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Hike To Blue Lake
A spectacular backcountry journey awaits.....
The hike to Blue Lake located in the Indian Peaks Wilderness area within the Arapahoe / Roosevelt National Forest, Colorado, vividly captures an idyllic alpine landscape, prolific wildflowers, tumbling waterfalls and intimate views of the area's most impressive peaks. The hike is truly spectacular well worth a visit.
I have been to Blue Lake countless times and the beauty of the hike as well as the lake itself never ceases to amaze me. The trail is short, 6 miles round trip, with minimal elevation gain, ( 905' total roundtrip elevation gain) making it an easy outing for almost anyone.
This page serves as a photo essay of this amazing area, trail and lake. Enjoy!
The trail begins at 10,646 ' on a wide path through a peaceful spruce forest at .4 miles you reach Mitchell Creek seen at this stream crossing. Just past this crossing you officially enter the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area and will follow Mitchell Creek to Mitchell Lake's southeast shore.
Anglers may wish to hike up this stream rather than staying on the trail, casting along the way, towards Mitchell Lake as the fish are plentiful. Wildflowers are plentiful too.
One mile up along the Blue Lake trail lies Mitchell Lake, (10,725'). Mitchell Lake is surrounded by trees and therefore protected from the sometimes high winds in the area. The lake is also at the foot of Mt Audubon's (13,223') massive, talus-strewn southern flank. The trail continues on along the lake and begins to ascend above the tree line there after.
Hike In Comfort
One of the most picturesque spots on the trail is the log crossing (see logs to the right of this photo). Wildflowers such as Mountain Bluebells, Perry Primrose, Indian Paintbrush, American Bistort, Golden and Purple Asters and so many more flourish within the low waters of the stream and make for a stunning experience which this picture cannot do justice to!
As the trail climbs, the forest thins and multiple smaller lakes and ponds line the trail. The trail breaches treeline in about 2.50 miles.
The Hike To Blue Lake Almost Complete
Along the final stretch of the hike, numerous small waterfalls can be seen as well as snow and runoff from the snow. The Indian Peaks Wilderness Area actually contains a handful of remnant glaciers, considered by some to be the southernmost permanent glaciers in North America. Glaciers of the past are responsible for the formation of the turquoise lakes, such as Blue Lake that formed in moraines. High alpine wildflowers such as Kings Crown, Elephant Head and Old Man Of The Mountains can be seen in this area as well.
Arrival At Blue Lake
Blue Lake sits at 11,355' and occupies a rock cirque framed by Pawnee Peak, Mount Toll and Paiute Peak (13,088'). The southern shoreline is rugged and not easily traversed. This photo, taken in July 2010, shows a snow free lake. Ripples upon the surface can be seen due to the high winds of the day. In other years, the lake may still have chunks of snow (as seen in the photo at the very start of this page.) A small waterfall can be seen at the far side of the lake.
Be Prepared For Your Hike
As Blue Lake sits at such a high elevation, the route to Blue Lake can be wet, muddy and snow covered well into summer. You must come prepared for all weather conditions, especially afternoon thunderstorms which occur on an almost daily basis in the mountains.
Please Prevent Trail Erosion
Trail erosion is a big problem along the Blue Lake Trail and at Blue Lake proper. It is also a problem along the many surrounding trails in the area. With so much snow, runoff and melting, lots of mud forms. People not wanting to get their shoes muddy hike to the sides of the trail, widening the trails (as seen in the photo above). Social trails going off in every direction to multiple view spots, rocks or logs can also be seen. This destroys vegetation, causes more mud to form during rain storms and looks unsightly.
The Forest Service has no money to mitigate this problem and relies completely on the help of volunteers such as those from the Wildlands Restoration Volunteers
Please do your part when hiking here or anywhere by staying on the trail.