Ptarmigan Lake (12,154′ in elevation), which is a beautiful 6.4 mile hike (round trip), is named for the ptarmigan birds which live in the area year-round. The lake is just over the timberline and the trail starts at Cottonwood Pass and climbs through dense pine forests before breaking out into flowery meadows dotted by small ponds. The lake is surrounded by high mountains: Jones Mountain (12,995′), Gladstone Ridge (12,661′), Turner Peak (13,283′), and Mount Yale (14,196′).
I may have seen a ptarmigan in the distance and, if it was one, it made a LOT of noise. There was another bird nearby so it may have been a distraction.
I started the hike about 7:30am and was lucky to have the trail and lake almost completely to myself – at least until I started hiking back to my truck. It climbs steadily but it’s not as strenuous as the Denny Creek trail. The wildflowers were in bloom and the views were fantastic.