There is nothing more picturesque and calming than the mountains. That’s even more true if you hike up its many mountain passes and trails. Well, one mountain pass and trail is worth your visit. It’s the Blue Lake Trail in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. I will tell you how to get there, how high up in elevation it is, what to expect when you get there, and which gear and supplies you should take with you. So, enjoy the Blue Lakes Colorado read!
“Tap the Rockies!”
If you’re old enough, you’ll remember the Tap The Rockies jingle from a 1990s American beer commercial. The Rocky Mountains are an intercontinental mountain chain that spans three nations: Canada, North and Southwestern America, and Mexico. Like all vast mountain chains, the Rocky Mountains are home to many peaceful blue lakes. The Blue Lakes Colorado happens to be one of these!
What are the Blue Lakes Colorado Exactly?
The Blue Lakes are exactly what their name implies – a series of three blue lakes that lead the way to a picturesque mountain pass that showcases the best of nature. There is the Upper Blue Lakes and then the Lower Blue Lake. The latter lake is the most popular for tourists and hikers. The Lower Blue Lake is about 1,600 feet above sea level. It has a trail that extends for three and a half miles.
If you want to hike it, expect to spend at least one and a half to two hours doing so. Walking about 5.5 miles from Glacier Gorge Trailhead in the Rocky Mountain National Park, you’ll get to the Blue Lakes. You can even drive there across routes that stretch across America. It’s easy to reach, either by car or by foot.
Hiking the Blue Lake Trail
Most people appreciate the Blue Lakes Trail natural beauty by hiking the Lower Blue Lake trail. Consider hiking this trail if you’re up for some adventure and in reasonably good physical shape. Many people hike on it, especially during the summertime and on the weekends, so the path, while not paved, is safe to walk on for some distance.
However, you must be more of a seasoned hiker if you want to hike the entire trail since it’s not maintained after crossing the Mills and Jewel Lake. When you get to Black Lake, you’re on your own if you still want to hike since it may have rocks, steep areas, lead to cliffs, and present other dangers that only experienced and fit hikers can easily handle.
The scenery on the Blue Lake Trail
When you hike most (the maintained part) of the trail, you’ll see many calm, beautiful turquoise-colored lakes. It’s because the Blue Lakes are known for their nice turquoise shades. Expect to see a lot of Aspen trees since the Rocky Mountains are in a more temperate climate. You’ll see mountains with a thin layer of snow, even during the hotter summer months.
Remember that you may find tree roots sticking out of even the maintained parts of the trail, so it’s always best to watch your footing on all parts. If you don’t mind getting wet, you can walk in the water and know what you’re doing. It will give you plenty of great photo and selfie apps, which you can post on social media platforms if you want.
Some of the trails are on a fairly steep hill leading directly down to a beautiful turquoise-blue lake, so you may need some swimming gear or a small raft to walk the entire trail. You can hike up to Middle Blue Lake if you’re up for a challenge. Remember that it’s 7 miles from the lowest Blue Lake to the Middle Blue Lake, and the walk may not be for the inexperienced or the faint-hearted. The Middle Blue Lake is about 650 feet above the Lower Blue Lake, and you’ll spend about half an hour to 45 minutes hiking from the lower lake to the middle lake.
It’s easy to get to Middle Blue Lake from Lower Blue Lake. All you have to do is backtrack a few feet, and you’ll come to a wooden sign that informs you that there are two paths: one which stops and one which leads to the Middle Blue Lake. You’ll have to turn left, but you’ll be well on your way to the path that leads to the Middle Blue Lake when you do. You will have to walk across a small creek to get to the Middle Blue Lake, but if you plan it out, you can avoid planting your feet in the water by walking on the plenty of rocks and logs that fill the creek.
You have to be more of a detective and good at finding your way once you cross the creek since there are no markers to inform you where you are, either on the trail or the Blue Lakes. It’s not easy to navigate, so you’ll need to have some experience in hiking on somewhat challenging trails in mountain passes if you want to avoid the risk of getting lost.
You’ll also have the unenviable task of crossing up a steep slope. That slope will take you to a rocky basin. The issue is that many paths traverse the slope. The good news is that all of them lead to the basin, so you (at least for this part of the pass) don’t have to worry about the possibility of getting lost.
The Scenery on the Hike to the Middle Blue Lake
You’ll need to be physically fit and healthy to hike up to the Middle Blue Lake since the trail is steep and unforgiving, but the scenery makes all of that challenge and difficulty worthwhile. You’ll get awesome panoramic views of Lower Blue Lake. These are picture and video worthy, and I strongly recommend you post them on social media when you’re done with your vacation. There are lots of wildflowers which also make for great photo opportunities. That’s especially true if you go during mid-summer (from July 15 to August 15)!
