Blue Lakes

Trip Report

Danielle Steffens Headshot
By Danielle Steffens

The Adventure

Lower Blue Lake

I set off from the Blue Lakes trailhead at 8 am. The air is brisk and fresh. The sunlight is patchy along the trail, struggling to break over the tall trees on my left.

Water flows over the trail, running down from the hill on the right and I splish splash my way through the shallow puddles.

I feel good about my decision to not bring a jacket as the steady incline gets my blood pumping and warms me up.

While the trail twists and turns up through the forest, the sun, now high above the trees, casts my shadow in different directions.

The trail continues up, up, up, creating a steady burn in my calves and lungs. A burn that keeps me present and makes me feel alive.

A half mile in and it’s already time to shed my long sleeve shirt. A tiny chipmunk watches me cautiously.

A waft of pine needle scent reaches my nose and lingers. 

As I pause to breathe it in, a patch of moss on a fallen log catches my eye, illuminated by the sunlight. The start to my endless stream of pictures for the day begins.

Does anyone not love moss? I think it's fascinating.

By the one mile mark, the trail flattens out and as my breathing calms, I’m treated to silence for the second time this week. I wish this was easier to find in the city!

I happen upon some raspberry bushes and help myself to a morning snack. Delicious! I scarf down the few I’d taken for the road as I approach a thick, torso height log that will definitely need use of my hands to pass. The over under debate again (a blessing or curse of being short?). I go with over.

Free raspberries? Yes, please.
Over or under?

The trail maintains the challenge for the next half mile, turning into steep switchbacks after the log crossing with only an occasional reprieve.

At two miles, the trail turns to river which would be easy to cross with waterproof shoes but I’m wearing my trail runners. I spot a small trail along the right and take that instead. It’s a longer detour than I expected but I make it across, feet dry!

The river trail

At 2.3 miles, I encounter another log, but this one is definitely an over.

The trail is much more exposed after this point and with the sun in full force, I’m glad I put sunscreen on before leaving.

I pass a couple waterfalls and my excitement picks up. I must be getting close!

Sure enough, I hit the lower lake at 9:45 am. There is quite a crowd already so I decide to head straight up to the upper lakes.

Upper Blue Lakes

I hop across some large boulders in the river.

On the far side, the trail starts to climb up a rock wall. A hiker ahead of me knocks down a large rock and doesn’t call out any warning. Yikes!

This section of the trail is the most relentless yet, but in my experience, the best views are the ones you work for. A glance backwards confirms my theory.

This looks fake, but it's not. I promise. I didn't even turn up the saturation.
Lower Blue Lake | Dani's Drive
My favorite shot of the day

At 10:20 am (4.3 miles) I hit the second lake. It’s more wild. No obvious trails run down to it and no people are lining the shores. I press on.

Lake three quickly comes into view (4.6 miles) and I walk right up to the shoreline. It’s a little marshy so I spread out my rain jacket to sit on. The breeze is stronger up here and I throw my long sleeve back on as I admire the view of Mt. Sneffels straight ahead.

Blue Lakes Trail | Dani's Drive
Under Mt. Sneffels. One of the most peaceful cat naps I've ever had.

After a lovely cat nap and a snack, I start to head back. In this direction, I spy a fresh trail visible down to the second lake. I make a detour down to the shore, just to say I did.

The views of the lower lake are stellar from above. It’s so blue! Almost fake.

Blue Lakes Trail | Dani's Drive

Following another group of hikers down, I come up on a river crossing. Whaaat! I didn’t do this on the way up. I scope out my surroundings and see the trail I came up off to the left. I guess there are two ways! This way does not have the rock wall to climb which is probably good for the way down.

Arriving back at the river, I find where the trail split. On the way up, I hung along the right side of the river, never crossing it. This more mellow trail requires immediately crossing the river and eventually winds back, crossing the river again up higher.

I’m back at the first lake before noon and it’s so beautiful I decide to stop for a bit, despite the crowds. I can’t resist dipping my feet in.

Per usual, a rumbling stomach is the thing to get me moving again.

The Hike Down

On the way down, I stop at the waterfalls I skipped on the hike in and take some photos. 

Blue Lakes Trail | Dani's Drive
Still experimenting with the settings on my new camera

The rest of the hike down is a breeze. 

Over a log.

Across a river trail. (I went straight across this time and it wasn’t bad. Definitely could have done that on the way up.)

More raspberries. (Another bush!)

Over another log. 

Before I know it I’m back at the trailhead!

Lower Blue Lake | Dani's Drive
One more because it's just so beautiful.

The Stats

Here are the stats of my hike per Strava (see the full details here):

  • Distance: 10.02 miles
  • Elevation gain: 2,392 ft
  • Total time: 5 hr 50 min
  • Moving time: 4 hr 44 min
  • Average speed: 2.1 mi/h

The Details

  • Trailhead: Blue Lakes
  • Car driven: Subaru Impreza hatchback, no issues
  • Day of the week hiked: Thursday
  • Trailhead arrival time: 8 am
  • Parking: 75% full
  • Restroom at the trailhead? Yes
  • Crowd count: Busy! Lost count after 20.
  • Shoes worn: trail runners, no issues
  • Trekking poles? Not needed

Post-Hike Refuel

After the hike, I stopped in Ridgeway and had lunch at True Grit. I ordered the Guac on the Wild Side burger on a GF bun with a side of green beans and it was phenomenal! Exactly what I needed to refuel after a long hike. I also grabbed a bag of ground coffee from Cimarron Coffee Roasters.

Check out the other posts from my quarantine adventures while living in Montrose!

What are some of your favorite hikes? Leave a comment below!

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A Guide to Hiking Telluride's Famous Blue Lakes Trail | Dani's Drive



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