WHERE: Puma Peak is the highest summit in a chain of wooded hills that runs north from Wilkerson Pass. TO GET THERE: Drive U.S. Highway 24 west through Lake George.
Turn right on Tarryall Road (County Road 77) and drive about 22 miles to Tarryall Reservoir. Turn left just before the reservoir onto Turner Gulch Road (County Road 23). Drive 1.5 miles and turn left onto Forest Road 144. This is a single-lane, unimproved road. Although it is smooth, it may require reasonably high clearance for a few dips. Drive four miles to a pull-off where the road turns sharply right and enters a pine forest. Park and begin the hike. TRIP LOG: Three boots, 6.5 miles, 1,870-foot elevation gain, some route finding. THE HIKE: The way to Puma Peak follows an old logging road up 11 switchbacks to a saddle, then saunters along a trailless ridge to the treed summit. The best way to scale the peak may be to mountain bike the logging road, then walk the last bit to the summit. We walked the whole thing and dreamed of coasting on the way down. Start by following Forest Road 144’s switchbacks as it gradually climbs three miles up to a saddle at 10,900 feet. While you climb, notice the ghostly silver stumps haunting each side of the forest. At one time, the area must have been heavily logged. At the saddle, turn right and follow a ridge west, southwest for less than a half a mile to the summit. The summit is a rocky pile ringed with scraggly trees. Puma Peak is the highest point in the Puma Hills, but its views of the Tarryall Mountains and South Park come only in small glimpses framed by a forest of limber pines. Still, these narrow views are long and rarely seen, and are well worth a trip into this often overlooked area. DETAILS: Bikes, horses and dogs welcome. INFORMATION: Pike National Forest, 636-1602 RATING SYSTEM: A scale of one to four boots. One is most gentle, with little elevation gain at a reasonable altitude. Four is most difficult, with severe elevation gain, difficult terrain or extreme length or altitude.