A stunning trek hike through taiga forest to an alpine lake, complete with late snowfields, a waterfall on the far bank, all surrounded by towering peaks. This trail is not too difficult for most hikers, yet the elevation gain can be quite taxing. You’ll be rewarded by impressive views and if you’re hiking in summer, the wildflowers are spectacular as you approach the lake.

Quick Facts

Hike Blue Lake
Location Indian Peak Wilderness, accessed via Brainard Lake Recreation
Overall Rating Very nice. Almost a 5, but it is a bit crowded, with many dogs on the trail
Difficulty Moderate
Distance, Round Trip 5.1 miles (8.2 km) – allow 3+ hours
Starting Elevation 10,525 ft (3208 m)
Highest Elevation 11,352 ft (3461 m)
Animals Permitted Dogs OK on leash
Fishing Catch and release only
Driving from Boulder 45 miles (72 km) – 1 hour 15 minutes
Highlights Mixed conifer forest, dramatic views, ponds, lakes and alpine vistas

Trail Map With Notes & Photos

View Indian Peaks Wilderness CO – Blue Lake in a larger map

Driving Directions

Entrance is through the Brainard Lake Recreation Area. From Boulder, take Canyon (CO 119) up Boulder Canyon to Nederland. Turn right, North, on CO 72 8 miles to Ward. Turn West at the Brainard Lake Recreation Area sign. Area entrance costs $9 for a day pass.

Navigating the Trail

The trails are clearly marked. Starting in mixed conifer forest, the trail passes Mitchell Lake and the landscape opens up as you ascend into lush meadows. A moderate incline of less than 1000 feet over 2.5 miles feels a bit harder than you might expect if you’re not used to the altitude (Blue Lake elevation is 11,352 ft). As you approach the lake the trail diverges in a few places. Just follow the small cairns and you can’t really get lost.

Words of Warning

  • Any high altitude location in the Rocky Mountains is vulnerable to quick changes in weather. Be prepared for anything, even in summer. Thunderstorms, rain or even snow can occur with little warning.
  • A water resistant hooded jacket is always a good thing to have with you.

More Information