Top 7 beautiful blue Colorado high alpine lake hikes

Newsroom Best Of Topics Top 7 beautiful blue Colorado high alpine lake hikes

Ice out signals the official start of summer in the mountains as cobalt and emerald lakes return to their liquid state. Colorado’s high alpine lakes are nothing short of breathtaking. From Silverton to Vail, many of these pristine bodies of water can be found above timberline, harbor healthy populations of trout and offer dazzling displays of wildflowers and towering rock formations. Lace up your trail stompers and climb into the clouds with these ethereal high alpine lake hikes.

An alpine lake is really just a high altitude lake. They can be crystal clear, unlike some of the lakes at lower altitudes, because the cold water decreases the speed in which algae and moss can grow in the water. They are so plentiful in Colorado, virtually any mountain hike you take will find one along the way.

Tackle the six best summer hikes in Summit County, Colorado

1. Dream Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park

Dream Lake is an iconic high mountain lake located near Estes Park. Access the Bear Lake Trailhead inside Rocky Mountain National Park and enjoy this easy out-and-back hike to one of the state’s most popular lakes. As an added bonus, you’ll pass Nymph Lake on your way up. Continue on to Emerald Lake, another .7 miles, and check off three lakes in one afternoon.

Distance: 2.2 miles (round trip)
Elevation Gain: 430 feet
Elevation: 9,900

Dream Lake, Colo
Dream Lake is a beauty in Rocky Mountain National Park. (NPS photo)

2. Cathedral Lake, Aspen

Climb to over 11,000 feet along Cathedral Lake Trailhead south of Aspen and you’ll be rewarded with one of the area’s most beautiful pieces of scenery, Cathedral Lake. This moderate to strenuous hike winds through aspen stands along Pine Creek before opening up above treeline.

Distance: 5.6 miles (round trip)
Elevation Gain: 1,986 feet
Elevation: 11,866 feet

Cathedral Lake, Aspen
Cathedral Lake above, Aspen is a welcome site (Trip Advisor photo)

3. Ice Lake, Silverton

Located in the San Juan Mountains just west of Silverton, Ice Lake is perfect for day hikers looking for a moderate out-and-back excursion. Ice Lake Trail, located across from South Mineral Campground, twists through waterfalls and meadows in route to a picturesque tarn in Ice Lake Basin.

Distance: 7.6 miles (round trip)
Elevation Gain: 2789 feet
Elevation: 12,257

Ice Lake at Silverton
Ice Lake at Silverton is a perfect example of a high alpine lake. (Trip Advisor photo)

4. Booth Lake, Vail

For hikers looking to test their metal with some serious elevation gain, Booth Lake offers a challenge that’s well worth the extra effort. Access to Booth Lake is gained via Booth Lake Trailhead on I-70 in Vail. Take a much-needed break at Booth Falls and snap a pic, before journeying on through an open meadow, thick stands of spruce and a final push to the lake’s eastern grassy shoreline.

Distance: 8.7 miles (round trip)
Elevation Gain: 3478 feet
Elevation: 11,464

Booth Lake, Vail
Booth Lake at Vail is a high alpine lake worth your visit. (USGS photo)

5. Blue Lake, Telluride

This Telluride hike has it all, including a stop at Bridal Veil Falls, abandoned mining cabins, wildflowers, and of course, a gorgeous alpine lake above treeline. Finding the trailhead is an adventure in itself, accessed by a 4-wheel-drive road that leads up Telluride’s box canyon and eventually, Blue Lakes Trail.

Distance: 5.25 miles (round trip)
Elevation Gain: Approx. 2000 feet
Elevation: 12,400

Blue Lake, Telluride
Wonder why it’s called Blue Lake in Telluride? (Photo: Telluride Flyfishers)

6. Mirror Lake, near Denver

Mirror Lake is in Indian Peaks Wilderness near Denver. You’ll work to get there as it’s a difficult, but rewarding day hike or a moderate overnight hike. Permits are required for backpacking in Memorial Day through Labor Day. Moose may not be too afraid od you to charge. Just saying.

Mirror Lake, Denver
Mirror Lake is near Denver and rewarding after a difficult hike. (Flickr photo)

7. Crystal Lake, Breckenridge

Crystal Lake is in the White River National Forest near Breckenridge. It’s a moderate to easy hike, depending on the route you take and it’s 4-8 miles.

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