Lake
The Ptarmigan Lake trail makes the perfect day hike, or half day hike, because it is just over 3 miles to the lake, and the trail climbs slowly and consistently from about 10,600 ft. to 12,147 ft. so there aren’t any tough, steep scrambles.
As you get closer to Ptarmigan Lake, there are a handful of smaller lakes below it, as well as a beautiful camp site. Don’t confuse these smaller lakes with Ptarmigan Lake, like I did my first time out there!
In late October, there was already small patches of snow and ice in the shady spots along the trail and around the lakes, but the roads and trail were still totally clear and passable.
The view from Ptarmigan Lake is totally worth the climb! I also hear it is a great fishing spot. This alpine lake is crystal clear and even has a turquoise tint to the deepest part of the water because the high elevation and cold climate help prevent moss and algae growth in the water.
If you’re a hiker, hunter, or fisherman, hiking out to Ptarmigan Lake is a day well spent in the Arkansas River Valley.