Hiking Info

Brown's Creek Trail

Brown's Creek Trail

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.

Please don’t hesitate to call us to gather more information about the surrounding area, what to wear or carry with you, or for current conditions. Are you new to backcountry hiking? Consider renting a pair of trekking poles, gaiters, or backpack first. Check out our pocketbook friendly rental prices on our website.

If  you’re thinking about investing in a durable & comfortable pair of boots, a pair of trekking poles to improve your hiking posture, or even wondering where to get a replacement set of boot laces, check out our website and come visit us in person. We love sharing places to explore and things to be mindful of when you’re out there. That’s what we’re here for, that’s what we love to do! The Trailhead 719.395.8001

Photo of Ptarmigan Lake

Photo of Ptarmigan Lake

Ptarmigan Lake:

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.

Hartenstein Lake
Hartenstein Lake

Hartenstein Lake:

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.

Remember, we are a full-service gear/rental shop for most all of your outdoor hiking, camping, backpacking needs including stoves, packs, performance clothing, footwear, socks, tents, sleeping bags, pads, dehydrated foods, energy bars, hydration containers, dog gear, and lots lots more! Get on the trail and enjoy!

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!

2 Responses

  1. If you can walk you can snowshoe. It’s as simple as that. So if you yearn to get outside for some quiet, aerobic winter adventure but you are apprehensive about Nordic skiing – try snowshoeing!

    Snowshoeing has undergone a renaissance over the past few years. One reason is the revolution is snowshoe design. Gone are the days of ash-framed, cat-gutted shoes that looked like a giant tennis racket. Modern snowshoes are smaller because they reflect updated designs and technology for improved performance, and that means better efficiency and more fun!

    A clarification – snowshoes do not let you walk on top of the snow. They let you break an almost continuous trail through deep snow and provide great traction in deep snow or on a packed trail. Rather than post-holing through the deep snow, which requires lifting your legs very high and the snow to collapse over (and perhaps into) your boots, you should shuffle along with graceful, fluid movements. Maneuvering in modern snowshoes is much easier because modern snowshoes are smaller than their predecessors.

    Many modern snowshoes feature easy-to-use, hydrophobic (non-water absorbing), freeze-proof bindings for a secure fit. Some feature “fixed rotation” toe chords that lift the snowshoe with your foot. This makes backing up, stepping over logs, and moving through underbrush easier.

    Designers have developed several types of modern snowshoes. All have features and benefits and unique advantages. Some, like racing shoes, are very specialized. But that doesn’t mean you need a quiver of snowshoes. There will be one snowshoe that best answers your needs. After all, one of the advantages of snowshoeing is to get you onto winter trails without a huge investment.

    Snowshoeing is basically hiking on snow, so just as with hiking we highly recommend trekking poles when snowshoeing. These help you maintain balance, offer a way to assist fellow snowshoers, and answer an unbelievable list of utilitarian needs.

    Any waterproof-breathable footwear will do, as long as it provides adequate support, protection, and structure. Good waterproof-breathable hiking boots work well. Waterproof-breathable trail runners or fast hiking shoes are superb for high-output aerobic and fitness snowshoeing or snowshoe racing.

    Dressing for snowshoeing is like dressing for any other outdoor activity. Dress in layers, dress for the weather (pack for expected weather changes), and dress for your activity level – a leisurely hike or a high-output snowshoe run.

    Where to go? Add snow to any hiking trail and you’ve got a snowshoe trail. Try a park or the rough and wooded areas of a golf course. Closed forest service roads and fire roads are usually accessible to passenger vehicles and offer gentle grades. Roads groomed by and for snowmobiles afford less-challenging snow levels. There’s no shortage of paces to snowshoe around Buena Vista!

    Snowshoe etiquette follows hiking etiquette with one notable addition – stay clear of and do not walk in or on Nordic ski tracks, be they groomed or user created. Doing so pocks the Nordic tracks, makes the skiing unnecessarily difficult, and does nothing for good relationships.

    The Trailhead and Trailhead Cycle & Ski host monthly moonlight ski and snowshoe tours during winter months. Take some Crescent Moon or Mountain Safety Research (MSR) snowshoes (or Fischer Nordic skis) out for a moonlight test drive with a group, or rent some on your own.

    On a more utilitarian note, snowshoes are handy to keep in your vehicle’s winter emergency kit. Snowmobilers should pack a pair on their snow machine or in their backpack. Backcountry hunters find snowshoes extremely useful, especially during elk hunting season.

    The Buena Vista are and Collegiate Peaks region offer many wonderful and varied snowshoeing trails. Snowshoeing is one of the great things about a winter vacation – or a life – in Buena Vista!

  2. Your blog is very professional, great work, Thank You

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