Photos from three days of summer camping at Blue Lakes, in the Sneffels Range of the San Juan Mountains, Colorado.
Beautiful Blue Lakes
Update 13 years later:
As I re-read this blog post of mine in the summer of 2023, 13 years after originally posting it, I thought it's worth mentioning how crazy popular Blue Lakes has gotten in the last decade. This place has always been one of the most well known and popular spots in the San Juans, but its popularity has grown dramatically and is currently at a level of insanity that I would never have envisioned 13 years ago.
I don't begrudge people wanting to visit this beautiful area, and indeed I actually think it's great that people are getting outside, exercising, and witnessing this wonderful gem. Their time here will certainly provide fond memories and boost their appreciation of Colorado and nature in general (especially for all the little kids who make the hike). But the sheer number of people means that inevitably the purity of the place has been diminished, whether it's the numerous paths that have been trampled through the wildflowers around the lake shore, the poop and Charmin-blossoms under every rock, or just the loss of solitude in general. Sadly Blue Lakes isn't really a place I consider going backpacking to any longer; in fact it almost seems irresponsible to do so, to be adding to the pressure and impact of this already-stressed location.
The U.S. Forest Service has been considering implementing a limited permit system for Blue Lakes, and although I generally detest permits for wilderness access, I actually think this is a good idea to help preserve Blue Lakes' natural value, educate users, and prevent it from being loved to death. Something needs to be done. In the meantime, if you are reading this and would like to visit Blue Lakes, please tread lightly and treat the area with the respect it deserves by following the basic Leave No Trace principles. Specifically, please stay on existing trails and do not trample through wildflowers or untrammeled meadows. Consider just day-hiking there instead of camping, and if you do camp be sure to camp in an existing campsite in the trees at the lower Blue Lake and not out in the open meadows near the lake and not above tree line by the upper lakes.