Adventure Projects is hiring a web engineer to join us in Boulder, CO
Hiking Project Logo

Blue Lakes Trail

 4.8 (17)

Length


7.6 Miles 12.2 Kilometers


3,624' 1,105 m

Ascent

-1,396' -426 m

Descent

13%

Avg Grade (7°)

41%

Max Grade (22°)

12,960' 3,950 m

High

9,349' 2,849 m

Low

Shared By Tyler Prince

Conditions


All Clear 40 days ago
Dry History

Getting forecast...

A switchbacking trail through gorgeous Sneffels Wilderness.

Tyler Prince

Dogs Leashed

Features Fall Colors · Lake · River/Creek · Swimming · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Both trailheads are usually closed several miles down the road during the winter.

Description

Blue Lakes Trail makes for a gorgeous hike by turquoise alpine lakes and the jagged peaks of Yankee Boy Basin. It can be done as an out-and-back from either the Mt. Sneffels trailhead (outside of Ouray; see link) or by the more popular Dallas Creek Trailhead (the direction described here).

From Ridgway (a small town north of Ouray) take CO 62 west (the only way). Drive around some steep bends before coming to a sign marked "National Forest access East Dallas Creek" with an arrow pointing south (to the left). Take this turn and continue on a 2WD dirt road. There are some turnoffs onto private property here and there, but just stay on the main road for about 9 miles. There's a clearing with camping options and a parking area about 0.2 miles further. Your starting elevation is 9,500 ft.

From the trailhead, take a right at the fork and hike through the trees on moderate grades but excellent trail. In a little under 3 miles, pass by a waterfall to your left. It's just a short distance from here to the lower lake. Dallas Peak rises majestically from a scree field above the lake, with Mt. Sneffels above it to the east. Fast hikers can make it to this point in a little over an hour. A short trail spur to the right leads to the lower lake.

From the junction with this spur at around 11,000 ft, it's about one more mile to the upper lake, located at 11,800 ft. Continue on similar trail, crossing Dallas Creek by a large log before hiking up a short but steep headwall to reach the upper lake. Ambitious hikers may continue to Blue Lakes Pass, up some steep switchbacks all the way to 13,000 ft.

To your left is 14er Mt. Sneffels' class 3 southwest ridge, to which Blue Lakes Trail provides an alternate approach. While the standard Yankee Boy Basin approach boasts beautiful alpine scenery, Blue Lakes Trail is longer, and many would argue more picturesque due to its unique turquoise lakes. Hikeers may summit via the southwest ridge and come back down via Mt. Sneffels Trail before catching up with the lower portion of Blue Lakes Trail, which passes through Yankee Boy Basin.

For those who don't wish to summit Mt. Sneffels, turn around at Blue Lakes Pass for 11+ miles RT, or continue down rocky trails and onto 4WD road in Yankee Boy Basin for the full trail (15 miles; 5,000+ ft gain). East of the pass, this trail isn't very exciting - if you have time and energy to spare, hike Mt. Sneffels, not the end of Blue Lakes.

Flora & Fauna

This is a stunning hike, often done as a day trip without any of its offshoot peaks. Many consider it the Four Pass Loop of the San Juan Range. As such, expect colorful wildflowers in every basin.

Marmots, pika, and even the occasional mountain goat or sheep should be around.

Contacts

You & This Trail


Rate Quality


   Clear Rating

Rate Difficulty

Share This Trail

Your Check-Ins

Check-Ins

Aug 11, 2018
Deb Dudley
Beautiful lake! Lots of people, but it was a spectacular day! Just went to the first lake and had lunch.
Aug 7, 2018
Brian Wanless
Had an absolute blast. Stunning views at the top. Made it to third lake. 10.2mi — 6h 00m
Aug 5, 2018
Jen Kearns
Jul 27, 2018
Kelly Phillips
Jul 6, 2018
Brian Davis
Hiked from Yankee Boy Basin up to the summit of the pass via the trail (instead of the road) 4mi — 5h 00m
Jul 3, 2018
John Storheim
Storheim Family x5
Jul 2, 2018
Rebekah S
6mi
Jun 18, 2018
Bret
Hiked to upper and overnighted near lower lakeshore. Spectacular! The campsites on climbers left, across the outflow stream were entirely unoccupied.

Trail Ratings

  4.8 from 17 votes

#32

Overall
  4.8 from 17 votes
5 Star
76%
4 Star
24%
3 Star
0%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%
Rankings

#9

in Colorado

#32

Overall
1,221 Views Last Month
11,708 Since Apr 9, 2015
Intermediate Intermediate

0%
0%
81%
19%
0%
0%
Hiked to the Blue Lakes Pass from Yankee Boy Basin. Parked our 4Runner between the two parking areas and hiked from there along a trail (instead of the busy 4WD road) which meandered along the lake. Fantastic views along the way and at the summit of the pass. The trail near the pass itself (on the east side) was really slippery due to loose eroded soil. Was able to hike it with my 5 year old daughter but she required a bit of help to keep from slipping near the top. Probably the most amazing view I've had in a hike in Colorado! Jul 6, 2018

Hiking Project is part of the REI Co-op family,
where a life outdoors is a life well lived.

Shop REI Hiking