Hiking The Blue Lakes Trail in Telluride Colorado

December 16, 2022/Colorado

Whenever someone asks me if I want to go to the Blue Lakes in Colorado, 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 in Telluride Colorado and Mount Sneffels
  • Tips and tricks along the way! 

Hover Over Image to Pin It!

This post may contain affiliate links. I may earn a commission if you choose to make a purchase through one of my links, at no extra cost to you. Not all links are affiliate links, and I only recommend products and services that I use and love. Please read my full disclosure here. Thank you for supporting Rootless Adventure Company!

Tips For Hiking The Blue Lakes Trail

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! I bring Chi and carry her.

I’d recommend arriving at the trailhead early so that you can beat the crowd and any chances of getting stuck in an afternoon thunderstorm, as this hike does summit above tree line. 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.

Tip: If you’re doing this hike before June, I’d recommend bringing along a pair of micro spikes. With the higher elevation comes a lot of snow and with how steep this hike is (especially from the first to second lake) you don’t want to risk a slip. I have talked about these before, but I use and highly recommend these spikes from Amazon. They are less than $25, super lightweight and durable, come with a carrying case, and have lasted me years.

Blue Lakes Trail, 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 Columbia Newton Ridge waterproof boots and highly recommend them. They kept my feet dry through all of the water crossings (and even through a 5 hour hike in freezing rain once).

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

Related Post: Weekend Guide To Telluride

lower blue lake in telluride colorado

Hiking to Lower Blue Lake

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 Telluride 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. 

Related Post: 5 Best Hikes in Boulder Colorado

lower blue lake telluride colorado

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 was still frozen over when we went in late May. It’s beautiful in the winter, and even more beautiful in the summer! If you want the best views for this hike I’d recommend you go between July and September.

The views of the Lower Blue Lake from the Upper Blue Lake was absolutely stunning! I recommend stopping here for photos. 

Related Post: How To Get Over Your Fears Of Solo Travel

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 Chi 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 on blue lakes trail in telluride colorado

Click here to read more blog posts about life as a full time solo traveler. If you want to make traveling more of a priority this year, watch my free webinar that will teach you how you too can travel full time. And lastly, connect with us on Instagram! We’d love to get to know you! Happy traveling!

Instagram: instagram.com/rootlessadventureco


Comments (2)

  • Hiking Mystery / February 19, 2023 / Reply

    Hi there, Rootless Adventure Company! I have to say that it’s a great read! Your post is so detailed and informative that it feels like I was right there with you on the trail. I’ve never been to Telluride before, but after reading your post, I’m definitely putting it on my list of places to visit. Your pictures of the Blue Lakes are absolutely stunning, and I can only imagine how much more breathtaking they must be in person.

    I love that you included information about the difficulty of the hike and the best time of year to visit. As someone who enjoys hiking but isn’t a seasoned pro, it’s really helpful to know what to expect in terms of the trail’s difficulty. It’s also great to know that the trail is open for a limited time each year, so I can plan my trip accordingly. Your tips on what to pack and how to prepare for the hike are also really helpful, especially for those of us who might be new to hiking or hiking in higher elevations.

    All in all, I really enjoyed reading your post about the Blue Lakes Trail. Your passion for hiking and love for the outdoors really shines through in your writing, and it’s contagious! I can’t wait to lace up my hiking boots and hit the trail myself. Keep up the great work!

    • (Author) rootlessadventurecompany@gmail.com / February 21, 2023 / Reply

      I’m so glad you’ve gained so much value from this blog post! Thanks so much for the kind words! This is such a beautiful trail and I can’t wait to hear about your experience on it. Keep me posted 🙂

Add comment

Rootless Adventure Co Copyright 2022