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Blue Lakes Trail

Intermediate

Trail

7.6 mile 12.2 kilometer point to point
Intermediate

Elevation

Ascent: 3,624' 1,105 m
Descent: -1,396' -426 m
High: 12,960' 3,950 m
Low: 9,349' 2,849 m

Grade

Avg Grade: 13% (7°)
Max Grade: 41% (22°)

Dogs

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Trail shared by Tyler Prince

A switchbacking trail through gorgeous Sneffels Wilderness.

Tyler Prince

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 Trail (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.

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Family Friendly, ADA Accessible, Need to Know

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Check-Ins

Sep 7, 2019
Francisco Bernal
Sep 1, 2019
Stephen K
Round-trip of Blue Lakes TH to Mt. Sneffles summit (2+ side)
Aug 25, 2019
Ash D
7.6mi
Jul 4, 2019
Clancey Potter
Made it to the first lake, tried to make it to the second but couldn't follow the trail around a steep snowfield. Lower Blue Lake is still partiall… 6.6mi — 5h 30m
Jul 3, 2019
Tracey Ziniel
Nov 2, 2018
Jen Norvell
Beautiful trail in great condition. Trail to Upper Blue Lakes wasn't visible past the water crossing, so only went to Lower Blue Lake. 7.4mi — 4h 44m
Sep 26, 2018
Ryan Kempfer
Magical, Beautiful, mind blowing. This hike has it all and then some. very special above treeline. — 7h 00m
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.

Trail Ratings

  4.8 from 24 votes

#47

Overall
  4.8 from 24 votes
5 Star
79%
4 Star
21%
3 Star
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1 Star
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Trail Rankings

#11

in Colorado

#47

Overall
940 Views Last Month
18,624 Since Apr 9, 2015
Intermediate

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Photos

Middle Blue Lake at sunrise.
Apr 14, 2015 near Telluride, CO
Lower Blue Lake from the Blue Lakes Trail
Apr 14, 2015 near Telluride, CO
The view across Upper Blue Lake to the Dallas Peak area.
Jul 5, 2016 near Telluride, CO
Hikers a short distance below the upper trailhead.
Apr 13, 2015 near Telluride, CO
Mt Sneffels on a cold July day
Aug 30, 2018 near Telluride, CO
Moose guarding the trail.
Sep 4, 2019 near Telluride, CO

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