There are in my humble opinion 2 hikes you must do in the Telluride area, Sneffels Highline and Blue Lakes. Back in Fall 2012 we had the opportunity to hike Sneffels Highline which is a gem but a feet bruising 13 miles long. With the pup in tow during our 4th of July trip Sneffels Highline was not in the cards. After some research I found a worthy alternative hike in the Sneffels Wilderness, Blue Lakes. A series of 3 lakes in the shadow of Mt Sneffels with an especially beautiful milky blue color which comes from glacial ice melt.
Be warned getting to this hike is half the challenge as it requires 9 miles of driving on dirt & gravel roads to reach the trailhead. We thankfully had chosen to rent a car to prevent beating up our own cars. The road is generally in good shape with a few spots that require slow driving but in general is passable by cars. I would be concerned in heavy rain about some portions of the road being challenging for a car to pass through. From Ridgway drive west on CO 62 and look for a sign for County Road 9. Then buckle up for a sometimes bumpy 9 mile drive to the trailhead. The last mile or so of the road from the Wilderness boundary are particularly bumpy. Being a holiday weekend the parking lot was very busy. With a stroke of luck we found a parking spot at the trailhead and started out on our hike.
Very quickly you begin to gain altitude straight from the trailhead. The initial portions of the hike are heavily forested without any sweeping views. I was swearing at myself for not wearing convertible pants as the weather even with overcast skies was unseasonably warm. At about 2 miles you start to get rewarded for all that huffing and puffing up the mountain and break out into a series of meadows that offer sweeping views to the north.
Then after a quick dive back into the forest before the final small climb you get a great view of an unnamed waterfall. At this point we started to encounter some small patches of snow, Max (wonder puppy) was absolutely thrilled to see, roll in, and eat after so many months of summer. One last small push up a short climb and the trail levels out. There are several good campsites located here just a short stroll from the lower Blue Lake. We pushed on along the shore of the lake for a good lunch spot and a place to dip our weary feet in the lake. After a quick lunch and a invigorating foot plunge into a stream we started to enjoy lower Blue Lake.
It definitely lives up to its reputation as a “Blue” lake with a mesmerizing milky blue color when the light strikes it. It’s a wonderful lake that made us both long to see Lake Moraine in Canada which has a similar color pattern. We absorbed the beauty of the lake for several minutes till the fickle mountain weather reared its ugly head. We wish we had more time (and Max had more endurance) and we would have pushed on to Middle Blue Lake.
With the weather rapidly going south we packed up and made a hasty retreat back to the car. Before we could get past the lake the heavens opened up and absolutely drenched us for a good 10 minutes. It was a bit of a wet slog on the way back to the car with a crazy wet puppy running circles around us. We made good time on the way back to the car although nobody was looking forward to 1/2 hour bumpy drive back to civilization. Blue Lakes is a great day hike for those wanting to experience the milky blue glacial lakes that rival those of the Canadian Rockies.
Distance: 7.5 miles (estimated as GPS ran out of battery)
Elevation: 1500 feet (though it felt like a lot more than this)