Blue Lake and Little Blue Lake via Mitchell Lake Trail

MODERATE 591 reviews
#3 of 22 trails in

Blue Lake and Little Blue Lake via Mitchell Lake Trail is a 6.2 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Ward, Colorado that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking and snowshoeing and is best used from May until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Distance: 6.2 miles Elevation Gain: 1,410 feet Route Type: Out & Back

dogs on leash

kid friendly

hiking

snowshoeing

forest

lake

river

views

wild flowers

wildlife

bugs

muddy

rocky

snow

fee

From mid-October to mid-June, the road to this trailhead is closed. Visitors may park at the Gateway Trailhead, just outside of the closed gate. However, this adds 5 miles to the trail roundtrip. Parking at the Gateway Trailhead is free. Although this trail is mostly in the Indian Peaks Wilderness (Roosevelt National Forest), it starts in the Brainard Lake Recreation Area. There is an $12 fee (cash only) to enter this area. This 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.

hiking
rocky
1 month ago

*the road closes Monday, 10/14* Hiked Wed, 10/9. Got to trailhead at 7:30am and had the trail and lake to myself until half way down. Beautiful morning. Windy and cold. Trail in good condition. Hate how many social trails there are. Stay on the trail!! Saw a huge bull moose back in the parking lot. 3 hours round trip with about a 45 min stop at the lake

hiking
rocky
1 month ago

What a great hike!!! I went later in the day around 2pm and it was not crowded by any means. $12 entry fee but there are so many different trail options and the pass is good for 3 days! The trail is well marked and I also had my pup with me who absolutely loved it. Not a hard hike by any means it will get your heart rate pumping at some points but I’ve definitely done more difficult “moderate” hikes. It was extremely windy so plan accordingly. Does not take a long time, I was done in 3 hours while making many many stops. I enjoyed that this trail was not overly crowded and being able to catch the sunset as I headed back was a plus. Highly recommend. This is the second hike I’ve done in this area. The first one I completed was on the Isabelle glacier trail...if you are in the area that is another hike I would recommend. It is more difficult but stunning views!

hiking
1 month ago

Hiked 10/5/2019. Absolutely beautiful! Got to the TH right as the sun was rising. It was about 26F when starting, and the wind was brutal and whipping! But still worth it :) The wind got better as we hiked up through the trees and we got a lucky break/lull in the wind to enjoy the lake for a bit. Did not see any moose or other wildlife. Beautiful clear sunny day and absolutely worth braving the wind :) Be sure to bring all your layers plus sun glasses!

Saw two cow moose by the 2nd river crossing ..so cool!

hiking
off trail
rocky
scramble
1 month ago

This was my first solo hike that I completed on 10-4-19. $12 parking and I did find a parking spot in the lot. I started the hike at 10:45 am and got back to my car at 3:15pm. I went slow, stopped a lot for pictures and sat at the top, lake side, for over 30 minutes. This hike was a fun challenge. There were parts of the hike that were easy dirt paths and parts that you have to climb on large rocks. A few wood log bridges and a ton of amazing views! Especially since the leaves are changing right now. The beginning of the trail is shaded but once you get further up the sun is beaming and the wind can be whipping. I recommend both sunscreen and a jacket. I enjoyed the fact that there were multiple lakes and streams along the path. All so beautiful to stare at. I didn’t experience any animal life other than the normal birds, chipmunks and squirrels. Once I got to blue lake I proceeded to little blue lake. You can walk most of the way around the right side of the lake pretty easily (gives yet another amazing scenic view). There comes a time where you’ll have to decide if you want to rock climb and make your own path to get to little blue. If you’re not an experienced or balanced hiker, don’t go. If you do continue, I recommend climbing to the top and looking over blue lake. THAT was the best seat in the house. Just, WOW! Great spot to enjoy a snack and refuel for the descend. Definitely think it’s realistic to do the trip in 3 hours if you stop the hike at blue lake. I did hear a park ranger say the park will be closed starting October 14th... assuming he was talking about this trail.

hiking
1 month ago

Wow what an amazing hike. There is a $12 entry fee then the pass is good for 3 days. Beautiful scenery especially with the fall colors out with their might. Picturesque everywhere you look, from lake to peak and from lake down there are great photo ops. I took it slow since I'm from the Midwest and this hiked gained the same amount of elevation as my state has total. Didn't see any animals but trail friends say there was 3-4 moose marching down hill. Above the tree line there were Gusty winds that I have never seen. You could sometimes hear them coming and brace yourself, they had to have come in at over 80mph. Highly recommend.

