Many of Colorado’s natural wilderness lakes require long hikes up never-ending canyons to reach. Not so for Blue Lakes, three backcountry gems in the Mount Sneffels Wilderness that may contain the bluest water you’ve ever seen. From the trailhead, it’s a modest 3.3 miles to the lowest lake, the deepest and bluest of the three, beneath a stunning cirque of jagged and eroding 13,000-foot peaks. The fishing for cutthroat trout at the first lake is said to be good. It also offers the only shelter for backcountry camping, as the other two lakes are above timberline. The middle lake is a steep half-mile above the first, and the upper-most lake is a quarter-mile past that. Each lake is stunning in its own way, so whether you’re day-hiking or spending a couple nights wilderness camping, you owe it to yourself to see all three.
- For the best campsite, cross the creek flowing out of the first lake and look up and to your left. You won’t regret getting your feet wet. Backpacker Magazine once put this spot on the list of the best campsites in America.
- Because of heavy use, the U.S. Forest Service has banned campfires; so don’t forget warm clothes and a stove for cooking.
- Hikers looking for an even tougher challenge can continue past the third lake to Blue Lakes Pass. It’s an incredibly steep zigzag up what looks like a sheer wall, but from the 13,000-foot pass the views are worth it. Alpinists can continue on to the summit of fourteener Mount Sneffels.
- There is ample dispersed car camping near the trailhead, where there is also a new bathroom. Passenger car operators should take care for deep ruts in the parking lot and surrounding pull-offs.
Recommended season(s): Summer – fall.
—R. Scott Rappold