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Blue Lakes Trail

Intermediate/Difficult
 4.7 (32)

A switchbacking trail through gorgeous Sneffels Wilderness.


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Map Key

7.6

Miles

12.2

KM

69%

Runnable

12,960' 3,950 m

High

9,349' 2,849 m

Low

3,624' 1,105 m

Up

1,396' 426 m

Down

13%

Avg Grade (7°)

41%

Max Grade (22°)

Dogs Leashed

Features Fall Colors · Lake · River/Creek · Swimming · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Both trailheads are usually closed several miles down the road during the winter.

Runner Notes

With easy-moderate grades and an excellent trail with few rocks or roots, this is an excellent run. Ambitious runners may opt for an out-and-back.

The best running is probably had northwest of the pass (the Yankee Boy Basin side is rockier), so it would be advisable to start and end at the Dallas Creek Trail, perhaps turning around at Blue Lakes Pass (13,000 ft) for an impressively long run.

Description

Blue Lakes Trail makes for a gorgeous run by turquoise alpine lakes and the jagged peaks of Yankee Boy Basin. It can be done as an out-and-back from either the Mt. Sneffels trailhead (outside of Ouray; see link) or by the more popular Dallas Creek Trail (the direction described here).

From Ridgway (a small town north of Ouray) take CO 62 west (the only way). Drive around some steep bends before coming to a sign marked "National Forest access East Dallas Creek" with an arrow pointing south (to the left). Take this turn and continue on a 2WD dirt road. There are some turnoffs onto private property here and there, but just stay on the main road for about 9 miles. There's a clearing with camping options and a parking area about 0.2 miles further. Your starting elevation is 9,500 ft.

From the trailhead, take a right at the fork and run through the trees on moderate grades but excellent trail. In a little under 3 miles, pass by a waterfall to your left. It's just a short distance from here to the lower lake. Dallas Peak rises majestically from a scree field above the lake, with Mt. Sneffels above it to the east. Fast runners can make it to this point in a little over an hour. A short trail spur to the right leads to the lower lake.

From the junction with this spur at around 11,000 ft, it's about one more mile to the upper lake, located at 11,800 ft. Continue on similar trail, crossing Dallas Creek by a large log before running up a short but steep headwall to reach the upper lake. Ambitious runners may continue to Blue Lakes Pass, up some steep switchbacks all the way to 13,000 ft.

To your left is 14er Mt. Sneffels' class 3 southwest ridge, to which Blue Lakes Trail provides an alternate approach. While the standard Yankee Boy Basin approach boasts beautiful alpine scenery, Blue Lakes Trail is longer, and many would argue more picturesque due to its unique turquoise lakes. Runers may summit via the southwest ridge and come back down via Mt. Sneffels Trail before catching up with the lower portion of Blue Lakes Trail, which passes through Yankee Boy Basin.

For those who don't wish to summit Mt. Sneffels, turn around at Blue Lakes Pass for 11+ miles RT, or continue down rocky trails and onto 4WD road in Yankee Boy Basin for the full trail (15 miles; 5,000+ ft gain). East of the pass, this trail isn't very exciting - if you have time and energy to spare, run Mt. Sneffels, not the end of Blue Lakes.

Flora & Fauna

This is a stunning run, often done as a day trip without any of its offshoot peaks. Many consider it the Four Pass Loop of the San Juan Range. As such, expect colorful wildflowers in every basin.

Marmots, pika, and even the occasional mountain goat or sheep should be around.

Contacts

Shared By:

Tyler Prince

Trail Ratings

  4.7 from 32 votes

#40

Overall
  4.7 from 32 votes
5 Star
72%
4 Star
28%
3 Star
0%
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1 Star
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Trail Rankings

#12

in Colorado

#40

Overall
1,607 Views Last Month
27,737 Since Apr 9, 2015
Intermediate/Difficult

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52%
13%
35%
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Photos

Middle Blue Lake at sunrise.
Apr 14, 2015 near Telluride, CO
Lower Blue Lake from the Blue Lakes Trail
Apr 14, 2015 near Telluride, CO
The view across Upper Blue Lake to the Dallas Peak area.
Jul 5, 2016 near Telluride, CO
Moose guarding the trail.
Sep 4, 2019 near Telluride, CO
Near Mt Sneffels upper trailhead looking back toward Yankee Boy basin
Aug 30, 2018 near Telluride, CO
Mt Sneffels on a cold July day
Aug 30, 2018 near Telluride, CO

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Sep 19, 2020
Jacob Torrey
12mi — 5h 00m
Jun 11, 2020
Mark Kim
Jun 20, 2017
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6mi