One of the best ways to enjoy the Arkansas Valley is hiking along the endless amount of trails throughout the Sawatch Range of the Rocky Mountains. It’s easy just to look at a topographic map and get an idea of where you want to explore, but we figured a few pictures of certain trails might help make that decision a bit easier. The following are some fantastic well-loved trails, including the maps you’ll need, near the Buena Vista, Colorado area.
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The Ptarmigan Lake Trailhead begins at an elevation around 10,675 ft. and winds its way up to your destination of 12,147 ft. The beautiful trail is about 6 miles round trip in length where you travel through alpine forests, across scree fields (which are large rock fields), over mountain streams, through fields of magnificent wildflowers (during the right time of year), and pass by smaller alpine lakes before reaching Ptarmigan Lake. It is very well worth your time and you’ll probably find, like the rest of us, this hike becomes a favorite. For more detailed trail information you’ll want the National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map #129: Buena Vista, Collegiate Peaks.
You access Hartenstein Lake via the Denny Creek Trailhead, which is also the main trailhead for climbing Mt. Yale, at an elevation of about 9,925 ft. After zig zagging back and forth up the first part of the trail you begin to hike along the Denny Creek, which depending on what time of year you are hiking beware the creek is much higher during Spring snow run-off. The trail has several creek crossings, some have log crossings, so remember this when choosing what time of year you’ll be hiking. And, like many folks do, bring your trekking poles, wear sturdy hiking boots, a wicking pair of wool socks, and a pair of leg gaiters and you’ll have no problem. The Hartenstein Trail is also about 6 miles round trip and if you really want to be adventurous pack in your overnight gear and camp in an incredible nearby backcountry destination. Just don’t forget those Leave No Trace ethics so others after you can enjoy the area the same or better! For more detailed trail information you’ll want the National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map #129: Buena Vista, Collegiate Peaks.
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Denny Creek Trailhead
Getting There: From HWY 24 in Buena Vista take CR 306 (Cottonwood Pass) West for about 12 miles. The trailhead parking area will be on the North side of the road, complete with a National Forest Service (NFS) out-house. The trail is on the North side of the parking lot, east of the out-house, and has sort of a steep start leading you to the NFS info board and then eventually up to the registration box.
Trail Options: The Browns Pass Trail leads you to Mt. Yale, Hartenstein Lake, over Brown Pass where you can meet up with the Texas Creek Trail, Kroenke Lake Trail toward Mt. Harvard and Columbia. Use National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map #129 : Buena Vista, Collegiate Peaks, Colorado, USA for trip planning in this area.
Trail Description: The trail begins as National Forest and then turns quickly into the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness, see the Wilderness Guidelines Below for detailed regulations. You do not need 4WD. A high alpine forest environment full of Aspen and Evergreen trees, alpine tundra, wildflowers prevalent usually during mid-late summer, mountain stream crossings, wildlife, and sometimes snow depending on the time of year. The trails to both Mt. Yale and Hartenstein Lake are well maintained and highly traveled.
North Cottonwood Trailhead
Getting There: From HWY 24 in Buena Vista, drive West on CR 350 (Crossman Ave.-right across from our shop), for about 2 miles where it intersects CR 361, turn North by taking a right on to CR 361 and drive between .5 and .75 of a mile and look for CR 365 to the West, it’s a sharp southwest turn and then heads due West for approximately 5 miles to the trailhead parking area. I highly recommend 4WD vehicles, mostly for the high clearance, although I have seen compact cars at the trailhead-try at your own risk.
Trail Options: The North Cottonwood Trailhead leads you to the Horn Fork Trail, split off to your right (North) where you’ll access Mt. Harvard, Mt. Columbia, Bear Lake, and Anglemeyer Lake. If you stay on the more straight Westerly trail you’ll merge onto the Kroenke Lake TrailTexas Creek Trail taking you to Kroenke Lake and further to Browns Pass where you again, can split off north toward the taking you to several continued trail options and lakes, or split down south on the Browns Pass Trail toward Hartenstein, Mt. Yale, and the Denny Creek Trailhead. Use National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map #129 : Buena Vista, Collegiate Peaks, Colorado, USA for trip planning in this area.
Trail Description: Another popular hiking area, thus a very well maintained trail. It begins as National Forest and then turns quickly into the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness, see the Wilderness Guidelines Below for detailed regulations. A high alpine forest environment full of Aspen and Evergreen trees, alpine tundra, stream crossings, wildlife, and snow depending on the time of year. The Horn Fork Trail is steep and rocky as you head toward the fourteen thousand foot peaks of Harvard and Columbia. The Kroenke Lake Trail is more gradual and because it continues at a lower elevation than the Horn Fork Trail you reside longer in the alpine forest environment.
More Trails and Wilderness Specific Information Coming Soon! Check Back!