LoJ: #478 (Pre-LiDAR #467) / 13,214' Jones Mountain

Range › Sawatch Range
Quadrangle › Tincup
Summit Location › Peak Route Icon N 38° 46' 23.86", W 106° 23' 38.44" (Not Field Checked)

Peak Summary

Jones Mountain is a mostly trail access, Class 2 easy summit that takes hikers by the attractive Ptarmigan Lake in the Sawatch Range up the Cottonwood Pass Road. The Ptarmigan Lake trailhead is accessible to passenger cars on pavement. This is a good family hike for Front Range residents that provides a taste of classic Sawatch scenery. Lidar reduced elevation by 4 feet.

Jones Mountain North Ridge Route

Class 2
Medium Day // Take a Lunch
RT From Ptarmigan Lake - Cottonwood Pass: 8.5mi / 2,955'
  • Trailhead
    • Ptarmigan Lake - Cottonwood Pass TH

      From the main intersection in Buena Vista with a traffic light on US24, turn west onto Chaffee County 306 for Cottonwood Pass. Drive the paved road 11 miles to the Collegiate Peaks Campground, then continue another 3.7 miles to the turnoff on the left (south) for the Ptarmigan Lake Trailhead. A short road leads into the trees to a paved parking lot able to handle a dozen vehicles. There's a vault toilet here. See coordinates below. The turn is easy to miss. The trail begins on the south side of the lot. It drops down to cross Middle Cottonwood Creek on a bridge.

      The Denny Creek parking area, which serves as a primary access for Mt. Yale, is 1.1 mile past the campground. When continuing past that parking area, note that if using the 1982 Mt. Yale quad, the highway no longer makes the double switchback as shown on the map just west of Denny Creek. Also, do not confuse Denny Gulch with Denny Creek. The Gulch is located just across from the campground.

      At between 13.9 and 14.0 miles west of Buena Vista on CR 306, there's a road that turns off to the south (left). Coordinates are: N 38° 48' 31.23 W 106° 21' 55.04". This is CR 346. A short drive down this road brings one to a locked gate, but this road continues and can be hiked as an alternate to the Ptarmigan Lake Trail. This road will eventually intersect that trail as shown on some maps. We mention this road because we have been able to car-camp on this road at the locked gate. If all other camp spots including the Collegiate Peaks CG are full, this may be a convenient and unused spot to camp for hiking Turner Peak or Jones Mountain.


      The Nearest Forest Service campground is the Collegiate Peaks CG, located at 11 miles west of Buena Vista. This Fee facility has water and vault toilets. Latest cost is $20.00 and reservations are accepted. Reserved weekend sites must be reserved for both Friday & Saturday evenings, but walk-ins are not restricted to this requirement. There are 56 sites here. No hook-ups for trailers, RV's etc. This campground is usually full on summer weekends. Plan accordingly. See this link for more information: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/psicc/recarea/?recid=12648. There are other at-large sites along the Cottonwood Pass road, but be aware of private property issues. Technically, the Denny Creek and Ptarmigan Lake trailheads do not allow "overnight" camping. See instructions above for another spot to car-camp.

      Near the "Holywater" Beaver Ponds, there's a couple of pull-outs on either side of the highway. We are not sure what the intended use of these are. They are paved and can accommodate a number of vehicles - perhaps intended for overflow parking or access to the ponds. They we not posted restricting overnight camping when we investigated, but being right on the side of the highway, we opted to not attempt to use them.

      Campsite Locations

      Collegiate Peaks CG › N 38° 48' 44.26", W 106° 18' 59.73"
      Elevation 9,775 ft.
    Peak Icon Route Map Photos

    Route Info Jones Mountain North Ridge

    Route Description

    Year Climbed: 2011

    According to the USGS map, the name "Jones Mountain" applies to not only the 13er summit, (13,218) but also applies to the ranked 12er at the north end of the summit ridge (12,995). Hence, our route description includes hiking to the 12er summit as well as the 13er summit.

    The trail for Ptarmigan Lake crosses Middle Cottonwood Creek on a bridge and then heads ESE for about a half mile, climbing up through forest before it swings south, staying well above Ptarmigan Creek on its west bank. About a mile and a half up, at perhaps 11,280 feet elevation, the trail comes to a fairly open area not far from the creek and the other CR346 that is blocked by locked gate down at Middle Cottonwood Creek joins in. There’s a bunch of cut logs there and some good camping for those who may want to backpack into this area.

    Continue on up the well-defined trail for another 1.5 miles until just before a small tarn marked on the USGS map at just below 11,800 ft. This is on the edge of the forest and there is a good view of North Jones Mountain (12,995) to the west. It made some sense to us to climb such a high 12er. After all – some day it could be re-measured and found to be a very low 13er, so we deiced to include it in our day hike. So we turned west off the trail and began ascending through open forest and up a steep grassy slope to a bench area at 12,100 feet on the east flank of the North Jones. The bench has open grassy areas and clumps of low evergreens. It also affords an outstanding view of Mt. Yale, towering far to the north. From this bench, ascend directly up the east face of the peak on mostly tundra, embedded rocks and small rubble to the summit. It took us only 26 minutes to gain that last 900 feet – a remarkable pace for a couple of aging peakbaggers.

    From North Jones head south along the broad, open, tundra-covered ridge toward Jones. The mile and a half descent and then climb back up took us about an hour. Most of the ridge is tundra covered with some rubble on the steeper gain toward the Jones Mtn. summit. Abundant, earlier-season buttercups and blue flowers may accompany your stroll. There are also some nice clumps of Old-Man-On-the-Mountain to pause and photograph. The summit 13,218 summit of Jones Mountain is a large, broad summit area of tundra and chiprock scree. Pause for a lengthy break and some lunch and an opportunity to survey the surrounding countryside.

    After your break, you can descend to the saddle east of Jones and above and south of Ptarmigan Lake. From a vantage point above the lake, you may see numerous day-hikers arriving at the lake. For us, it was a little early in the season for abundant wildflowers, but the grassy, tundra-covered slopes would soon bear quite a display. Having carefully studied the distant Gladstone Ridge from the summit of Jones, we had decided to leave that summit for another day. Weather had some bearing on our decision. It certainly did not appear that this would be a climb-forever type of day, it having already become fairly cloudy and threatening on the summit of Jones. Continuing to Gladstone Ridge will add 2.7 miles one-way or 5.4 miles round-trip.

    As you approach the saddle east of Jones, and south of Ptarmigan Lake, pick up the Ptarmigan trail and hike down to the reflective lake, with patches of snow and clusters of yellow and blue flowers. Time to break out the cameras again. Beyond the lake, there is another very shallow, reflective tarn among the trees where you may be tempted to pause for photos again. From there, follow the trail back down to the trailhead. The entire circuit took us a leisurely 7 hours.

    Additional BETA

    Links to other information, routes & trip reports for this peak that may be helpful.
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