Living in Buena Vista means living close to many, many, many hiking trails! (Or snowshoeing trails, in the winter) And I love it! Having read about Ptarmigan Lake, I made it next on my list to visit. Other hikers and fishermen rave about the views and beauty of this trail and the lakes along the way. The Ptarmigan Lake Trail is 6 miles total, out and back, and rated as moderately difficult. Sounds like a perfect day trip to me!
The trailhead is only 12 miles out of town, on County Road 306. On a beautiful sunny, almost 70 degree day, I decided to go out and see Ptarmigan Lake. BUT the trailhead, and the trail was still buried in several feet of snow! I never would have guessed there would still be so much snow on a trail so close to town, but it is just enough higher in elevation that the snow hasn’t melted yet. So my partner and I did play around in the snow for a while, until we were done post-holing and decided to head back into town.
But I was still determined to see Ptarmigan Lake, so we rented snowshoes from The Trailhead store on Main Street, Buena Vista. Then we set out for a second time, slightly more successful than the first.
My partner, who had never been snowshoeing before, learned firsthand that it is no walk in the park and actually is a lot of work! While snowshoes will help you move more efficiently in the snow, and prevent post-holing, you will usually move at a slower pace than your typical hiking pace. And snowshoeing gives your legs a harder and quite different workout than just hiking.
We did explore way further down the trail than our first attempt, without snow shoes, but did eventually make a judgment call to turn around before reaching the lake. The mountains nearby Buena Vista are known for having short, but sometimes serious, storms in the afternoons. Before we set off in the morning we always set a turnaround time, ensuring we would be off the trail before there was a risk of bad weather or before it gets dark. It’s important, and sometimes hard, to stick to your plan to turnaround, especially if you haven’t reached your end goal, the summit, or lake, in this case.
Snowshoeing through the woods near Ptarmigan Lake was definitely a worthwhile adventure and I can’t wait to explore more and actually see this lake one day!
After trudging around in the snow for so long, we decided we earned ourselves a beer from Eddyline Brewery in downtown Buena Vista. It’s always a treat to stop in for a unique, wood-fired pizza and a great seasonal brew.
Until next time,