Friday, October 5, 2012

Hike to Blue Lakes

On Monday this week, Jay and I went on another hike that I have wanted to do for a long time, the hike to Blue Lakes and Blue Lakes Pass in the Mount Sneffels Wildnerness.  We started at the trailhead at the end of CR-7 (Dallas Creek Road) off of highway 62 (Dallas Divide) not too far from Ridgway.

Much of the lower part of the trail is through the woods, steadily climbing.

There are nice views of Mt. Sneffels (14,150 feet) along the way.  Jay hiked Mt. Sneffels with our friend Steve in 2007, and you can read about it here.

The lower lake is by far the bluest of the three lakes, and sits at about 11,000 feet in elevation.  Dallas Peak is towering above here.

A chipmunk watched us eating lunch just waiting to look for crumbs.

Looking down at the lower lake.

The middle lake at 11,800 feet.

The upper Blue Lake is at about 12,000 feet, with an obvious old volcanic lava flow to the water's edge.

We headed up the Blue Lakes Pass trail despite some snow lingering from the week before.

Looking up at the summit of Blue Lakes Pass on the side of Mt. Sneffels, summit at about 13,000 feet.

This is what the upper and middle Blue Lakes looked like as we headed up.

Some more snow covering the trail, looking at some of the spires of Mt. Sneffels.

So in about this area the trail was getting more difficult due to the snow and very slick mud.  I have read some describing this part of the trail as wicked and rugged when it is dry.  The next switchback up was full of snow and steep enough that I knew we should stop and not go to the summit. Better to be safe than sorry!

We did get this view at 12,800 feet though!

Jay took this shot of me before we headed down. I was disappointed not to make it to the top, especially since Yankee Boy Basin was just on the other side and I had been excited about getting there on foot instead of in the Jeep on the Ouray side.  We could actually hike to the summit of the Blue Lakes Pass from the other side and it would only be one mile, plus a lot wider trail. As much as we love Yankee Boy Basin, we just don't drive in there that often due to how busy it always is in the summer, lots of Jeeps and sightseers.  This day when we hiked the Blue Lakes trail, we only saw two other people, and they only went to the lower lake.  We had hiked about 5-1/2 miles at the point when we headed back down.  The trailhead was at about 9,340 feet and we made it to 12,800 feet, so we achieved an elevation gain of 3,460 feet.

By the time we got down to the lower lake, it was in the shade.

On the map, the lakes start with the lower one on the left.  Working up the trail you can see all of the crazy switchbacks that lead up to the top of Blue Lakes Pass.  We made it to the 12,800 feet mark, which is at the top of that long stretch before the switchbacks get really close together.  You can click on it to see a larger version.  It's a beautiful, long hike that shouldn't be missed.  A hike to just the lower Blue Lake is a little over 6 miles round trip.  I enjoyed the fall colors, but this hike would be spectacular at the peak of wildfower season.