Colorado Trails

Colorado 14ers: Mount Sneffels and Blue Lakes

Two different routes climb to the summit of this craggy San Juan peak.


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\”Middle Blue Lake,sunrise\” by Steven Bratman is licensed under CC BY 2.0

In September, Mt. Sneffel’s snow-dusted, mile-high escarpment provides a shadowy backdrop for aspen-colored hills and golden pastures lined by split-rail fences. Compressed by a telephoto lens, this chamber-of- commerce image screams “High Country Heaven.” Two different routes make their way to the summit: a short, steep scramble and a more meandering path through the Blue Lakes.

The 4.8-mile out-and-back route from Yankee Boy Basin climbs steep, boulder-covered slopes and an often snow-filled couloir to the summit, overlooking turquoise mountain lakes.In July, the meadows near the trailhead host some of the lushest wildflower gardens in existence. The march up the mountain isn’t as good as its views, but it only takes a couple of hours. A short but spirit-sapping scree slog gains Lavender Col at 13,500 feet, where a couloir jammed with teetering talus—or snow in early summer—shoots toward the summit. (Stick to the biggest blocks to minimize erosion.) On top, your legs may be sore from the talus-hopping, but your soul will be refreshed by the crenellated ridges radiating from the striking pyramid that is Mt. Sneffels.-Text by Dougald MacDonald-Mapped by Tim George

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\”Lower Blue Lake\” by Steven Bratman is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Blue Lakes trail route winds through an alpine basin with three lakes nestled among the wildflower meadows, surrounded by the cliffs and sharp summits of the San Juan mountains. You can make this 13-mile out-and-back an overnight with a stop at the campsites beside Lower Blue Lake, splitting the elevation gain (over 5,000 feet of it) over two days to spare your legs.

Permit none Contact Mt. Sneffels Wilderness