Hiking up Ptarmigan trail behind my house
After chopping wood or repairing the roof, I often hike or run up the trail behind the house. Ptarmigan trail starts at a trailhead that’s about a half-mile downhill from the house, but a small trail cuts behind the neighbor’s house to meet the main trail. That’s the main place for my daily run or walk (depending on energy level).
From the start, hikers gain over 3,000 feet altitude spread over 4.6 miles to reach the summit of Ptarmigan Peak (12,498 feet). Mary Ellen Gilliland described the trail in her book ‘The Summit Hiker’.
I go up as far as either the first creek crossing (about 30 – 40 minutes), the second creek crossing, or the bench (about 50 minutes). The bench sits where the trail opens up, emerging from the pine forest for a view of Lake Dillon, Mount Baldy and the Tenmile Range. Mountain bikers frequent this trail in summer, despite the very steep start, which has resulted in lots of loose rubble and tricky footing when running downhill. My neighbor Robin, who’s completed the Leadville Trail 100 (a 100-mile trail race), runs up and down this regularly (she even runs the steep parts, that I walk!)
In winter, enough hikers and snowshoers trample down the snow to the point that I can generally make it up as far as the bench and lookout point without snowshoes. Much of the trail goes through treed area, which prevents drifts, and much of it faces south, allowing the snow in the open portions to melt and pack down. I prefer running it in winter, as I take poles and the downhill is less treacherous with snow than in its summer rubbly condition.
I’ve seen a family baby Ptarmigan crossing the trail; peregrine falcon diving below the trail, marmots, pikas, and a neighbor warned me of a bobcat that had just crossed the trail (which I’m really glad didn’t see me).