I have traveled to over 50 countries on seven continents, more than half of which were visited solo. I love traveling, being outdoors, and hiking. I hope to inspire others to travel and explore further, even if that means going alone.
Hey, I'm Ashley!
Colorado is home to some of the best lakes in the country, and hiking to these scenic bodies of water is a common hobby for outdoor enthusiasts. From the stunning views of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness to the crystal-clear waters of Ice Lake, Colorado’s hiking trails to its lakes are sure to leave you in awe.
While hiking in Colorado is possible year-round, the best time to visit for hiking is typically from late summer through early fall. During this time, the weather is generally mild and the snow has melted, making it easier to access trails at higher elevations.
Summer is the peak season for hiking in Colorado, with warm temperatures and sunny skies that make for ideal hiking conditions. However, Fall is also a great time to visit, as the cooler temperatures and changing leaves add a unique beauty to the landscape.
No matter what time of year you choose to visit, be sure to check the weather and trail conditions before setting out on your hike. Additionally, always pack appropriate clothing and gear for the conditions.
One of the best hikes in Colorado that should be on every hiker’s list is the Blue Lakes Trail. Located in the San Juan Mountains in southwestern Colorado, this trail is renowned for its jaw-dropping scenery and challenging terrain.
The Blue Lakes Trail is a 8.7 mile out-and-back trail that starts at the end of County Road 7 near the town of Ridgway. It’s a pretty rocky, but beautiful, road to get to the trailhead. A high clearance vehicle would be preferred, but I did see a few sedans in the parking lot. The parking was limited so I’d definitely also recommend heading to the trailhead early.
Hiking the Blue Lakes Trail is not easy, but it’s worth the effort. The trail gains about 2,500 feet in elevation, which means hikers will need to be in good physical shape and be prepared for altitude changes and some challenging terrain. Hikers should also be prepared for sudden weather changes, as the weather in the mountains can be unpredictable.
About 3.3 miles into the hike, hikers will reach Lower Blue Lake, which is an excellent spot to take a break and enjoy the view. The lake is a beautiful turquoise color and is surrounded by towering mountains. From there, the trail continues up to Middle and Upper Blue Lake.
Before reaching Middle Blue Lake, at 3.7 miles in, do not miss the viewpoint of Lower Blue Lake from above. This viewpoint is one of the best views out of all of the lake hikes located in Colorado.
The trail gets steeper from Lower Blue Lake to the Middle Blue Lake, but if you’re going to cut the trail short, you want to at least make it to this viewpoint.
4.0 miles in on the hike, you’ll reach the Middle Blue Lake. After seeing Lower Blue Lake from the viewpoint, nothing could beat that for me though.
4.3 miles in you’ll finally hit Upper Blue Lake. If you start early enough, you can actually continue on to Mt Sneffels. However, this portion of the hike requires a greater level of experience and additional gear.
I would suggest finishing the hike at Upper Blue Lake or at least the viewpoint of Lower Blue Lake. Then, stop for lunch back at Lower Blue Lake on your way down. Lower Blue Lake was warmer, less windy, and very relaxing.
Trail: Lower, Middle and Upper Blue Lakes via Blue Lakes Trail
Length: 8.7 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,509 feet
Route Type: Out & back
Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most beautiful and popular destinations for hiking in the United States. Among the many trails in the park, one of the best lake hikes in Colorado is Sky Pond. This challenging 8.4 mile round trip hike takes hikers to one of the most spectacular alpine lakes in the park, surrounded by towering peaks and remarkable views.
The trailhead for the Sky Pond hike is located at the Glacier Gorge Trailhead, which is about 12 miles southwest of Estes Park. The Glacier Gorge Trailhead is located off Bear Lake Road. This area of Rocky Mountain National Park requires an advanced timed entry permit to access the park.
The hike begins with a relatively easy 1.8-mile trek along a well-maintained trail that follows a creek fed by Alberta Falls. After reaching Alberta Falls, 0.9 miles in on the trail, the trail becomes steeper and more challenging. Hikers will navigate through a series of switchbacks as they climb up the mountain, passing through a beautiful forest of lodgepole pines and aspen trees.
After about 2.9 miles, hikers will reach The Loch, a beautiful alpine lake with impressive views. This is a good spot to take a break, enjoy the scenery, and recharge for the remainder of the hike. Try to catch it at sunrise. The colors on the mountain behind the lake and the stillness of the water makes this lake so beautiful!
From The Loch, hikers will continue up the trail to reach Timberline Falls, about 4.2 miles in on the trail. Timberline Falls is a cascade of water that falls down a series of granite steps. This is a challenging section of the trail, as hikers must navigate up the steep granite steps using a series of handholds and footholds. It’s a bit of a scramble, but the reward at the top is worth it. Depending on the season, the falls may be icy and microspikes will be extremely helpful.
Right beyond Timberline Falls, hikers will first reach Lake of Glass. Many mistake Lake of Glass for Sky Pond, but Sky Pond is actually a bit further.
You’ll need to circle around the right side of Lake of Glass before actually reaching Sky Pond, 4.6 miles in on the trail. Once you finally reach Sky Pond, a serene and picturesque alpine lake surrounded by jagged peaks will be waiting for you. Take a look at the peaks on the right side of the lake. Here you may catch brave climbers summiting a peak named Sharkstooth.
Trail: Sky Pond via Glacier Gorge Trail
Length: 8.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,771 feet
Route Type: Out & back
Not only is the South Boulder Creek Trail less than 1.5 hours from Denver, it has so many options for some of the best lake hikes in Colorado. I’d highly recommend visiting in the Fall when the aspen trees are changing colors, especially at the beginning of the trail. Keep a look out for moose on the dirt road to the parking lot as well. I’ve seen moose on this road every time I’ve hiked this trail.
