Thursday, January 21, 2010

Blue Lake-Lower (Sneffels Wilderness)

Distance: 6.6 miles round trip
Elevation: 9,400 ft - 11,000 ft
Elevation Gain: 1,600 ft
Dogs: On leash in the Wilderness Area

View from the Summit of Handies PeakThe turquoise waters of Lower Blue Lake

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.

Mt. Sneffels (on the left) dominates the view on the drive to the Blue Lakes trailhead

Mt. Sneffels from the trail

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 affair 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.

A typical trail segment

Another horrible view

The trail to Blue Lake, however, has none of these horrors. Instead, it wanders in and out of towering Spruces with occasional expansive views back out towards Ridgeway as well as up close glimpses of the Sneffels range.

Much of the trail is wide open
Engleman Spruce is the dominate tree on the trail

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.

Looking back down the trail towards Ridgeway

The lower lake is just beyond those trees
The lower lake itself is small and shallow but a lovely turquoise color. The peak directly in front is dramatic and dominates the scene. Since I did this hike in the fall, all the tundra was golden and this contrasted sharply to the peaks, which had already had their first snowfall. The best views of the lake, are farther up the trail however, so if you do hike to Blue Lakes pass be sure to bring a camera.

Flat tundra dominate the area around the lower lake
If I am in the Ouray area again, I will certainly hike this trail, but I will allow enough time to make it up to the Pass. The views along the way are reportedly very memorable.

A close up the lake and the slopes beyond


Nina said...

I've been so amazed by many of your recent posts. The scenery is so wonderful, and I am so envious of how many spectacular places you have within reach. I'm at the point now where I'm almost afraid to visit your blog! Grrrr...

Kimberly Aardal said...

Sylvia, The Blue Lakes Hike near Ouray is one of my all time favorites. It is some of the most spectacular scenery anywhere and the Blue Lakes rival Lake Louise for the blue glacial color. If you keep going to the upper lake, the views are even more dazzling.

I agree with your father about Red Mountain Pass being a very scary place when it's snowing.

Gary said...

awesome, as always! thanks...gave ya a bump on my FB page :-)