12 Most Beautiful Lakes in Colorado
Colorado has many picturesque lakes surrounded by high peaks. Many of the most beautiful lakes in Colorado are alpine lakes with clear blue water. The best lakes in Colorado often require hard hikes to get to but that also means that you can enjoy them with less people. This article will walk you through the best lakes in Colorado and how to get to these lakes.
The best time to visit lakes in Colorado is between May and October when there is no snow so they are easier to get to. In the spring and early summer you can enjoy wildflowers on the hikes, and in the fall you get to see the Aspen’s fall foliage. To see most of these incredible lakes in Colorado on one road trip, check out our Colorado Road Trip Itinerary.
Ice Lake is a beautiful bright blue alpine lake located at 12,300 feet that requires a very strenuous hike to get to. Ice Lake Trailhead is located 7 miles west of Silverton. The trail is about 6.8 miles round trip to Ice Lake with 2,457 ft elevation gain. Since the trail to get to Ice Lake is steep and long you should make sure to wear hiking boots.
Island Lake is one of the most beautiful lakes in Colorado, located at 12,400 feet. It makes sense to combine the visit to Island Lake with Ice Lake, as Ice Lake is about 0.5 miles away. To get to Island Lake, hike on Ice Lake Trail and after visiting Ice Lake, take a left on the trail to continue up to Island Lake. The hike from Ice Lake to Island Lake is about half a mile with 100 foot elevation gain. This portion of the trail is very steep and scary so you have to be very careful and make sure to wear hiking boots and use trekking poles. If you are up for the challenge Island Lake is worth the visit! After seeing Island Lake continue ahead and take a right to form a small loop. The total round trip hike to Island Lake with the loop is 8 miles with 2,700 ft elevation gain.
The breathtaking clear blue American Lake is located in Aspen, Colorado. Getting to American Lake requires a steep 6 mile round trip hike with 2,000 ft elevation gain. The hike is difficult but is worth the challenge to get to one of the most beautiful lakes in Colorado. When you get to the lake you can always take a swim if you are up for it, but expect the water to be really cold!
Lake Haiyaha is a stunning lake with clear teal water. This is the most beautiful lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, and can be combined with Bear Lake and Emerald Lake. You can hike to this lake from either Bear Lake Trailhead or Glacier Gorge Trailhead. From Bear Lake Trailhead it is about 4.2 miles roundtrip with 840 ft elevation gain.
Maroon Lake is one of the best lakes in Colorado. This popular lake is located within Maroon Bells Wilderness Area. This lake is known for the reflection you can see in the lake of 14,000 ft tall Maroon Peaks. Maroon Creek Road which leads to Maroon Bells is usually open between May and November and you are required to make reservations ahead of time to enter Maroon Bells area. An alternative to driving on your own is to reserve a spot on the RFTA shuttle from Aspen Highlands Village to Maroon Bells.
Bear Lake is a popular lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. This is one of the easiest lakes on this list to get to, but is therefore also the most crowded. Bear Lake is a short walk from Bear Lake Trailhead and you can add a 0.6 mile loop around the lake to enjoy it more. The parking lot at Bear Lake Trailhead typically gets full very early, so make sure to get there early so you don’t have to take a shuttle.
Lower Blue Lake
Blue Lakes Trail in Telluride, Colorado takes you to three of the most beautiful lakes in Colorado. The first lake on this trail is Lower Blue Lake, a clear bright blue lake within the Mount Sneffels Wilderness Area at 10,952 ft elevation. The hike to lower blue lake is 6 miles round trip with 1,610 ft elevation gain. The first couple miles of the hike are extremely steep and difficult. To see views of Lower Blue Lake from above you need to continue hiking up the steep Blue Lakes Trial towards Middle Blue Lake.
Middle Blue Lake
If you are already hiking Blue Lakes Trail and made it to Lower Blue Lake, it is worth continuing up to Middle Blue Lake. The hike to this lake is an additional 0.7 miles from Lower Blue Lake but is very steep, with about 664 ft elevation gain. You will definitely want to wear hiking boots and bring trekking poles for this part of the trail. The total hike round trip to Middle Blue Lake is 7.6 miles with 2,292 ft elevation gain.
Upper Blue Lake
Upper Blue Lake is the third lake on Blue Lakes Trail. If you already made it to Middle Blue Lake it is a quick 0.2 mile walk to Upper Blue Lake. This lake is located in the alpine layer at 11,746 ft and as you get closer to the lake it will get significantly colder and more windy. The total hike round trip to Upper Blue Lake is 8 miles with 2,404 ft elevation gain.
Emerald Lake is located in Rocky Mountain National Park, and is reached by hiking from Bear Lake Trailhead or Glacier Gorge Trailhead. The hike from Bear Lake Trailhead is 3.6 miles round trip with about 740 ft elevation gain. On the way to Emerald Lake you will also pass Nymph Lake and Dream Lake. This trail is popular and can get very crowded, so try to hike it either really early or much later in the day.
Twin Lakes are two beautiful lakes located at the base of Mount Elbert, the tallest peak in Colorado. These lakes are next to Independence Pass, a road that takes you to Aspen. There is a road where you can drive down next to the lakes, and a different road that you can drive up for views of the lakes. At these lakes you can canoe, kayak, and paddle board. There are hiking trails near the lakes with great views of the lakes and surrounding mountains.
The Loch is located at 10,200 ft in Rocky Mountain National Park. The fastest way to get to this beautiful lake in the rocky mountains is to hike from Glacier Gorge Trailhead 5.4 miles round trip with 1,070 ft elevation gain. You could also do a loop and combine this lake with Bear Lake, Emerald Lake, and Lake Haiyaha. For more information on how to do this lake loop, continue to our Rocky Mountain National Park Guide.
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