Blue Lake and Little Blue Lake Via Mitchell Lake Trail

MODERATE 338 reviews
#3 of 112 trails in

Blue Lake and Little Blue Lake Via Mitchell Lake Trail is a 6.1 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Nederland, Colorado that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from May until December. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

6.1 miles
1,404 feet
Out & Back

dogs on leash

kid friendly


cross country skiing


horseback riding

nature trips


trail running







wild flowers





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 Blue) and several other streams and small ponds. There is abundant wildlife and flowers that offer some of the best photographs. The view of the Continental Divide is also magnificent the closer you get to it. This is listed as a half day hike, but you could do it in 3 hours fairly easily. You will need to pay $10 for a day pass to park at the trailhead.

1 day ago

Great hike!

Now one of my top five all-time favorites. First time I have done this hike. Only went to Blue Lake—didn’t do the rock scramble up to Little Blue Lake. Has a little bit of everything: river crossings, valley views, lake views, etc. I prepared for mosquitos after seeing all the reviews where people got eaten alive, but we went mid-August and some of the wet areas were dried up, so I’m thinking the breeding grounds weren’t as plentiful. We didn’t see a single mosquito. Most of the wildflowers were done, but there were still some blooming here and there. We saw a female moose and her baby lounging in a meadow. On the way back we saw a bull moose across one of the ponds. Also saw various other smaller wildlife. Nice to have facilities right at the trailhead. Went on a Thursday morning at 8 am and got in no problem, but there were plenty of cars in the parking lot.

1 day ago

Great hike. If you're going to go, get there early. Parking fills up and then you have to wait to even get in the park. The path is a little rocky, but not bad and the views are awesome.

2 days ago

Just do it. Phenomenal

3 days ago

Didn’t get up to area until 10:30am, on a Monday however no trouble parking at brainard lake parking. Beautiful lakes, meandering paths until you reach Mitchell lake then it is rocky path up to blue lake which is not difficult to navigate. Trails very well marked. Did not attempt little blue, however, it must be beautiful. I can only imagine. It must be a very steep rocky ascent. It wasn’t overly crowded however once at blue lake you certainly see and hear others. I can’t imagine it with more people. We did have a moose sighting which was a gift. This hike is now one of my must dos during my annual visit Home to Boulder

5 days ago

Beautiful hike on August 6, 2018.

11 days ago

A great, moderate hike. My wife and I didn't make it up to Little Blue Lake, and by the time we made it to Blue Lake, it looked like it was going to storm on the day we visited, 8-5-18. Blue Lake was still a great spot eat lunch and take some pictures. It ended up not storming, so we'll be back soon to do a complete circuit.

There were still plenty of wildflowers in bloom, and we arrived shortly after a lengthy bout of rain, so some of the streams were overflowing and added to scenery and enjoyment. We missed sighting a moose with her 2 calves by just a few minutes, but saw plenty of birds and rodents. The route was well maintained and not densely trafficked while visiting on a Sunday morning and in fact we had about a quarter mile stretch on the way back where it was just the two of us. Excellent photography opportunities along the way. I look forward to returning

12 days ago

A dramatic backdrop, wildflowers, wildlife, multiple lakes and waterfalls... this trail really does have it all! (and has quickly moved up my list of favorite hikes to do in Colorado). Echoing the reviews already posted, yes definitely get there early... I arrived at 7 AM on a rainy Sunday and the parking lot was still filling up pretty quickly. Also, the rocky scramble up to Little Blue Lake is pretty challenging and not very well marked... beautiful up there, but certainly not for all skill sets. Blue Lake alone is still well worth the trip though!

14 days ago

great hike,views are amazing. and wild life everywhere.

15 days ago

Easy hike to Blue Lake. Great for an inflatable boat.

15 days ago

After reading many reviews here, we got to the trailhead at 6:30am (on a Thursday) and there were only a few cars in the lot. Hardly anyone on the trail at that time. Around 7:45-8am we nearly ran into two bull moose eating right on the trail! We had just come to the top of a steep hill and couldn’t see them until we got to the top. Very cool though- maybe 50 yards from us. We also saw two big buck closer to the lake. The views are spectacular and have everything you’d want to see/ views, wildflowers were still in bloom (8/2/18), waterfalls, wildlife etc. The entire trail is pretty rocky so it slowed us down a bit.. but we did also stop a lot to take pictures. Coming down the trail around 9:30-10:30 we passed tons of people. If you want to see wildlife I’d definitely go early morning or late afternoon.

15 days ago

Very beautiful lake views! This is the only lake I’ve been to that has a waterfall flowing into it, or better yet down an enormous mountain!
I didn’t go to the little blue lake as the trail got extremely rocky and steep. But the view of the bigger one was worth it!

16 days ago

I enjoy this hike year after year, but parking has become a problem. We were at the park entrance at 8:15 and had to park at Brainard Lake because the Mitchell Lake trailhead parking lot was already full! This adds about a mile in each direction to the hike.
The wildflowers were pretty spent, but the three male moose we saw made up for it.
I recommend this hike, but plan to get there early.

17 days ago

Beautiful hike. Lots of wildflowers, several moose, overall great scenery. The pup also loved it. Parking at the Mitchell Lake trailhead was full, but you can still park at Brainard and there’s a trail that brings you up.

