Pets allowed
Allowed
Elevation Gain
2,400.00 ft (731.52 m)
Trail type
There-and-back
Distance
7.60 mi (12.23 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

The Blue Lakes Trail is one of the premier hikes in the northern San Juans. This hike has everything! It is convenient to the town of Ridgway, the drive in is beautiful, the scenery is spectacular, and the trail is challenging yet not too difficult for hikers of moderate ability.

The trail starts climbing from Dallas Creek right away and continues with alternating stretches of fairly steep climbs and flat recovery sections.  There are a few areas of switchbacks, but for the most part the trail just follows the west side of the Dallas Creek drainage until it reaches the lake. In June and July the wildflowers put on an amazing display all along the trail. Just before Lower Blue Lake, the trail forks to the left up past Middle and Upper Blue Lakes and on to Blue Lake Pass, 2.2 miles (and 1,800 feet of elevation gain) beyond. The trail to the upper basin crosses the creek at one point, and early in the season this may prove impassable.

Lower Blue Lake is a lovely place to relax, and backcountry camping is allowed here. The backdrop of the Dallas Divide peaks and the steep cirque sloping down to the lake is spectacular. More wildflowers are likely to be seen in the basin all around the lake.

Note: it is also a great hike to reach these lakes coming from Yankee Boy Basin on the other side of Blue Lake Pass, but reaching the trailhead requires an 8-mile drive on a very challenging 4WD road--a great adventure in itself!

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Summer
Fall

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

Not Required

Pros

Spectacular scenery. Steady climb.

Cons

Trail is steep in spots. Creek crossings can be challenging early in the season.

Trailhead Elevation

9,324.00 ft (2,841.96 m)

Net Elevation Gain

1,842.00 ft (561.44 m)

Features

Backcountry camping
Big vistas
Fishing

Typically multi-day

No

Location

Field Guide

Comments

09/01/2017
Spectacular hike over Labor Day weekend. A few tips. First of all, bring bear spray. I saw a black bear just off the trail about half way to Lower Blue Lake. Although black bears rarely engage with hikers, it's better to be safe the sorry. Second, if you're planning on hiking on to Middle and Upper Blue Lakes, then bring a trail map/compass/GPS. Once you get to Lower Blue Lake, the trail to the upper lakes branches to the left, but the path is unclear and seems to branch in several directions.
02/05/2016
This hike has some of the most spectacular scenery, and that's hard to beat when you're in CO. We did this hike a few years ago, over Labor Day weekend. Got there fairly early, and saw almost no other hikers until we were almost back to the trailhead. You can get to the lake from Yankee Boy Basin, and I believe the hike is shorter from that direction, but we thought this longer route was well worth it. ( We continued on to Upper Blue Lake from here, before turning around.)
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