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Ptarmigan Pass
Eagle County, Colorado
White River National Forest
Holy Cross Ranger District
View this on the Colorado Trailheads Map

Forest Service Roads: 702, 751
Trail Type: Straight Through
Nearby Towns: Red Cliff
Nearby Trails: Shrine Pass, McAllister Gulch, Lime Creek, Benson Cabin
Trail Length: 13.6 miles
Elevation: 9,088 to 11,717 feet

Note that the half of the trail north of the overlook may have been closed.

Do this trail first in a big, clockwise loop with McAllister Gulch. It starts at Shrine Pass and ends at Camp Hale. This trail is more rocky and probably more challenging than McAllister Gulch, though McAllister Gulch is steeper. Ptarmigan Pass forms the north and east sides of the big loop.

Uphill traffic has the right of way in most cases, though you should treat each case individually. The steepest hill is at the south end of McAllister Gulch, so you want to do this one in the uphill direction. That means that you should run the loop in the clockwise direction.

This trail is known by a few different names. It starts as Wearyman Road following Wearyman Creek, and then it climbs up and over Ptarmigan Pass. At the end, it becomes Resolution Road as it follows Resolution Creek. You will most likely find forest service signs pointing to all of these things.

The first 9.7 miles of the trail are shared with the end of McAllister Gulch, and this means that you will often encounter traffic going both directions. Unfortunately, there are very few places where you can pass another vehicle or ATV. Make a mental note of these wide spots, often at stream crossings, where you can pass.

You can see signs and a wooden bridge from Shrine Pass, and this marks the trailhead for Ptarmigan Pass. You must do at least part of the Shrine Pass trail to get to the Ptarmigan Pass trailhead. Cross the wooden bridge and start the narrow trail. The brush will touch your vehicle in almost all cases, as the trail is fairly tight unless you are crossing the creek.

The trail is usually rocky as it follows the creek, and some sections can be difficult. When the rocks are wet it can be even more difficult. You will cross the stream numerous times, and there is one very important stream crossing. Watch for a crossing where there is a small dirt hill on the other side. Just after this crossing you come to a crossroads. Veer left to continue along Ptarmigan Pass. A sharp right turn would put you at the end of the McAllister Gulch trail.

After crossing the creek for the last time, the trail heads uphill. It works its way between patches of trees and open meadows, though the climb is almost always across the side of a steep hill. There are more places to pass vehicles, and turn offs are provided here and there.

The pass itself is marked with a fence. Note that you cannot drive any higher than the main trail, so you must not follow anything that looks like a trail if it goes up to the top of Ptarmigan Hill. The area at the pass has lots of room to park, and though it is often windy it would be a good place for a large group to have lunch.

If you can wait a bit for lunch, drive a little farther. Head down the hill briefly until you come to a "Y" intersection. Turn right here for an optional and short climb to an overlook. This overlook has fabulous views and trees to break the wind, along with lots of room for parking. You can continue to drive past the overlook, but there isn't much of a point. The main trail ends soon at a gate, or you can continue to the gate for the Fowler/Hilliard Hut, a 10th Mountain Hut. You need a permit in order to continue to the hut itself, however.

Return back to the main trail and continue downhill. The descent is steep but easy when it is dry. If it is muddy or snowy, however, it could be very slick. Continue straight at the intersection where a trail turns to dead end in a few miles.

You soon reach the seasonal gate that marks the end of the Ptarmigan Pass trail, just outside of Camp Hale. Continue briefly along the road to turn right at the trailhead for McAllister Gulch, if you are continuing the loop.

Information last updated on September 13th, 2010.

Member Reports

GPS Coordinates
(NAD83 Continental U.S. datum)

Gate at the End N39° 27.008' W106° 18.85' 9527 feet

Driving Directions

From Denver, take I-70 west to exit 190. Turn left off of the exit and follow signs to Shrine Pass. Follow the easy Shrine Pass trail for 8.3 miles until you see a sign for Wearyman Creek and the wooden bridge on the left side of the trail.

Meeting Places

Meet at the Starbucks next to the gas station at Downieville, exit 234 off of I-70.

Low-End Rating: 4
High-End Rating: 6
Rock Crawling:
Dirt & Mud:
Water Crossings:
Cliffs & Ledges:
Climbs & Descents:
Other Activities:
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Trail Photographs

Mountains First Water Crossing Fourth Water Crossing

Maps and Coordinates
(Click a map to view full size)

Trail in Red
700 x 900 pixels
345 KB
Shrine Pass in Red, Lime Creek in Teal, Benson Cabin in Yellow, Ptarmigan Pass in Purple, and McAllister Gulch in Blue
900 x 900 pixels
563 KB

Ptarmigan Pass (GPS Exchange File)
Ptarmigan Pass Track (Google Earth Track)
Ptarmigan Pass (Google Earth Placemark)
Ptarmigan Pass Trailhead (Google Earth Placemark)

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Trail information is only accurate on the date posted. Trails may have changed or closed since that date. Use this information for historical purposes only. Contact the Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management for up-to-date trail information.

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