chi at blue lakes trail in telluride colorado

Hiking The Blue Lakes Trail in Telluride Colorado

I need to start this blog post with a mini rant. There is one thing about Colorado that really confuses me. Whoever named lakes and trails wasn’t very creative, because there is a Blue Lakes Trail in almost every city in Colorado. 

Whenever someone asks me if I want to go to the Blue Lakes, I always have to ask which Blue Lake. The one in Boulder? Breckenridge? Telluride? Which ONE in Telluride? Blue Lake or The Blue Lakes? It could be anything. I have no idea.

Nonetheless, there is one Blue Lakes Trail in Colorado that personally I think is far better than all the rest: The Blue Lakes Trail in Telluride. In fact, I think it’s one of the most beautiful hikes in the world.

There are a few different levels of hikes in this area ranging from easy/moderate to a difficult 14er. This makes it really convenient because you can just continue on up as far as you feel comfortable and then turn around. 

This hike is one route to complete the 14er Mount Sneffels. The section most people complete (and what I will detail in this post) is the portion that leads to Upper Blue Lake. For a moderate option you can stop at Lower Blue Lake. For a more difficult option but doable day hike you can stop at Upper Blue Lake. If you’re looking for a more challenging option I will let you know where you can continue the hike to complete Mount Sneffels.

In This Post You Can Expect:

  • Everything you need to know about hiking The Blue Lakes, and Mount Sneffels
  • Tips and tricks along the way!

hiking the blue lakes trail in telluride colorado

Some Tips Before We Begin

Before we begin I do want to give a couple of quick tips.

-Do your research ahead of time and plan a trail that best suits you. This hike starts and ends at a high elevation, so keep that in mind if you are visiting from a lower elevation. All of the views are gorgeous, so no matter how far you get this hike will be worth it.

-There are lots of water crossings in the spring, so bring dogs at your own risk

-Be sure to arrive at the trailhead early so that you can beat the crowds and any chances of getting stuck in an afternoon thunderstorm. My friends and I arrived at the trailhead around 6:00am and had no troubles finding parking, but heard folks who arrived around 9 have more trouble.

Blue Lakes Trail Info

chi at blue lakes trail in telluride colorado

Elevation Gain: 5501 ft.

Length: 13.0 miles (out and back)

Difficulty: Moderate-Hard (depending on route)

Time: 5-6 hours

Dog Friendly: Yes

This hike starts out pretty steep right off the bat, so be prepared. Unfortunately hungover Megan was not prepared, so a few too many water breaks were taken here. 

The distance from the trailhead to Lower Blue Lake is roughly 3 miles, and 1500 feet of elevation gain. The first mile itself is steep, and covers 900 feet of that elevation gain.

After that the trail gets a lot easier to manage. There are a couple of streams that you have to cross but nothing technical. Just plan to wear waterproof hiking boots or take your shoes off. I wear the Hi-Tec Altitude waterproof boot and highly recommend them. They’re the only boots I bring with me on my adventures nowadays!

Within about 2 hours you will come into a clearing and soon be rewarded with GORGEOUS views as you arrive at Lower Blue Lake. 

Hiking to Lower Blue Lake

lower blue lake in telluride colorado

Many people choose to stop here and not continue on up to the upper lake. If you stop here I’d definitely consider the trail to be moderate.

The elevation gain at the beginning takes a lot out of you, but there is nothing technical involved. I’d especially recommend this if you’re visiting from outside of Colorado. My friends and I struggled a bit with the altitude even though we live in Boulder and are used to higher elevations.

I’d highly recommend if you’re up for a bit of a challenge continue on to the upper lake. The distance from the lower lake to the upper lake is roughly a mile and another 1000 feet of elevation gain. Be weary, because steep is an understatement. 

Hiking To Upper Blue Lake

Whenever you leave the lower lake you’ll head back to the clearing where there is a sign directing you toward the upper lake. You have to cross a creek that looks quite intimidating, but there are tree branches laid down for you to walk across. My dog was scared of the rushing water so I had to carry her across the creek, and we both still made it just fine. 

Tip: The trail is not super clearly marked, so make sure you download an offline map on AllTrails and stick to it.

My friends and I did not check our navigation, and ended up on our hands and feet through thorn bushes before realizing we were off trail. It’s extremely important to stay on trail not only to make it easier, but also to avoid disturbing the vegetation and wildlife along the trail.

As long as you stay on trail it’ll still be a difficult hike, but definitely a manageable route to the Upper Blue Lake. You will break above treeline about halfway through.

upper blue lake telluride colorado

The Upper Blue Lake was still frozen over when we went in late May. For peak views plan to hike mid-June to early September.  That being said though, you will never regret hiking up to the upper lake as the views of the lower lake along the way is one of the most stunning views I’ve ever seen.

lower blue lake telluride colorado

Hiking To Mount Sneffels

After you reach the second lake, you will see a trail continuing around the lake and up the ridge . This is the trail to complete Mount Sneffels. Continue on for an even greater challenge, or head down the mountain to enjoy an evening in Ouray and Telluride.

We chose the latter because afternoon thunderstorms started rolling in and my dog was pretty pooped. So pooped we actually carried her a little bit of the way and walked at snail speed the rest of the way. We made it down back to the trailhead within about an hour and a half, making our total hiking time a 5 hour and 45 minute round trip, which I find to be a pretty average amount of time for this hike.

carrying chi blue lakes trail

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