When You Get to the Middle Lake
So, it’s much smaller than the Lower and Upper Blue Lakes but still has lots of natural beauty. The beginning of the lake is green, but that transforms into a dark blue color as you travel (by raft or boat) across it. You’ll also notice this unprecedented change in color as you hike higher up the trail above Middle Blue Lake.
The Upper Blue Lake
You’ll hike .3 miles from Middle Blue Lake to Upper Blue Lake. The highest Blue Lake is about 150 feet above the Middle Blue Lake. If you’re going to hike to the highest Blue Lake, expect to spend about 15 minutes walking. It’s an easy hike from Middle Blue Lake to Upper Blue Lake. The Upper Blue Lake doesn’t have the dark blue or the turquoise blue hues that characterize the Middle and Lower Blue Lakes, but it’s just as pretty. You’ll see lots of clear water at Upper Blue Lake.
It’s also so smooth and still that you can (literally) see your reflection as perfectly as you would in a mirror. Remember that fewer hikers are always on Upper Blue Lake than on Lower Blue Lake and Middle Blue Lake. That’s probably because of the high elevation and the more difficult hike people must endure reaching the highest Blue Lake.
The Blue Lakes Pass
You should hike up to the Blue Lakes Pass if you’re a real hiker. You’ll have to hike beyond Upper Blue Lake to get there. It’s a 1.5-mile hike from Upper Blue Lake to the Blue Lakes Pass. The Blue Lakes Pass is about 1,250 feet higher than the Upper Blue Lake. That said, it won’t be a short distance. You’ll walk and negotiate across a challenging trail for over an hour! You’ll be one of the few who gets to the Blue Lakes Pass if you’re brave, healthy/strong enough to try to hike this steep, somewhat rocky trail.
You must go down the same pass once you get to the Blue Lakes Pass. Remember that the trail is 3,650 feet long and up some of the hardest and most difficult parts of the American Rocky Mountains. But if you can take the challenge, you’ll be glad you did since you’ll be greeted by the view of a beautiful Blue Lake that stretches for miles in all directions. Traveling to the East, you can take pictures of the amazing Yankee Boy Basin.
Now, only do this if you’re a seasoned hiker. You can hike up to Mount Sneffels, but the hike and trail are difficult and dangerous. Note you can get seriously hurt or even die if you don’t know how to hike like a pro. Also, do your thorough homework before hiking up the trail to Mount Sneffels. If you don’t, you will be in for unpleasant surprises!
Prepping for the Hike
Now, it’s time for the good part to tell you how to prepare for the most challenging hike up the Blue Lake pass. Blue Lakes Colorado is located in the San Juan Mountains. That’s a section of the long and vast Rocky Mountain chain. You must dispose of all garbage in appropriate containers since littering is prohibited on the Blue Lakes trail. It’s not allowed in American National Parks in general. You want to hike when there is little fresh snow on the ground or icy and slippery patches. So, plan your trek during the early summer.
You can trek the trail throughout the summer and the beginning of fall. But I advise that you refrain from hiking after September ends. You want to hike during the early morning hours so you can return to your lodge, cabin/hotel by mid-afternoon since Colorado’s many afternoon thunderstorms tend to strike. That’s especially true during the summertime. Nothing is worse than negotiating a steep and slippery muddy trail!
Equipment You Want to Bring
Bring Durable Hiking Shoes
True, some people hike up challenging and steep mountain trails in flip-flops, summer shorts, and a T-shirt. However, as any park ranger or seasoned hiker would tell you, that’s not recommended because it’s unsafe. Stay safe, and always wear thick socks with sturdy hiking shoes designed to grip steep and rocky surfaces well. That will save you from a lot of painful slips and falls.
It’s Always Best To Layer Up
Also, be sure to bundle up with lots of thick and woolen clothing. The mountain areas are chilly, even during the hotter summer months. Also, the barometer plummets during the evening. You want to avoid freezing while hiking since that’s uncomfortable and dangerous!
Bring lots of plain H20! You’ll sweat and dehydrate when hiking, especially at high elevations. You want to drink lots of water so you don’t dehydrate and get sick. Don’t drink soda since that will only dehydrate you even more! Also, the air in the Rocky Mountains is extremely dry. Of course, if you want to avoid lugging gallons of water around, you can always drink the lake water, provided you bring a sound filtration system. Unfiltered lake water can cause an annoying and dangerous pathogen known as Listeria.
Follow The All Trails Map
It’s easy to get lost on the Blue Lake Trail if you need to learn it well. Be safe by downloading the All Trails Map and referring to it when you’re on the trail!
These will help you walk across snow and ice patches easier. You probably won’t encounter them, but you can never predict the weather and environment on the Blue Lakes Colorado Trail.
Blue Lakes Colorado Conclusion
Whether a novice or advanced trekker, you can enjoy Blue Lakes Colorado and everything this beautiful part of the world offers. Now that you know what to expect and how to prep for it, I hope you’re encouraged enough to plan a hike there this summer!