Resting in the Mount Sneffels Wilderness, turquoise-blue water shimmers amongst wildflowers and waterfalls. Blue Lakes Trail is a challenging trek located near Ridgeway, Colorado, and led to an extraordinary campsite on a recent backpacking trip I took with friends this July.
Located at 12,000 feet in elevation, the upper lake is the peak of the three-lake hike (with the option for seasoned hikers to summit the Mt. Sneffels 14er). Lots of water and snack breaks are essential to make it to the upper lake — in combination with general high altitude, rapid elevation gain and a steep incline, this trail is not for the ill-prepared. But with the right attitude and hydration for the altitude, any hiker interested in experiencing the scenic views of the San Juan Mountains can successfully embark on this adventure.
Blue Lakes Trail is fit for a day hike if started early in the morning, but staying overnight allows for a whole different experience with the land. While the lower lake has a marked camp site, I pitched a tent a few miles upward toward the middle lake, which has a direct view of the lower vibrant-blue water. The peaceful seclusion and 360 mountain view inspired a connection to the wildernesses I’ve never felt so deeply.
Once the moon set, the Milky Way painted the night sky. The detail of the stars was so vivid it didn’t seem real. Pondering the phenomenon before my eyes, I wondered why city lights ever stripped the sky of its stage.
Refilling my water pack with glacier water (that I seeped through a mini filter) was a nourishing experience. The water was fresh from pollutants and tasted clear as it looked. Because of the warm summer temperatures, the water was cooling, but not freezing, making it perfect for a mini foot and hand rinse. The temperatures also made it perfect for a comfortable night under a sleeping bag, a few layers and adventure friends to share body warmth with.
Living a nomadic lifestyle for a few days on this backpacking trip was a needed glimpse out of urban reality. It strengthened the harmonic connection I believe exists between humans and the earth, and I am grateful for trailheads like this opening up nature in its purest form.
Be sure to check out this and other hikes waiting in southwest Colorado this summer, they should not be missed!
Photos by Alex Deems.