Blue Lake

Round Trip Distance: 6.2 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation: 10,390 - 12,173 feet
Cellphone: 0-3 bars
Time: 4 hrs.
Trailhead: Bridal Veil Power Station
Fee: none
Attractions: Scenic alpine lake

Blue Lake is located up the Bridal Veil Falls Basin just south of Telluride, Colorado. With its crystal clear blue water the lake is nestled above 12,000 feet in a glacier cirque surrounded on three sides by bare rocky ridges and peaks that all tower above 13,000 feet. Along the trail hikers are treated to numerous cascading waterfalls, wildflowers and several mining ruins. Blue Lake is a favorite among both locals and visitors to the Telluride area.

To get to the upper trailhead, near the Bridal Veil Power Station, requires driving up the Black Bear Pass Road with a high clearance 4wd vehicle and experience negotiating tight switchbacks that can require backing up to get around. The narrow road can be very busy on weekends with the wider parts of the road usually have vehicles parked along the sides. If you are lucky enough to find a parking spot near the upper trailhead the round trip distance for Blue Lake will be 6.2 miles with around 1,800 feet of elevation gain. Starting from the very bottom it will come out to 11 miles and 3,144 feet of elevation gain. The earlier you arrive the better your chance of parking near the top.

From wherever you were able to find a parking spot continue up the road and pass through the green gate where the trail follows an easement through private property as it passes the Bridal Veil Power Station. There is a warning sign here for those that might be going to Silver Lake that dogs have been swept away by the current as they were crossing Bridal Veil Creek.

At the time that we took the photos for this post there surprisingly were no trail signs whatsoever other than those on the green gate. The Forest Service labels the trail from the powerplant up the basin as Bridal Veil #636. The unmarked trail to Silver Lake branches off on the right less than a half mile from the powerplant and crosses Bridal Veil Creek. These photos were taken in mid September when the creek was flowing no more than a half foot of water making crossing the creek less of an issue.

The climbing is steady all the way up the valley, never relenting, but never getting too steep for the types of mining vehicles that it was originally created to accommodate.

Waterfalls cascade down the drainage all along the trail.

As memorable as the waterfalls are the dozen or so switchbacks that ease the trail up the valley.

Near the 2 mile point from the powerplant the Blue Lake trail stays to the left. There are cairns on both sides of the left fork for a little reassurance on which way to go. The other big hint is to keep heading toward the pyramid shaped peak in the distance.

As the trail gets closer to Blue Lake the pyramid peak starts to take on a different look. We can't find a name for the peak on any of our maps but one has its elevation at 12,825 feet. A little further around the ridge is Telluride 11 Peak at 13,510 feet. The peak at the back of the basin is 13,434 feet and on the east side of the lake are the Three Needles at 13,481 feet.

The trail levels off considerably as it heads into the Blue Lake basin where several more mining buildings come into view. Hikers must stay on the trail as the land around Blue Lake is all private property.

For this year there is snow still clinging to the slopes even in mid September. As the sun begins shining into the cirque on this day it slowly starts bringing the air temperature up above freezing. Because of the waters low concentrations of algae and other substances the blue wavelength of light passes deeper into the water column giving the lake its blue color (lakescientist.com).

At 365 feet in height the Bridal Veil Falls is the highest free-falling waterfall in the state of Colorado. Perched on the very edge of the cliffs of the box canyon the power plant towers over Telluride like a medieval castle.

From this final photo you can see some of the other types of vehicles that ventured up the Black Bear Pass Road and what the parking situation is like. There are several opportunities for much longer excursions in Bridal Veil Basin. An out and back to Silver Lake will add a little over 2 miles while continuing up Bridal Veil Basin to the Wasatch trail and then looping back to town via Bear Creek should come out to roughly 15 miles. There is also a somewhat obscure trail that crosses the ridge behind Lewis Lake and drops down to Columbine Lake on the Silverton side of the mountains. However you go about it Blue Lake is a great place to 'Take a hike'.