Camp at Lower Blue Lake, Ridgeway Colorado

Rate this Adventure 6.6 miles 2194 ft gain  - Out-and-Back Trail

Added by Abby Vohaska

Awesome hike South East of Grand Junction, CO and just north of Durango. Moderate to Strenuous with pack 3.3 mile one way to Lower Lake. Best to hike on weekdays or in September or October to avoid crowds.

This is a great day hike, and a great location to spend a night or two at the lower or middle lake.

The trail head is just outside of Ridgeway, Colorado off of County Rd. 7 (I will provide directions toward the end).

When I did this hike, I was coming from practically sea level and had a much heavier pack than I would in the summer due to bringing some extra layers and plenty of camera equipment. My friend and I went October 21-23 which brought rather cold windy nights. 

When you arrive to the trailhead make sure you follow the "Blue Lakes" sign - there are two trails and the one that leads off to the right is the correct path. 

The trails initial elevation begins just shy of 9,450 ft and the largest elevation of about 1,100 ft gain is within the first 1.5 miles. I would definitely say after the first 1.5 miles the hike becomes a cruise much more steady of a trail with a few inclines. Initially though, the trail seems like it will never level out (though that may just be my sea level lungs talking to me). 

If you do use this trail head in Spring or Fall there are little harmless streams along the way and I would just advise that you watch for ice. The morning we came back down pretty early and the small logs crossing the stream were covered in slick ice we couldn't see until our balance was quickly challenged. 

Around the 2 mile mark you begin to notice more trees are down across the trail you will have to manage to flop over, but the trail is incredibly well marked and maintained as it can be heavily trafficked. 

Arriving to the lower of the Blue Lakes is indeed very rewarding. It is by far one the more "jaw dropping" mountain lake views I have seen in Colorado. It reminded me a tad bit of my favorite hike I did in Alaska - Lower & Upper Reed Lakes. I felt like I was home again. The Alaskan trail is a very special one to my heart and seeing something somewhat resembling gave me a rush of nostalgia and a desire to head back North. 

As far as camping off this trail head, it is permitted but you must be 100 ft off the trail and 100ft away from the water. Since practically no one was there besides a young couple, we had unlimited sites to choose from (note: camping spaces are limited at lower lake, so get an early start especially during summer seasons and on weekends). We chose the spot that had the best view. We camped on the south east end of the lake off the trail, away from many of the other camp sites. This site is well marked by a giant bonfire pit but note that though this is there it is not permitted to have fire in the Mt. Sneffels Wilderness. This spot offered much less protection from the wind, but I knew I wasn't there to have a comfortable sleep in late October. Our tent looked out directly center with the towering peaks and Mt. Sneffels just to our East. If they could charge for campsites - that would be the most expensive and sought after spot in my opinion.

We definitely were feeling the altitude by the time we got there and set up, so we took a nice nap in our hammocks and enjoyed the rather warm October sun on our tired bodies. We both were trying to fight off an upper respiratory bug and decided to soak in the mystical views rather than continue our climb up to middle and upper blue lakes - which I still highly recommend doing if you are fit and able. 

Total Elevation gain resulted in about 2,194 ft. again with the majority of the gain being in the first 1.5 miles.  Your end elevation will be around 10,988 ft, as you lose some elevation toward the end of the trail. With our packs, lack of a normal airway and having a set of sea level lungs, the up took us a bit over 3 hours. I think under normal circumstances it would take us 2-2.5 hours. Without a pack, good water supply - in and out could be as fast as 3.5 hours depending on your level of fitness. It took us about an 1 hour 15 minutes back down with our gear.

Driving directions from Ouray:  It takes 45-50 minutes to drive the 24 miles from Ouray to the Blue Lakes trailhead.  The drive is quite scenic with views dominated by 14,150-ft. Mt. Sneffels and its neighboring peaks and ridgelines, almost all over 13,000-ft.

From the center of Ouray take Highway 550 heading north for just over 10 miles to Highway 62 in Ridgway.  Turn left (west) on Highway 62.  Drive 4.8 miles and take a left onto County Road 7, marked East Dallas Creek.  It is easy to miss the turn while you are admiring the scenery to the south of the highway.  In two miles CR-7 bears right where it meets CR-7A.  Continue for a total of 9 miles on CR-7 through a beautiful valley to the parking area at the trailhead. 

Driving Directions from Telluride:  From Telluride the trailhead is a 90 minute/ 44 miles drive.  Drive west on West Colorado Avenue to Highway 145.  Head west on Hwy 145 12.7 miles to where it dead ends at Highway 62 in Placerville.  Take a right (turn east) onto Highway 62 and drive 18.6 miles to County Road 7, marked East Dallas Creek.  Turn right onto CR-7.  In two miles CR-7 bears right where it meets CR-7A.  Continue for a total of 9 miles through a beautiful valley to the parking area at the trailhead. 

Road Conditions:  Passenger car accessible.  CR-7 is a good, graded gravel road up to National Forest boundary.  Beyond this point the road maintenance deteriorates and you will need to dodge potholes.

If you choose to continue on past lower lake, note that your day can be as much as 11 miles round trip with as much as 3,650 ft elevation gain. 

**Please respect the Leave No Trace rules**

Last bathroom stop is in the parking lot of the trailhead.

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