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July 19th, 2016

Colorado Summer of Alpine Lakes

Water is vital for all known forms of life. We are drawn to water, we respect its power.  It covers almost three quarters of the Earth’s surface. It cycles through various forms, of course our favorite in Telluride in the form of snow.  When you think of water, it is likely that summer, beaches and waves appear in your imagination. On the contrary, winter likely brings visions of mountains, snow, skiing and sledding.  But when you think of summer in Telluride you should think alpine lakes!  Many of Telluride’s coastal transplants and visitors are frequently asked if we miss the ocean waters. Truth being, it’s hard to miss water when living in the mountains.  Telluride may be in the landlocked state of Colorado and it comes as a surprise to many that we have a plethora of high alpine lakes in the San Juan mountain region.  There is certainly no lack of water recreation here!  We raft, fish, SUP, boat, swim, tube on our river and lakes.

On the perfect summer day in our mountains, the sun is shining and the temperature feels toasty. On these days, nothing is more refreshing than a dip in the crisp waters of our alpine lakes which are fed by snowmelt.  The swim can be a reward for cresting over a hiking trail and seeing your final destination of an alpine lake nestled amongst mountains, or driving to the lakeside and unpacking your picnic and SUP board.  Each lake boasts a different tint of blue or green, but all are reinvigorating. Some might describe the experience as frigid, but then again, ice baths are a great remedy to sore hiking legs. 

Some of these gems in close proximity to Telluride are Alta Lakes, Hope Lake, Blue Lake, not to be confused with Blue Lakes, Silver Lake, Ice Lake and Island Lake, Clear Lake, Trout Lake, as well as Ridgway and Silver Jack Reservoirs. For those willing to gain access via the sweat equity of your legs, Hope, Blue (and Blue Lakes), Ice and Island are must sees! For those who want to enjoy motorized access and SUP enthusiasts looking to test their balance skills, Alta, Ridgway and Silver Jack and Trout Lake are equally beautiful options.  

Trout Lake

Trout Lake is a short drive from the Town of Telluride and Mountain Village towards Lizard Head Pass.  This is a phenomenal spot for a picnic lunch and a SUP experience. This rather large lake is surrounded by pines with a dramatic mountain background.  Nestled in those mountains behind Trout Lake sits Hope Lake.  The hike to gain access has one of the best wildflower displays in the area and a striking red tinted mountain during your approach. 

Blue and Silver Lake

Blue Lake and Silver Lake are suspended in the mountains above Telluride. The hike into Blue Lake takes you up an old mining road, where you can find rubble of the old mines and marvel at the strength and resilience of those who labored during Telluride’s mining era. This hike also rewards your visual senses with wildflowers and dramatic ridgelines and features which surround the lake.  

The hiking route for Silver Lake begins in the same spot as that of Blue Lake, but instead of winding  up the mining road you cut a sharp right straight up the mountainside for grueling switchbacks sure to satiate those looking for a workout.  This approach may be short in distance, but it makes up for it in necessary effort.  This hike may well make that ice bath “reward” at the destination extremely appealing. 

Alta Lakes

On the backside of our ski resort you can find Alta Lakes, and in the summer months you can drive right up to the lakes to set up camp and settle in for a couple of days of fishing, hiking the surrounding terrain and SUP boarding.  This basin is so close to Mountain Village and Telluride, yet feels wild and is miles removed civilization.  If you plan your adventure during a full moon, you can experience the awe inspiring site of the moon rise above the mountains and illuminating the lake. 

Ridgway and Silver Jack Reservoirs

Ridgway and Silver Jack Reservoirs are day trips and give you the opportunity to explore the area.  Pull your car up to their shores and spend the day. 

Ice, Island, and Clear Lake

Ice Lake, Island Lake and Clear Lake are just a short drive over Ophir Pass towards Silverton off South Mineral Creek Road, an easy day trip. Clear Lake’s namesake is self explanatory.  This lake can be accessed by Jeep, or other hardy 4 wheel drive vehicle, and if that isn’t an option, you can split the difference and park halfway up and hoof it as long as you don’t mind sharing the road. Ice and Island Lakes are a burly hike. 

They say, that the greater the effort, the greater the reward and these two are the perhaps the greatest reward.  


Summer is best spent in the mountains and in the crystal clear waters of alpine lakes, so come out and explore!  

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