Hiking Project Logo

blue Blue Lakes Trail

Navigate on-trail with our free app

iOS App Store Android App Store


7.6 mile 12.2 kilometer point to point


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


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


Driving directions Take a virtual tour
Zoom in to see details
Map Key

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.


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.


Rate This Trail

Rate Quality

   Clear Rating

Rate Difficulty

Share This Trail

Check In


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.
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

Trail Ratings

  4.8 from 20 votes


  4.8 from 20 votes
5 Star
4 Star
3 Star
2 Star
1 Star


in Colorado


412 Views Last Month
14,563 Since Apr 9, 2015
Intermediate Intermediate

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
I had the humble experience of hiking this trail on 9/26/18. My dog Nala and I hiked in the morning with the presence of the Harvest Moon lighting the way. As we approached the lower lakes we were stopped in our tracks by the beauty of what was in front of our eyes. Jagged Peaks, emerald waters are only the begining to a magical wilderness hike. Proceeding onward to Blue Lakes Pass we were in Awe as we passed two more mineral filled lakes, to peaks with shades of red, green,purple minerals sparkling in the morning sky. up up and away to the top of Beautiful blue lakes pass for a view that you will have to go experience yourself because they are no words. Nala and I are fortunate to have experienced the beauty of blue lakes, Mt Snefels Wilderness and Dallas Creek. one of the most magical hiking experiences there is. Sep 28, 2018

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

Shop REI Hiking