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Ward, Colorado, United States

Blue Lake

A hike within the Roosevelt National Forest

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    This guide contains photos
 (5 votes, 2 reviews)
Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 5.3 miles / 8.5 km
Duration: Half day
Family Friendly
 
Overview: There are a couple of Blue Lakes in the Colorado front range. This one is located in the Roosevelt National Forest north of Nederland, near the small community of Ward. It is a fabulous hike in which you will encounter two major lakes (Mitchell and Blu) and several other streams and small ponds. Ther is abundant wildlife and flowers that offer some of the best photographs I've taken. The view of the Continental Divide is also magnificent the closer you get to it.

I've listed this as a half day hike, but you could do it in 3 hours fairly easily. I am one that enjoys taking a little extra time for photographs and viewing the scenery.

This is listed a moderate hike due to the length of the trail and the incline about .5 mile from Blue Lake. However, we had hikers ranging in age from 10 to 65 and everyone not only made it with no problems, but had fun along the way.

Enjoy!


Tips: Since Blue Lake is above the timber line you will want to dress accordingly. Wind could also be a concern as this trail is within a natural valley coming off the Continental Divide.

This trail is located within the Brainard Lake Recreation Area and as of this writing (Aug. 2010) there was a fee to enter the park. I believe the fee was around $9 per car load.

The trailhead is about 13 miles north of Nederland on CO 72 just past the town of Ward. Once you read Ward, take CO 102 West to the Brainard Lake Recreation Area. Watch for signs directing you to the Mitchell Lake Trailhead.

Points of Interest

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Mitchell Lake Trailhead

The hike to Blue Lake begins at the Mitchell Lake Trailhead. Be sure to read the information sign posted at the begining of the trailhead as to the rules of the area.

This is a popular trail and as such there are nice bathroom facilities that are both well maintained and free from nasty smells (for the most part). This may seem like an odd entry for a trail guide, but if you are hiking with children, like we did, bathroom facilities suddenly become important.
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Cross Mitchell Creek

There are many bodies of water that you will encounter on this hike. Mitchell Creek is the first the you will cross. This particular crossing is by a nice bridge that gives a great view of the Mitchell Creek. There is also a nice little area just below the bridge that you can walk out on to take photos of your party on the bridge.

The trees offer some great views themselves. Look for any trees that have died and the bark has fallen off. The brown, gray, and white twisting patterns are beautiful to behold.
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Mitchell Lake

Before going on to Blue Lake, take a few minutes to enjoy Mitchell Lake. Mitchell Lake is at the foot of Mt Audubon and if you look west toward the Continental Divide you enjoy the marvelous view of Mount Toll.
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Cross Mitchell Lake Inlet

Here you will cros the stream that feeds Mitchell Lake. Although it is not a nice bridge with hand rails, the two logs that are used have been placed side by side for easy balance and should offer no problems during your cross.
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Rising into Center of Valley

There are many smaller ponds and bodies of water that you will encounter along this trail. But views of water and surrounding mountains are not the only thing to behold. It was near this point in the hike where came around a few wild mushrooms. I'm sure these are not the eating kind, but they made for great photographs none-the-less. Keep your eyes open as you never know what you will see.
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Two Mile Point

For the most part the trail has been fairly easy with a nice gradual incline. At this point with .5 miles remaining until you reach Blue Lake, the incline gains in intensity and the trail is rocky in places. It is still managable by young children and older adults however. We had children as young as the third grade and adults as old as 65 on our hike. We hiked this in early August and the wild flowers were in full bloom and simply outstanding!
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Approaching Blue Lake

From this point Blue Lake is just a short hike over the next ridge. This is a great spot to take a breather and take a few pictures. For the most part you are now above the tree line and any trees you do see will be smaller and windblown. You can tell how strong the wind is as the trees will be stripped bare on one side. The picture included offers a great example of this magical sight.
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Blue Lake

Although we encountered a few clouds and a lot of wind, Blue Lake was something to behold. At the far end you can see a beautiful waterfall feeding the lake. We encountered a young man who hiked over to the falls and said it was breath-taking.

Also looking to the far end you will see Mt. Toll and Pawnee Peak. Take you time to look around and just enjoy nature.
Pictures in this guide taken by: montyfox
Reviews
squirtburg
This trail is probably one of the most beautiful trails I have seen. It is a steady climb pretty much the whole way, With creeks, rivers, wildflowers, and open meadows. After you pass the first lake on the right it starts to get more difficult. Definitely wear the proper shoes and wear bug spray!! You will get eaten alive if you don't! And definitely wear sunscreen. This hike took us about 4-4.5 hours, but I am a photographer so I stopped to take a lot of pictures. Bring plenty of water, we each had one water bottle full and it wasn't enough. If you have a water filter you can use that in some of the creeks. It was still muddy in parts but not too bad, you do climb a lot of rocks and boulders for about a mile of the hike, so please don't wear flip flops! ( I saw several people in sandals...). Bring a snack or a lunch to eat once you get to Blue Lake, I brought a light jacket but I didn't need it at this time of the year. It does get windy once you start getting higher and closer to the lake. Overall a great hike and we will do it again.
Visited on Jul 20, 2013

by squirtburg on Jul 21, 2013
Kcompy
This hike is absolutely amazing. The road to Mitchell Lake Trailhead is closed until July 14th so we had to park 3/4 of a mile away. I didn't mind though and it is well marked so you can figure out where to go.

The trail is still very muddy and wet in most parts. I figure it was a trade off to see the peak behind blue like with a lot of snow on it. It made the scenery even more breathtaking. This is absolutely my favorite hike I have ever done (I've done quite a few in colorado). Be sure to bring snacks and a light jacket.

Visited on Jul 02, 2013

by Kcompy on Jul 06, 2013

Blue Lake Trail Map


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montyfox
montyfox
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