20 days ago

Incredibly beautiful trail. Late July show of color with many types of wildflowers. The terrain is very diverse as you rise past many small lakes on your way to Blue Lake. That final point is worth the effort!!! Gorgeous!
We were coming down the trail around 4:00 and saw 5 moose near mid hike lakes.
Nice parking and bathroom facility at trailhead

24 days ago

Did this today and got to the parking lot at Mitchell Lake some time after 1pm. I think I got lucky bc I only saw one space, which I took. I passed a lot of people coming back, so there was traffic on the trail for sure, but I basically had the last mile of the trail to myself and my dog, which was really nice. I didn’t venture all the way to Little Blue Lake due to time, but this is definitely a return trip. I saw a huge bull moose across the last huge pond before you get to Blue Lake on the way back to the lot. I basically had the trail to myself all the way back, at this point. I would highly recommend this trail on a weekday, super early or later like I went. Good incline all the way up, not too steep and gradual, plus there was plenty of shade along the way.

24 days ago

I did this hike last Sunday (7/22), and I would have given it a 5 out of 5 stars if there was more parking near the trailhead and I didn't have to walk close to a mile on a paved road. Having said that, this was an absolutely incredible hike that reminded me a lot of Sky Pond in Rocky Mountain Park.

I started my trek around 8 am and returned to the parking lot around 12 pm. I probably could have completed it in a quicker fashion had it not been for all of the people on the trail. This is another reason I like to hike during the week as opposed to the weekends when I can avoid the crowds.

It was a very gradual climb to Blue Lake, and I even continued on to Little Blue Lake and then even further to the base of Palute Peak. I found solitude here as no one that I could see ventured quite as far as I did on the trail.

The route up to Little Blue Lake could be considered somewhat treacherous for some, as there are a few scrambles across small water features and a little boulder field to climb up to reach the lake. However, it was nothing in comparison to the scramble up the snow field, large boulder field and scree that it took to reach the base of Palute Peak. I would recommend this to the experienced hiker who is looking for a challenge and to escape the masses.

All in all, this was a beautifully challenging hike that I would definitely do again. I will most certainly be returning to do Lake Isabelle some time in the near future.

Tip: Make sure you start at Mitchell Lake Trailhead and NOT Long Lake Trailhead, which goes to Lake Isabelle.

26 days ago

The trail is obvious and straightforward to Blue Lake. There good elevation gain to give you a workout and a mix of shade and sun exposure. Blue Lake is expansive and handsome with plenty of spots for a break and snack. The final mile to Little Blue Lake is another story: we hiked it July 4, 2018 and hit a few slippery, perilous snow fields. We approached Little Blue Lake from the south (had a pond crossing and some intense bouldering) and eventually lost the trail. We ran into another hiker who approached from the east via various cairns. Point being, Little Blue Lake is lovely and worth the hike but it was a real pain finding a route from Blue Lake to its higher sister.

27 days ago

Awesome hike! I did this in the evening. Started at 5:30 and only passed a few people on the trail. Made it to blue lake and got some great pictures of Mitchell and Blue lake at dusk. The best part was I got to see 3 moose on the way back. I had never seen moose before so it was a treat. Got some awesome pics of wildlife and scenery and was very peaceful. Made it back just before 9pm. Highly recommend this hike at dusk if you want to see animals.

27 days ago

absolutely gorgeous, can't wait to do it again

1 month ago

The most beautiful hike I've been on so far in Colorado!!

1 month ago

One of the most gorgeous hikes I have ever been on.

1 month ago

Loved this hike! It definitely is worth working your way up to little Blue lake, not for the lake (it's a puddle), but for the upper view of Devil's thumb and the view of Blue lake from above. We shared a huge Boulder with a angry Marmot, we took his sunning spot.

1 month ago

Absolutely incredible

1 month ago

I’m from Seattle so I know lake hikes and this is a good one! Make sure to apply bug spray and look out for MOOSE! We saw 3 bulls in the creek meadows off the sides of the trail. Columbine flowers are right before blue lake. Make sure to do the hike near sunset “the golden hour” to get the best experience. Tons of fluffy marmots too! Worth the 15 min parking wait!

1 month ago

My new favorite. Photos don’t do it justice. The beauty of this trail just cannot be put into words. Gorgeous wildflowers right now- three lakes on the hike but also lots of little ponds. Wear bug spray. Last three quarters of a mile or so are mostly uphill. We went on a Friday around noon and there were 3-4 parking spots open at the trailhead. Also saw 5 moose and some marmots. Will definitely be back!

1 month ago

One off my new faves. How I ignored this hike for 49 years is beyond me. Lots of variety. The lake is drop dead beautiful. The perfect cirque!!

Other reviews give plenty of details.

Round trip to big lake is about 5 miles. Feels longer because of the altitude and rocks.

Main summary says RT is 3 hours. For me (69, good shape, regular hiker) 5 hours including stops (maybe 1 hour total) to big lake. Didn’t climb to Little Blue.

Also Brainard Lake entry fee now $11. Federal passes accepted. Oh yes, parking at trailhead limited. Best early or after 12-1 midweek. Otherwise add the extra mile (measured) each way from main Brainard lot. If that’s the case, make sure you take the trail or the now abandoned Brainard lake road (counterclockwise) to trailhead turnoff.


1 month ago

This park accepts national parks passes! The hike is moderate and rocky. The lake is so very blue and worth waiting around for a parking spot!

1 month ago

Absolutely beautiful views cool and Isabella’s glacier has some amazing views. Take 11.00 in cash they do not take card. Parking is terrible ! Plan for that. Also mosquito and bug spray they are everywhere ! I ended up with tons of bites. Also pack a jacket as it showers often. Beautiful and scenic nonetheless.

1 month ago

Fun little hike without a lot of vertical gained. Lakes everywhere, wildflowers are really cool on the way up to Little Blue lake. Parking is horrible, had to wait for a spot at 3:30.

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