Thursday, July 7, 2011

Ptarmigan Peak Trail Run

After running aimlessly for 15 miles through the woods on Sunday, I made my way over to the Ptarmigan Peak trail on Monday morning for an early run.  Since most of the trail is west facing, I figured I'd have better success at avoiding the snow.  Thankfully, I was right.  I ran this for the first time last year and loved it.  Twelve miles round-trip with views that rival any outside of SW Colorado.  I was quite tired from some big mileage (for me) the previous week, so I just cruised without worrying whether I was running or hiking.

Started at 5:00 a.m. and took this shot about 40 minutes into the run.

The sun lighting up the Gore Range mountains.  It was chilly and I was wishing some of that sun would light me up.  You get a better view of the snow on Buffalo Mtn that I thought I could run through the day before.

I don't take enough pictures of dead and rotting trees.

Came upon some elk all spread out over the tundra.  (click pics to enlarge)

They take notice that I'm coming.

Looking back towards the lake and the Tenmile Range.

And...they all gather to prepare for a mass exit.  Sure makes me feel powerful that 40 huge elk would flee from my presence when they could easily trample me into a pancake if they wanted.

On the summit, looking northwest-ish.  The Ute Peak trail runs along that entire ridge for miles.    My elk friends are trying to descend that snowfield.  Not a good idea, so they turned around.
Looking east at Grays and Torreys.  The Ptarmigan Pass trail follows this ridge.  

Descending on some sweet, wildflower-lined singletrack.

Flat and fast, but only for a mile or so.

These claw marks were on just about every aspen tree along the trail.  I figured they could only be from a bear.  Today, I learned about them here.

Came across this big guy just over a mile away from the trailhead.

I enjoyed this run so much that I'm itching to go back and run from the Ptarmigan Peak TH all the way to Ute Peak and back (about 26 miles).  


  1. Very cool run, that's a lot of elk! Nice moose shot, too. I'm backpacking up in the Gores in a little over a week from now - I was scoping your pics to get some idea of the snow line. Still a TON up there it looks like.

  2. Yeah, I thought that was a moose second from the bottom! That's really cool, because they're not nearly as common around here. I was totally psyched to see a mother/calf last summer in the Indian Peaks. Made my day for sure. They were HUGE.

    Again, really glad you're posting about these trails. That singletrack on top is awwwwesome. And the views!

  3. MOOSE! Awesome! We need to get together soon!

  4. I saw one moose last summer running in the Indian Peaks, but this sighting totally caught me off guard. I still need to check-off a bear, mountain lion, rattlesnake, and lynx from my list of wildlife encounters on the trail, although I'm in no rush to see those creatures.

    Good luck backpacking up there Chris! It seems the 11K foot mark was where I had the most trouble, but at this point it really depends on what direction the trails are facing.

    PG - let's do it! I'll be up at Silver Rush. I signed up last week since I wanted a guaranteed final long run up high. Looking forward to running with you up there.

  5. Check off? Check off mountain lion? How about a zoo trip for that?!

  6. Haha! Well, now that you put it THAT way, it does sound silly. I do want to see a bear, just not the grizzly kind.

  7. I'm more worried about being checked off BY the mountain lion.

  8. I ran that peak like 6 or so years ago and loved it. You're going to have to keep me posted on the possible Ute Peak run.