hiking
rocky
1 month ago

We are new to Colorado and happy we found this gem! We had a great hike yesterday with our 19 month old and Vizsla. There are rocky points, that can be tough, but nothing you can’t handle with a baby on your back and dog. The views at Blue are well worth the hike, and if you can park at the Mitchell Lake trailhead the hike is 2.5 miles each way, had my Garmin on, so ignore the 3 miles that it says. Enjoy!

hiking
1 month ago

The trail is well-maintained. It’s a fairly steady incline so it’s not too taxing and definitely makes for an easy trek down. It took us about 2 and a half hours to get out and back from Blue Lake. There are plenty of places to stop off for a picnic or a breather. It does get fairly rocky closer to Blue Lake once you are out of the tree line, but they’re mostly small and fixed. We didn’t make it up to Little Blue because it looked like we would be scrambling a bit - maybe next time. It’s $12 for admission to the park which might seem steep but like I said it’s a well-maintained trail, well marked and the bathrooms are the nicest bathrooms I’ve ever encountered at a National Park

Beautiful from the trailhead to the lake. Crowded down in brainard lake area but once you get up into the Indian peaks wilderness there are a lot less people. Pretty moderate climb the way up which makes an easy trek down. Will be back with my fishing gear.

great trail, easy going to Blue lake. some rocks to navigate but nothing large or strenuous. beautiful trail and views. did not see any wildlife while hiking but did pass 5 fox, 2 moose and a mule deer on the drive.

Beautiful hike through forest, meadows, and near tundra areas. Streams and lakes punctuated the journey up to Blue Lake. High winds prohibited further travel up to Little Blue. 5 mile hike took 4 hours with plenty of time to soak in the scenery which included 2 bull moose and a deer.

hiking
rocky
scramble
1 month ago

Great simple hike. Continuing on to the upper lake does involve scrambling that I did not find difficult. Carins guide the most practical route. However, due to the size of the boulders, I had a hard time with my dog. I turned around a little later than I would have liked to in hind sight. He's about 45lbs but struggled with courage and stability down climbing some. I'd probably not bring him to finish it next time. Having only been here in late Spring or with the dog, I haven't been to the upper lake. The lower is worth this great hike alone. Fall is happening in Brainard.

hiking
1 month ago

The trail to Blue Lake is amazing. An approximately 1000' elevation gain over 3 miles isn't bad at all, and the views at the lake are astounding. The name listed here includes Little Blue Lake. Please note that getting to Little Blue IS difficult. While it is only another 400' of gain, a lot of that is steep bouldering. There is not a defined trail starting at the end of Blue Lake, so you have to be route finding savvy and know where you're going especially when you hit the boulder scrambling. Some cairns are scattered throughout, and while they are helpful GUIDES, don't rely strictly on them. There is more than one way up, so you need to know what direction you need to go in, and just pick your lines. I definitely do not recommend proceeding to Little Blue unless you are prepared, have some boulder scrambling experience, and are comfortable not having a trail to follow. But if you are cool with all this, it is TOTALLY worth it!

hiking
1 month ago

Beautiful! Highly trafficked but it didn't matter. Amazing views...

hiking
rocky
1 month ago

We hiked this trail to Blue Lake today. We started early, the air temperature at the trailhead at 6:45 was 27 degrees. We had proper layers as we expected this so no big deal. The trail starts off pretty easy, but there are two rocky and steep quick elevation gains. This was my second time doing this, so I knew what to expect. I should have reviewed the first hike where we saw an entire moose family, but on this hike, we did not see much wildlife. When we got to Blue Lake, it was cold, with really strong wind gusts. Only one of the waterfalls at the top was flowing (barely). I almost got blown off of one of the rocks by the shore trying to take pics. Some incredible gusts up there. We stayed for a while eating our food, and walked towards the Little Blue Lake "trail" but were a bit too cold to keep going. It was still BEAUTIFUL!!! A must do hike. Be prepared for a lot of steps and rocky terrain. Hopefully you see moose like I did on my first trip there.

Saturday 9/21/19 - we had to start at Brainard Lake which added about a mile. Don’t forget your $12 cash at the gate. It was windy and cold to begin, dress in layers! The hike is beautiful especially past Mitchell Lake. The small lakes on the way are beautiful, but Blue Lake, wow. You can make it there! Don’t miss it.

hiking
1 month ago

**$12 cash or check to enter park** <- I did not know this and had to go back and forth into Ward to get cash so just a heads up!! The parking fills up SUPER early so I parked about a mile from the trailhead and walked along the road, which was fine tbh. Amazing hike - you pass several lakes before you get to the top. It's an a$$ kicker as you get higher, but so worth it when you get to the top - beautiful teal blue lake surrounded by mountains - can even see waterfalls across the lake going into it. Was so worth it, if you feel like you've hit the lake but the trail keeps going, keep doing it, so worth it.