The trailhead for the South Boulder Creek Trail is located at the end of Tolland Rd, which is about 30 miles west of Boulder. The trailhead is easy to find and offers ample parking. From the trailhead, hikers will start on a gradual incline that follows South Boulder Creek. The sound of water rushing over rocks is peaceful, and the scenery filled with aspen trees is beautiful.
After 2.1 miles, hikers will come across a junction where they can either take the trail to the right, which leads to the Crater Lakes, or continue straight ahead to Heart Lake.
The hike to Heart Lake is difficult, with some pretty steep elevation gain up to the lakes. Before reaching Heart Lake, you’ll want to make a stop at Rogers Pass Lake, 4.4 miles in on the trail. I found Rogers Pass Lake to be less windy so I would stop back at this lake for lunch after taking in all that Heart Lake has to offer.
After another 0.5 miles, hikers will reach Heart Lake, a serene alpine lake in the shape of you guessed it, a heart. If you’ve still got the energy, you can even continue up to Rogers Pass to see the lakes from above.
The trail is mostly shaded, which is perfect for hiking on a hot summer day. However, hikers should be prepared for changes in altitude and sudden weather changes. It was extremely windy getting up to and at Heart Lake while I was there. The trail is well-maintained and easy to follow, but hikers should also bring a map and compass in case of any navigational issues. I did accidentally end up off trail at one point.
Trail: Heart Lake via South Boulder Creek Trail
Length: 9.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,316 ft
Route Type: Out & back
There are 3 different lakes to see on the Crater Lakes Trail. Lower Crater Lake South, Lower Crater Lake North, and Upper Crater Lake. I wouldn’t do this trail without visiting the Upper Crater Lake.
After approximately three miles, hikers will reach Lower Crater Lake South, a beautiful alpine lake nestled in a glacial basin.
For hikers who want to continue on to Upper Crater Lake, the trail continues on a steep incline for the last 0.5 mile. Before the trail starts gaining significant elevation, keep a look out for views of Lower Crater Lake North which you’ll pass on your righthand side.
Upper Crater Lake is smaller than the lower lakes, but in my opinion was more beautiful than Lower Crater Lake North and South. It was absolutely worth the last 0.5 mile gaining 500 ft of elevation.
Trail: Crater Lakes Trail via South Boulder Creek Trail
Length: 7.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,870 ft
Route Type: Out & back
Nestled deep in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado, the Ice Lake and Island Lake Trail has two of the best lakes in Colorado . This 7.5-mile out-and-back trail takes hikers through stunning alpine meadows, past beautiful valleys, and up steep switchbacks to reach breathtaking alpine lakes: Ice Lake and Island Lake.
The trailhead for the Ice Lake and Island Lake Trail is located approximately 7 miles west of Silverton. The road is rough and bumpy, but any higher clearance vehicle will be fine. The trailhead is well-marked, and there is ample parking available.
From the trailhead, hikers will begin a gradual climb through a dense forest of spruce and pine trees. After approximately one mile, hikers will reach the first waterfall.
After approximately two miles, hikers will emerge from the trees into a vast alpine meadow filled with wildflowers. The scenery is truly spectacular, with views of the surrounding peaks and the creek below.
As the trail continues, hikers will come to several steep switchbacks that can be challenging, but the views are well worth the effort. After approximately 3.2 miles, hikers will reach Ice Lake, a gorgeous alpine lake with crystal-clear water and a vibrant blue-purple color. It is truly one of my favorite lake hikes in Colorado. The scenery is truly breathtaking, and hikers will likely want to stop here to take in the views and enjoy a snack.
For hikers who want to continue on to Island Lake, the trail continues across a ridge with extremely steep drop offs, but only for a small portion of the next half-mile. Island Lake is only a bit smaller than Ice Lake with a more blue-green color, but is equally as unique.
Hikers should be prepared for changes in altitude and sudden weather changes when hiking above treeline on this trail.
Trail: Island Lake via Ice Lakes Trail
Length: 7.7 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,680 ft
Route Type: Out & back
The trailhead for the Crater Lake Trail is located just outside of Aspen, Colorado in the heart of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. The Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness requires an advanced reservation to access the area. I’d highly recommend visiting in the fall when the aspen trees are changing colors throughout the entire trail.
The shuttle will drop you off at Maroon Lake which is the best lake on this trail and definitely one of best lakes in Colorado. With its popularity and easy access, there will be many many tourists here. To escape the tourists, continue on the trail to the right of the Maroon Lake towards Crater Lake.
From the trailhead, hikers will begin a gradual climb through a dense forest of aspen trees. The trail is well-maintained and easy to follow, with amazing views of the surrounding peaks throughout the hike. After approximately 1.5 miles, hikers will emerge from the trees and reach a very rocky area so be sure to watch your footing here.
Hikers will then reach Crater Lake after 1.8 miles in on the trail. Crater Lake is smaller than Maroon Lake, but still extremely beautiful with views of the treelined, surrounding mountain peaks. However, Crater Lake will be mostly dried up in the fall. To catch Crater Lake more full, but without the fall foliage unfortunately, visit in June instead.
For how to visit this lake without a car, check out this post.
Trail: Crater Lake
Length: 3.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 688 ft
Route Type: Out & back
Some of the best lake hikes are located in Colorado and each offers a unique and unforgettable hiking experience. Remember to always practice Leave No Trace principles, respect wildlife and their habitat, and follow all trail rules and regulations.
April 24, 2023
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