Pets allowed
Not Allowed
Elevation Gain
?
Trail type
There-and-back
Distance
10.00 mi (16.09 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.

Located between Montrose and Telluride, the Blue Lakes are situated in a glacial basin and make for gorgeous hiking destinations in Colorado's Mount Sneffels Wilderness. This adventure is is suitable as a day hike or as a backpacking trip (with an optional hike up Mount Sneffels, a local 14er). Park at the Blue Lakes Trailhead and follow the Blue Lakes Trail toward the Lower Blue Lake.

The trail surface is primarily dirt with a few rocks, and it is a comfortable hike in running shoes or hiking boots. After an easy start the trail starts climbing up switchbacks with a steady incline for most of the hike to the lower lake. There is a river crossing after the trail enters Mount Sneffels Wilderness, after which the trail opens up with more views of the mountains around you. Plenty of wildflowers cover the fields during the summer. 

As you reach the lower lake at around 10,900 feet you'll see a number of designated campsites (remember that campfires are not allowed in the wilderness). From the lower lake, cross the river on a log bridge and head up the trail as it turns from dirt to scree. The route wanders away from the river for a bit to gain an angle on the slope separating the lower and middle lakes. After you turn back to the southeast you'll make another shallow river crossing to continue up the trail to the middle lake on the left. While both of these crossings are fairly mild late in the season, higher flows may make progress to the upper lake very difficult along the established trail.

At this point you'll be at the outlet for Middle Blue Lake, roughly 11,500 feet. There is one campsite at the start of the lake. In many ways, the view from Middle Blue Lake is the best of the three; you'll have stunning perspectives of the Dallas Peak ridge in addition to a vantage of Lower Blue Lake. With wildflowers in bloom, this is a very special view of the Mount Sneffels Wilderness.

Once you've soaked in the views or established a camp, continue along the trail over the ridge to Upper Blue Lake, where you'll find several more campsites around this lake. As you stand on the shores of this lake and peer at the high ridge that wraps 270-degrees around you, the size and grace of the cirque that creates this chain of alpine lakes sinks in.

You can hike deeper into the Mount Sneffels Wilderness on the the Blue Lake Trail if you care to tackle the grueling switchbacks beyond Upper Blue Lake that lead over the ridge, but keep in mind this area is also accessible via NF-853 outside of Ouray as well.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Spring
Summer
Fall

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

Not Required

Pros

Spectacular mountain views. Alpine lakes.

Cons

Camping at Lower Blue Lake can be crowded. Windy at higher elevations.

Trailhead Elevation

9,292.00 ft (2,832.20 m)

Net Elevation Gain

2,427.00 ft (739.75 m)

Features

Backcountry camping
Big vistas
Wildflowers
Fishing

Location

Field Guide

Comments

02/05/2016
Spectacular hike, with amazing views. Hiked this over Labor Day weekend a few years ago, great weather and almost no other hikers on the trail. One of our favorites.
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