Lost the trail above Blue Lake and after several attempts in the boulder field we chose to turn around. All around a great day with lots of fall color!

hiking
rocky
2 months ago

Gorgeous lakes, a little snow on the still left on the peaks, flowers remain towards Little Blue Lake, and multiple moose sightings noted along the way. $12 exact cash to park. HUNTING ALLOWED! HUNTING: We hiked this on the morning (started at 0800) of 9/18/19. Midway through to Blue Lakes, we saw two bow hunters coming down that informed us there was a cow moose, juvenile bull, and calf up the trail and a shotgun hunter with a cow tag. Five minutes later we heard a shot then a second. We continued up the trail and saw a boy in orange who confirmed that his grandpa had indeed killed the cow. Though we did not see her dead because they were hidden in the trees next to the trail, it was still a saddening experience for my friend and I just knowing that a mama moose had been killed. It’s also a little unnerving that a gun can be legally shot right off this busy trail. Several hours later, on our way down, we did spot two other moose and the lakes were truly gorgeous so it’s still a great hike. But it definitely changed my opinion of hiking this hike during hunting season. Hunting is something I know little to nothing about other than there are different seasons for different animals and different weapons throughout the year. Just research the areas you hike if you’re concerned about this.

hiking
2 months ago

Nice hike, but pretty rocky in areas. The directions from the All Trails app takes you to a parking lot near Brainard Lake, so keep going up the road until you see Mitchell Lake signs, maybe a mile further. There are restrooms at the trailhead. You need either the national park pass or cash for entry fee into the recreational area. Check the weather as we heard they may be closing soon due to expected snow in the area. Very windy at Blue Lake, so be sure to wear layers!

hiking
rocky
2 months ago

this trail is absolutely stunning. lots of lakes and fresh running water along the trail. got there at 8 am Monday morning 9/16/19. plenty of parking in lot. when we got down at noon the lot was nearly full. the entry fee is either $12 cash (please note difference from what all trails description says) or a national parks pass in which case you can get in for free. the trailhead is a mile up from the brainard lake area parking. the last mile is pretty rocky but its definitely do-able. there were still some wildflowers out. no fall colors. we did see a moose eating off to the side of the road on the drive from the brainard parking lot up to this trailhead. other than that we did not see any other moose. we did see several chipmunks, birds, and also a few marmots. please note dogs are allowed but must be leashed or you may get $130 minimum fine. no poop bags available at the trailhead so be sure to bring some with you.

hiking
2 months ago

Beautiful day beautiful trail

hiking
rocky
2 months ago

Hello! This is a widely reviewed trail so I won’t focus as much as I try to do on other hiking trails… I much prefer a meadow while my friend enjoys it a forest hike, so I definitely obliged her today. However this is a stunning spot! There is some snow towards the top near Blue Lake. And it is very WINDY! We had to park further down one lot below the top lot because of cars… A lot of people enjoy the area. But it was not too bad to add the extra length. In total, we did 8.3 miles and 92 flights of stairs! So it is not a beginner hike. I definitely thought Moderate was a good description. This isn’t a hike that I would crave to go to all the time, because it is extremely busy… So many people that you have to decide whether to continue on or to pull off to the side, and also because I personally just don’t love wooden hikes…but it is so pretty! It is *rocky* for sure! My little dog had to really launch himself to get from place to place in some sections! We saw a moose (9/14) wading in one of the ponds! BATHROOMS: yes, smelly, but yes PARKING: hard to park sometimes if you come later. $12 CASH only!!! TRAIL: shaded / wooded in many spots, which also cuts the wind. BRING YOUR SWEATSHIRT OR COAT!! It was 88 down in the metro area today and felt about 50 with wind at the Blue Lake. Bring layers! The temp change is pretty marked farther you go!

hiking
rocky
2 months ago

Great hike. Starts out with even terrain, then gets rocky...but no boulder hopping. Steep sections were manageable. Blue lake is picturesque. Our hike got cut short so we didn’t visit little Blue. Day was cool so heat and sun weren’t issues. In hotter months probably best to do earlier.

Beautiful, a bit windy, moose family of 4 at Mitchell Lake. Excellent wandering. Not too crazy busy on a Friday

Load More

Featured Trails