Distance: 6.6 miles round trip
Elevation: 9,400ft - 11,000 ft
Elevation Gain: 1,600 ft
Dogs: On leash in the Wilderness Area
Blue Lake, near Ridgeway and Mt. Sneffels (14,150 ft) is a wonderful hike. The surrounding peaks are jagged, the drive in is almost as good as the hike, and it is relatively easy for the area.
I did this hike back in September of 2006 when I flew my parents out for a week of leaf peeping in the San Juans. For fall color, you can't beat the San Juans and Ouray is a great location to try and do it all. On this trip we drove highway 550 and took the Durango-Silverton Railroad. Near the end of the trip, we met a rather nasty snowstorm that made driving 550 to Silverton a white knuckled afaire for my father who had to pick my mother and I at the train depot. To this day, he puts highway 550 and Red Mountain Pass as one of the scariest things he has ever done.
The trail to Blue Lake, however, has none of these horrors. Instead, it wanders in and out of towering Spruces with occassional expansive views back out towards Ridgeway as well as up close glimpses of the Sneffels range.
We only met two other groups on the trail, which was well maintained. With only a few steep sections, we also found it easy to do. You can continue on above the lake to Blue Lakes Pass at 13,000 ft. Since my parents were waiting for me back at the house we rented, I turned around at the lower lake.