Blue Lakes Trail
ElevationAscent: 3,624' 1,105 m
Descent: -1,396' -426 m
High: 12,960' 3,950 m
Low: 9,349' 2,849 m
GradeAvg Grade: 13% (7°)
Max Grade: 41% (22°)
Current trail conditions
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“A switchbacking trail through gorgeous Sneffels Wilderness.”— Tyler Prince
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.
Marmots, pika, and even the occasional mountain goat or sheep should be around.
Land Manager: USFS - San Juan National Forest Office