Blue Lake, North Fork Lake Creek Trailhead, Aspen - Snowmass, Colorado
Blue Lake - 4.4 miles
North Fork Lake Creek Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||4.4 miles (distance may vary slightly by route)|
|Start-End Elevation:||10,758' - 12,435' (12,458' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+1,677' net elevation gain (+1,764' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Blue Lake - 4.4 Miles Round-Trip
Blue Lake (12,435') is located 2.2 miles from North Fork of Lake Creek Trailhead off Highway 82 in the Mount Massive Wilderness. It's part of the area's last private in-holding that was acquired by the Wilderness Land Trust in 2012 and transferred to the National Forest Service.
Blue Lake fills a steep-walled bowl just east of the Continental Divide below Twinning Peak (13,711').
This moderate hike follows the North Fork of Lake Creek before splitting off on a steep climb through treeline to the lake. It fades on the final approach but routing is intuitive across open terrain. Visitors will enjoy light crowds, great fishing and quick access to high alpine landscapes on the hike to Blue Lake:
The trail begins on a flat road bed that narrows up to a stream at the Mount Massive Wilderness Boundary (.71 miles : 11,018'). This is Blue Lake's outlet, which you'll follow to the lake. Cross the stream and immediately begin looking for a faint fork on your left (.75 miles : 11,025').
Bear left at this sparingly marked point, just past which travel clarifies on a very steep, twisting climb up the right side of the creek. It gains 700' in .5 miles before clearing treeline and moderating in a big alpine valley below the lake (1.25 miles : 11,715').
The trail rises up the right (east) side of the valley and gradually loses clarity (1.8 miles : 12,140'). Cairns offer guidance and you'll likely find multiple sets - some lead higher up the valley wall and others run low closer to the outlet stream.
Both options are viable though the higher route tends to be drier. The final approach levels across big meadows to Blue Lake (2.2 miles : 12,435'). Soft alpine grasses surround the open SE side with gentle slopes that offer great aerial views across the basin.
- N39 06.940 W106 32.268 — 0.0 miles : North Fork of Lake Creek Trailhead
- N39 07.336 W106 32.134 — .5 miles : Fast, level travel up valley
- N39 07.489 W106 32.170 — .71 miles : Mount Massive Wilderness Boundary
- N39 07.508 W106 32.167 — .75 miles : Unmarked split for Blue Lake
- N39 07.591 W106 32.333 — 1.0 miles : Very steep, twisting climb beside creek
- N39 07.673 W106 32.553 — 1.25 miles : Pass through treeline into broad upper valley
- N39 07.804 W106 32.762 — 1.5 miles : Travel moderates as trail loses clarity
- N39 07.847 W106 33.061 — 1.8 miles : Cairns mark faint trail
- N39 08.051 W106 33.262 — 2.2 miles : Blue Lake (12,435')
- The Mount Massive Wilderness Area was designated by congress in 1980 and overs approximately 30,540 acres.
- This trailhead offers easy access to great fishing along wide oxbows on the upper North Fork.
Camping and Backpacking Information
- Dispersed backcountry camping is permitted in the Mount Massive Wilderness. Self-registration permits are required. These are available at each trailhead and/or Wilderness Boundary. There is no fee or limit to the number of permits issued. Backpackers must carry a completed registration form with them for the duration of the trip.
- Camping is prohibited within 100' of any trail, lake or stream. Group size is limited to 15 individuals (or 25 total with people + stock).
- Campfires are permitted in the Mount Massive Wilderness. Campfires are not permitted above or within .25 miles (440 yards) of treeline, or within 100' of any lake or stream. Location and seasonal-specific restrictions may also apply.
- Contact the Leadville Ranger District (719.486.0749) for the latest weather, trail conditions and trail-specific guidelines when planning your trip.
- Fishing is permitted at Blue Lake and on North Fork Lake Creek with a valid Colorado fishing license. Contact the Colorado Division of Wildlife or the Leadville Ranger Station (719.486.0749) to learn more about rules and restrictions related to Greenback Cutthroat Trout.
Rules and Regulations
- Dogs must be leashed at all times in the Mount Massive Wilderness.
Directions to Trailhead
The North Fork Lake Creek Trailhead is located off Highway 82, 4.5 miles east of Independence Pass at Mile Marker 66.
The trailhead turnoff is approximately 19.1 miles west of the HWY 24 - HWY 82 intersection at Twin Lakes, and 23.6 miles east of Original Street in downtown Aspen.
The North Fork Lake Creek Trailhead is marked by a sign below a steep switchback on Highway 82. A .1 mile dirt road leads to a small lot. The road is bumpy but short and suitable for 2WD cars in good condition.
Leadville Ranger District
810 Front Street
Leadville, CO 80461
Pike and San Isabel National Forest
2840 Kachina Drive
Pueblo, CO 81008