Scarred by a fire in 1978, the lonely summit of "Burntop" allows for a unique, if eerie, experience. Gray skeletons of Limber Pine and Bristlecone Pine stand in silent testimony to the devastation wrought by infrequent, hot, uncontrolled wildfires. (Learn more about the benefits of controlled, less destructive fires in The Ecology of Fire, by the U.S. Forest Service.) Throughout the burnsite, bright wildflowers abound and brave young pines push through the soil, rising from the ashes of their ancestors. From parking spot to summit, Burntop is a trail-free, crowd-free bushwack. This hike is no "walk in the woods", however as once the hiker leaves behind the meadow and aspen groves to ascend the steep west-southwest side of Burntop, the hiker is in for a relentless cardio-burn until the ridge is gained.
Puma Hills: The Puma Hills are low, wooded mountains between the geological feature known as South Park and Tarryall Creek. Puma Peak is in the north Puma Hills, which run north from Wilkerson Pass. The area provides habitat for mountain lions (aka puma), pronghorn antelope, black bears, bighorn sheep, mule deer, and elk. The nearby Tarryall Creek valley boasts a rich history including that etched by German immigrant farmers.
Colorado Rank: 1,740th highest mountain in Colorado
Colorado 11ers: 427nd highest 11er in Colorado
Prominance: 505 feet
On February 4, 2006, John Collard and Renata Stouracova (pictured with Dorothea Frohner and Phil Congdon, impromptu Maid of Honor and Best Man) led a CMC (Colorado Mountain Club) trip to the summit of "Burntop" where they exchanged wedding vows and signed their marriage license. Dorothea and Phil were the only two out of seven participants that knew them before the trip. The mountaintop ceremony was apparently quite the surprise to most of the stunned trip participants who had no previous warning of what they were about to witness!
In the summit register, John wrote “May our fire burn brighter than the one that scorched this summit.” Renata wrote, “Thank to all witnesses for make great wedding for us.” John and Renata contribute so much to the mountaineering community in Colorado. This lovely couple leads countless CMC summit outings and has built a following of loyal "groupies" who battle long wait-lists for a coveted slot on a "Collard Outing." Renata and John are spirited and successful highpointers, world travelers and experienced mountaineers full of alpine - and life - wisdom.
I regret I was not present to witness their summit vows, but it is my joy to share with you here on this page this unique piece of Colorado mountaineering history, where two of our own spoke their solemn promises before their peers, 11,085 feet above sea level in the Puma Hills. To this fantastic couple I say: May your love for eachother and your love of the Colorado high country be forever strong!
From Colorado Springs: Hwy 24 West to Lake George. Just past lake George, turn right (northwest) on Park County 77 (Tarryall Road). Use caution with the minefields of potholes. Between dusk and dawn, deer and elk are incredibly numerous - watch your speed! Just before the Tarryall Reservoir, turn left on Park County 23 (Turner Gulch Road). Follow Park County 23 1.6 miles and turn left onto FS 144. Take FS (Forest Service Road) 144 4.5 miles to the junction with FS 237. Bear left/east at this junction and continue until a parking area where the road makes a sharp right, crosses a stream (Pack Creek) and heads into deep woods. There is no sign for this trailhead. Parking is ample with respect to the small volume of fellow trail users.
From Denver: Take Hwy 285 to the town of Jefferson and turn left on Park County 77 to the Tarryall Reservoir. (Keep an eye out for free range cattle.) Just southeast of the reservoir turn right on Park County 23 (Turner Gulch Road). Follow Park County 23 1.6 miles and turn left onto FS 144. Take FS (Forest Service Road) 144 4.5 miles to the junction with FS 237. Bear left/east at this junction and continue until a parking area where the road makes a sharp right, crosses a stream (Pack Creek) and heads into deep woods. There is no sign for this trailhead. Parking is ample with respect to the small volume of fellow trail users.
For Park County 23 and FS 144, high clearance is a must but 4x4 is a nice-to-have unless the roads are wet. If the roads are wet, do not proceed without 4-wheel drive.
Standard Route Info.
Camping & Lodging
Plenty of camping can be found along Park County 77 and spur roads off of it.
Near Packer Gulch Trailhead
Plenty of rustic 4x4 camping can be found along FS 144 and spur roads off of it. Be advised that this camping will most likely be "dry camping"; bring plenty of water.
South end of Hwy 77
The south end of Hwy 77 (Tarryall Road), near Hwy 24, provides several established U.S. Forest Service camping areas. South Park Ranger District Lake George Area Campgrounds include: Riverside, Spillway, Happy Meadows, Round Mountain, Spruce Grove, and Twin Eagles. PLEASE CONTACT THE DISTRICT OFFICE AT (719) 836-2031 IF YOU HAVE ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS ABOUT THE CAMPGROUNDS ON THE SOUTH PARK RANGER DISTRICT.
North end of Hwy 77
The north end of Park County 77 and dirt spur roads are abound with off-road campsites. Several campsites off Rt 39 provide views of Mt. Silverheels, Buffalo Peaks and other 13ers and 12ers that will bring tears to your eyes. With these 4x4 campsites, remember to bring plenty of water, bury human waste and pack our what you packed in.
Cabins, Lodges and Hotels
Numerous cabins can be rented in and around Lake George. There are also a few cabins/lodges along the Tarryall Creek catering especially to the fly fishing visitor. For example: Ute River Ranch. There are a few hotels in Fairplay.
Red Tape, Restrictions, etc.
Bikes, horses and dogs, dirtbikes, quad-runners...it's all welcome on the logging road. Virtually no usage restrictions exist. Only on-foot travelers leave the old logging road and visit the summit. Follow LNT (Leave No Trace) principals and be courteous of other recreationalists. Note that while the people visiting this area are a little less "REI" and a little more "Hook 'n Bullet", the summits are primarily wild and trail-less and provide for amazing solitude.
Weather & Seasons“Burntop” is primarily accessible from late Spring through Fall. Winter access is limited when snow makes the Forest Service approach roads impassible. During shoulder season, it is recommended the hiking party place a call to the South Park Ranger District to inquiry about road conditions prior to setting out. Additionally, due to the off-trail nature of this hike and the ample dead-fall (especially in the burn area), snow-shoeing or skiing to the summit of “Burntop” would not be particularly pleasant.
External LinksPike & San Isabel National Forests
Pike National Forest Recreation Map