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Hiking Blue Lakes trail in Colorado

Updated: May 21

a girl and her dog in the mountains and wildflower field

If I had to choose one of my top 5 favorite hikes of all time, this would absolutely be up there. I say that because it has a little bit of everything and it ticks so many boxes for me.

If you've been on Instagram reels, you've probably come across the incredible Blue Lakes trail in Colorado (whether they geotagged it or not). The hue of blue is unmatched and it's a perfect blend of moderate to hard hiking that is well rewarded. This hike is also notorious for not being geo-tagged, despite its popularity. Check out my other blog post on how to find non-geotagged locations!

As they say in my favorite pilates class, [solidcore], if you want to amplification then take the challenge and go all the way to the 14er Mt Sneffels towering above the lakes. You don't have to hike blue lakes and Mt Sneffels, you can start from the yankee basin trailhead to reduce it, but honestly it's so nice seeing the lakes up close.

I've done this hike a few times, sometimes camping, sometimes staying at a hotel, and i've even done the 14er, Mt Sneffels, that towers above it. I did Mt Sneffels over labor day weekend in 2020 and I still ended up getting sun poisoning, so be careful and wear long sleeves, a hat, reapply sunscreen every 2 hours! The sun is intense when you're at higher elevations!

Getting There

The dirt road to get to the trailhead can feel kind of long, but I dont think it's that bad. I drive an AWD MINI cooper, but I saw 2WD make it as well, just drive carefully and slowly if you're nervous about the roads. I went on 4th of July around 7am and then again in August (camping at the trailhead) and both times it wasn't full. We only saw a handful of people on the trails, and this was in 2022. I've driven both times in the dark and it wasn't bad at all. This hike is closest to Ridgeway (about 35 minutes) but it's very far from more major cities like Denver, so plan accordingly! I've done the drive in a day, so it's doable, just know it'll be long and expect random delays and construction.

Where to Stay and Car Camping

Accommodations are limited and expensive around this area. I recommend camping, if it's summertime or staying in Ridgeway (situated between Ouray and Telluride). If you're doing Blue Lakes hike, you can camp along the road leading to the trailhead; It's all dispersed and free...just remember to pack some toilet paper because the bathroom at the trailhead was probably top 5 worst toilets I've ever seen in the world.. just do yourself a favor and avoid. Sleeping by the trailhead is great because you can start right as you wake up. See below for me and my friend's tents next to our cars by the road, we literally pulled up at 11pm and pitched our tent down in the rain. (pro tip: check your gear if you haven't used it in awhile, my tent was actually broken and I had to send it into MSR to get repaired).

Now let's talk about the trail

If you're looking for the classic dog-friendly hike with the picturesque blue lakes then you'll want to follow the Lower, Middle, and Upper Blue lakes trail. The first lake is going to be the one in all the photos you see online; it takes the longest to get to, probably about 4ish miles in, and the last two lakes are the last mile or so of the hike. The whole hike came out over 9 miles. I think they're worth doing if you have the time, but they're not as pretty as the first lake in my opinion, so if you're tired and the altitude is getting to you, then just stop at the first one! The wildflowers were going crazy when we were there on July 4th in 2022. I also went back the same year during the last weekend of August and the wildflowers were all gone sadly.

The first few miles are all covered and there's lots of lush vegetation, then the views start to come and the trail opens up once you make your way above the tree line. I recommend starting early to avoid any classic afternoon Colorado thunderstorms; you do not want to be above tree line with lighting. It was really chilly when we started in the early morning. You have to remember that you're up around 10,000ft so the temperatures will be cooler until the sun comes out to warm everything up. Bring a puffer jacket and take it off once you get out of the trees with the sun. Also the weather can be unpredictable! We saw intense, dark, stormy clouds on the drive to the hike in morning, but then it turned out to be a gorgeous day with no rain until our way down. The viewpoint with a rock is a bit after the first lake. You gotta hike through a massive waterfall (i'm not even kidding) and then you'll almost be there.

As you make your way past the pretty view point with the rock looking over the lakes, then you'll start to see the end. I really liked the last two lakes because I got some epic photos of my dog with the scenery (as the storm clouds started to roll in). We didn't do the last two lakes on the second time I went since I didn't feel like it was worth it again. These photos are from the last two lakes on the way up! I let my dog just explore the wildflowers and do some posing on the rocks (she nailed it).

Alpine Lake Swim

Brace yourself if you're swimming! This water is COLD. Some people aren't phased by it though. My friend's husband was swimming like a fish while me and her almost lost consciousness after 3 seconds submerged. Be careful if you do swim and just be sure to not go alone unless you're experienced with alpine lakes.

For both times I visited, there was plenty of room to get away from others and swim, not many people were interested in getting in!

It took some convincing to get my dog to swim too, she was not about it! However it definitely cooled down her paws on the hot summer day. The photos below are from late August.

Heres the stats

Both times I went the average temperature was mid 50 degrees F and the humidity was also around 50%, and these were summer temperatures. It only starts to get warm when you get to the lake and the sun is out! i didn't swim the first time I hiked it due to an afternoon thunderstorm. I tend to stop a lot for photos at the top or along the trail, but not really much when i'm going up - i dont like to lose that momentum!


Hi! I'm Jackie and my dog is Sora. I work remote as an engineer, but I love to spend my free time in nature and by traveling to new places. I take my camera wherever I go, and sometimes my drone.

Somewhere With Sora is a Seattle-based lifestyle and travel blog that provides helpful travel and adventure tips for all kinds of trips, with or without the dogs.

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