Top-3 Hikes Up Cottonwood Pass

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Living in Buena Vista (Colo.), there are so many hikes within 15 minutes of driving. Some of my favorites and go-tos for an afternoon or morning outside are located off of Cottonwood Pass (between Buena Vista and Crested Butte).

Sadly, for locals, the road up Cottonwood Pass is closing for construction for the next year which cuts off access to some of my favorite trails. Thankfully though, it will remain open for sleds, xc skiers and backcountry access this winter.

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I have frantically been trying to get in all of my favorite hikes in over the past month before I have to move on to new locations this next season. So, while we have the next year to eagerly wait to get back on these trails, I figured I should tease with some photos and descriptions of some of the best hikes in the area!

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#1) Lost Lake

Located close to the top of the pass, Lost Lake is a gem. It’s a short hike (think 25 minutes in) and is great for visitors to the area, families, or when I want to be outside after work but don’t have a ton of time.

You can also hike out the Continental Divide Trail from the top of Cottonwood Pass and view the lake from above!

 

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#2) Ptarmigan Lake

Ptarmigan, named after the bird, is also a relatively easy hike. It’s about halfway up the pass and about 6 miles roundtrip. Plan on spending your entire morning or afternoon on this hike. Don't be fooled by the smaller lakes in the basin below, hike past and continue climbing to reach Ptarmigan Lake shortly after. Ptarmigan is my go to when I need to get energy out and feel like I’ve done something.

You can also summit Jones Mountain (13,866 feet) from this trail.

 

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#3) Hartenstein Lake

Hartenstein is located at the Denny Creek Trailhead, right where the pass typically closes for the winter. This is the same trailhead you can use to access the Southwest Slopes of Mt. Yale. It’s a fairly short hike, but straight uphill. It’s a fun, snowy early or late season hike.

There’s some pretty great backcountry skiing accessed from this trail. 

As much of a bummer as it is to miss out on some of these hikes this coming year, I’m stoked to branch out and discover new go-to areas! And, I’ll be even more excited to get back on the Pass and explore these old favorites when Cottonwood reopens!

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WORDS, WISDOM & PHOTOS FROM AMBASSADOR, ANNA TOLL.
@ACWONG
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