Blue Lakes

Date hiked: 07/11/16

Mileage: 12.2 miles; 5 hours

Head Count (how many other hikers I saw): 10-12 groups

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The Blue Lakes trail in Ouray is one I’d been hearing a lot about, and excited to try for a long time. So when the time finally came, I wasted no second thoughts.

The trail can be split into three sections, ranging from moderate (Lower Blue Lake) to strenuous (Blue Lakes Pass) to profound (Mt. Sneffels). The first half mile sees a pretty uniform path along the East Fork Dallas Creek, at which point the trail pulls away into a sharp climb up Wilcott Mountain’s steep lower valley. When the going gets rough, continuous views of Mount Sneffels are sure to energize. Having become accustomed to Sneffels’s northern face, it’s almost alien seeing her from the west.c1-2

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Mt Sneffels: the raw pinnacle of the Sneffels Wilderness.

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Two miles in, the trail starts back on a meandering route towards the creek. About halfway there, it crosses into a broad clearing swept across the slope, a sure sign of regular avalanche activity. Then, just shy of Lower Blue Lake, the trail and creek meet back up.c7-2-25.JPG

Sunken deep into a glacial basin dominated by the looming precipice of Dallas Peak, Lower Blue Lake is the largest freestanding body of water in the entire Sneffels Wilderness. Once melted, the lucent waters give a sharp contrast to the jagged 13,000′ ledges which surround it. Several great campsites hug the lake’s north rim, and it’s often used as a basecamp for those intending to summit Sneffels.Blue Lake at lake.jpg

The trail continues across the creek in a general southeast path. Straight after the water, it enters into a short scree field, then crosses a flooded offshoot of East Fork Dallas Creek. Nearing treeline with the aid of switchbacks, the views open up to the arc between Dallas Peak, Blue Lakes Pass, and Mt. Sneffels.

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The final hump into the upper basin.

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The wildlife up here must be used to humans, because not once, not twice, but thrice did this marmot come pestering me for a bite after I sat down for lunch. The frisky little bastard even followed me a few paces after I started up again.

Behind Upper Blue Lake, the daunting switchbacks of a steep talus field below Blue Lakes Pass looms as a sick reminder of what’s to come. At this point, you still have another mile to rise 1000′ before the trail culminates at the 13,000′ Blue Lakes Pass.

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The terrain grows rocky at times

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A look back at the switchbacks from just below the pass.

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With Mount Sneffels rising in the center, the trail up the mountain’s southwest ridge continues along the left side of this ridge…

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…then climbs through the snowless gully on the right.

Quickly loosing light, I had to turn back here, but to see the rest of the route up to Sneffels, check out my Mt. Sneffels entry.

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Potosi Peak and Stony Mountain above Yankee Boy Basin.

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Trail Map

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Directions

(From Ridgway): At the intersection of Highway 550 and Highway 62, head west on Highway 62 (Sherman Street) through the center of Ridgway. As of the writing of this, there are width restrictions due to 11′ lanes. Continue on Highway 62 for 4.8 miles, then turn left onto CR-7. After .8 miles, keep right to stay on CR-7. Take another slight right 1.3 miles beyond that, and the road comes to an end at the trailhead 6.8 miles further. Any car could make it to the trailhead, but it grows rougher towards the end. The parking lot fills up quickly on summer days, so park out of the way alongside the road if you need to.

13.7 miles; 33 min

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