Turner Peak is an easy Class 2 summit off the Cottonwood Pass road west of Buena Vista. The trailhead is nothing more than a switchback on the highway at 11,200 feet while approaching the summit of the pass from the east. Since the road is paved, it's accessible to all passenger vehicles. Camping spots are a little difficult to come by on summer weekends so plan accordingly. This peak makes a good family climb with relatively short mileage and elevation gain.
Note: In the cover photo provided here and where we specify Turner Peak, that hump is actually a secondary summit point (12,940 ft.) NNE of the true summit which is out of view in this photo.
Turner Peak SW Ridge Route
Short Day // A Wee Little Climb
RT From Turner Peak TH:
2.6 mi /
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. Continue west on CR306 for another 1.9 miles, counting switchbacks now, and park on either side of the road at the sixth switchback. Elevation here is 11,200 ft. See coordinates provided.
Additional Notes: The Denny Creek parking area, which serves as a primary access for Mt. Yale, is 1.1 mile past the Collegiate Peaks 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.
Collegiate Peaks CG ›
N 38° 48' 44.26", W 106° 18' 59.73"
Elevation 9,775 ft.
Click thumbnail to view full-size photo + caption
Year Climbed: 2004
From the north side of the highway switchback, hike west into the trees and you should soon locate an old jeep road that roughly parallels the highway NW. Follow this old road to an open meadow that has signs of being used as a hunters campsite. From the meadow, turn north to gain the SW ridge of Turner. The first few hundred feet of gain will be through open forest with some broken rocks & outcrops. Once out of the forest and the rocks, the way will open up to the broad SW ridge of Turner Peak. Follow this ridge NE all the way to the summit. From the last trees, you should have a good view of most of the route to the summit. The next 800 feet of gain will be on grassy tundra followed by the final 400 feet on broken rock/rubble. This ridge is rather exposed to higher winds so be prepared with some extra clothing for protection. The final 400 feet of gain will be slower because of the rock, but it's not difficult.
From the summit, enjoy views of Cottonwood Pass, Yale, Harvard, Columbia, Ice Mountain and other surrounding peaks. Return as you came back down the SW ridge, or read on: The day we climbed this, it had snowed a couple inches the night before as a front had blown through leaving high winds in its wake. So when we descended, we went a couple hundred feet down on the SE face to a flat-bowl area filled with large boulders just to get out of the wind. Then, we traversed back to the SW across more large boulders to get back to the main SW ridge to follow back down. All this boulder-hopping did not get us down any faster by any means, but it did get us out of the wind for a while. All total, we were able to complete this hike in under three hours.
Links to other information, routes & trip reports for this peak that may be helpful.
Mountain Handbook ›
(Requires free registration & login to view)
"Always drink upstream from the herd." "Old Farmers Advice"