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5 Best Lake Hikes In Colorado

Lush Green Vegetation at Blue Lakes
Blue Lakes

Colorado is such a stunning state to explore with so many beautiful lake hikes within the Rocky Mountains. One minor flaw of the Colorado Rockies is it makes it hard to get from one destination to the next because you have to drive around the mountains. But, the best part is that the long drive to each of these lake hikes makes it so worth it in the end!

In this guide, we’ll unveil the 5 best lake hikes in Colorado, each offering a unique blend of breathtaking views, crystal-clear waters, and the serenity of the Rocky Mountains.

Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just starting your outdoor journey, these trails promise an unforgettable experience. Lace-up your boots, pack your camera, and get ready to explore some of the most picturesque lake hikes Colorado has to offer.

Blue Lake near Telluride, CO, which is one of the best lake hikes in Colorado
Blue Lakes

Blue lakes:

  • Distance: 7.9 miles
  • Elevation: 2,519ft
  • Location: Telluride, CO

First on the list of best lake hikes in Colorado is Blue Lakes. Blue Lakes was the first alpine lake that truly took my breath away, both physically and metaphorically! The hike is challenging as it climbs 2,519 ft in elevation, but leads up to one of the most mystically blue lakes.

This hike is located near Telluride, CO. This hike is out and back and 7.9 miles with 2,519ft in elevation change. The trail continues climbing up to Upper Blue Lake where you can also get a bird’s eye view of lower blue lakes.

Check out our Blue Lakes hiking guide for more in-depth details about this hike.

You can also access Blue Lakes via Yankee Boy Basin. But you must summit Mt. Sneffel’s (a peak over 14,000 ft) first. Learn all the details about the Yankee Boy Basin Route via our Mt. Sneffel’s hiking guide.

blue-green water with a waterfall flowing into it, making it one of the best hikes in colorado
Hanging Lake

Hanging Lake:

  • Distance: 3 miles
  • Elevation: 1,135ft
  • Location: Glenwood Springs, CO

Hanging Lake is a very unique hike up in Glenwood Canyon. Even the drive through Glenwood Canyon will have your jaw on the ground. While this hike is short in distance, it is undoubtedly a staircase to the top. But for the effort to get to the top, the reward is beyond your wildest dreams.

The stunning aqua blue-green water is a color you didn’t know existed. Additionally, there is a beautiful waterfall flowing off the rock ledge into the turquoise lake.

But everyone agrees this is a bucket list destination, therefore, it is one of the most popular hikes in Colorado. The city has initiated a permit system and the shuttle is the only way you can get to the trailhead during peak season.

The lake hike is out and back and 3 miles with 1,135ft in elevation change. Check out our hiking guide for Hanging Lake for more details. 

St. Mary's Glacier in Idaho Springs, CO, which is one of the best lake hikes in Colorado
St. Mary’s Glacier

St. Mary’s Glacier:

  • Distance: 1.9 miles
  • Elevation: 907ft
  • Location: Idaho Springs, CO

St. Mary’s Glacier is a lake hike that is close to Denver which makes it much more accessible for tourists. A glacier stays all summer long, so you might even see people with skies strapped to their backpacks.

This lake hike is an easy out and back stretching 1.9 miles with 907ft in elevation change. The start of the hike is very rocky, so I would suggest having a good pair of hiking boots to support your ankles. Our personal favorite boots are the Altra Lone Peak RSM (read our review to see if they are a good fit for you)!

Ice Lake Basin near Silverton, CO, which is one of the best lake hikes in Colorado
Ice Lake

Ice Lake  & Island Lake:

  • Distance: 6.5 miles
  • Elevation: 2,736ft
  • Location: Silverton, CO

Ice Lake and Island Lake is a two-for-one lake hike but it certainly takes some effort to climb up to this gorgeous lake. The trailhead is located near Silverton, CO.

The hike climbs up in elevation right from the start and doesn’t really mellow out until you reach the lake. The hike is technically a lollipop loop.

About 3/4 of the way up, there is a split along the trail. You can continue straight (technically the left trail) up to Ice Lake Basin. Or you can turn slightly right and head toward Island Lake. Nonetheless, you should visit both lakes while you are here!

This hike is only 6.5 miles but climbs 2,736ft in elevation, making it a pretty challenging hike.

For more in-depth details about this hike, check out our hiking guide for Ice Lake and Island Lake.

Missouri Lake near Red Cliff, CO, which is one of the best lake hikes in Colorado
Missouri Lake

Missouri Lakes:

  • Distance: 7.2 miles
  • Elevation: 1,581ft
  • Location: Red Cliff, CO

Missouri Lakes is located in Red Cliff, CO, and consists of 3 very beautiful lakes in one hike. The hike is rated as moderate, and a good beginner hike for backpackers.

This hike is 7.2 miles roundtrip out and back with 1,581ft in elevation change. The hike starts off pretty flat until you reach a flowing waterfall. From here it consistently climbs in elevation through a beautiful forest.

Then, you will reach the first lake where you can take in the simple beauty surrounding you. Continue on to another small lake, eventually leading to the epic Missouri Lakes. There are tons of fabulous spots to soak in the views and enjoy a nice nutritious hiking snack.

Related Posts To The Best Lake Hikes In Colorado:

Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

A close follow-up to some of these stunning lakes is Bear Lake, Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, and Emerald Lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s a short hike out and back that passes by 4 gorgeous lakes.

Columbine Lake
Columbine Lake near Silverton, CO

Additionally, if you enjoy aqua blue lakes and you find yourself in Southwest Colorado, consider doing Columbine Lake or Hope Lake.

Don’t miss some other epic things to do in our favorite Southwest Colorado states.

Takeaway For The Best Lake Hikes In Colorado:

Colorado has so many beautiful lake hikes, but these are our personal favorites! Not all of them are easy, but the reward in the end makes it so worth it. If you are in Colorado, you should at least visit one of these stunning lake hikes.

But be sure to take a day or two to acclimate to the altitude before hiking if you’re not from the area. Check out our article Tips For Hiking In The Mountains.

We hope you enjoy some of these most stunning lake hikes in Colorado!

Also be sure to have these 8 Essentials You Should Always Have In Your Hiking Pack.

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