After marveling at Bridal Veil Falls at the end of the Telluride box canyon, I wondered what was up in that valley. A little research found several lake hikes above the Bridal Veil Hydro Electric plant – Silver Lake, Blue Lake and Lewis Lake. I decided to hike to Blue Lake.
The hike starts with a hike or drive up the road to the top of Bridal Veil Falls (directions below). The road is rough and rocky with tight turns. Most experts recommend that you only take 4-wheel drive vehicles with some clearance up this road. If you have a pick-up truck, you may have to make some 3-point turns on the curves. If you’re not comfortable with the road, there’s a “parking area/pullout” about half way with a beautiful view of the falls. Or park at scenic viewpoint of the falls at the end of town. However, parking here adds about five miles roundtrip to the hike.
At the top of the road, there’s a gate blocking drivers from going any further. Find a parking spot here without blocking the road or the turnaround area for other drivers. You may notice another dirt road going up the hill. That’s the road to Black Bear Pass and it’s one way, coming downhill at this point.
Walk through the closure gate and hike up the old mining road a short distance to the Bridal Veil Hydroelectric plant. Home & Garden Television did a special on this house explaining that the hydroelectric generator inside was used to power a nearby Silver Mine until the 1970s. The home decayed until it was purchased by a man who restored the home and the generator that now provides power to Telluride.
As you walk by there are signs warning that this is private property, so don’t venture off the trail. At the home, the trail turns left and begins climbing up the valley behind Bridal Veil Falls and the power plant.
As you walk up the valley, up will be the key word. With 2,000 feet of elevation gain, the trail starts with a very steady gain. However, there are lots of places to stop along the trail and take pictures of the numerous waterfalls and cascades along the trail. Some of the falls are near the trail, some are on the hillsides. I counted more than a half dozen really scenic cascades, even in September. I can’t imagine the water show here in late June during the snowmelt.
About a half mile from the trailhead, the road splits. Turn right and cross the creek for the Silver Lake, but stay on the east side of the creek for Blue Lake.
About .85 miles from the gate, you’ll arrive at a left turn. This is the first “switchback” in the trail. A switchback is where the trail goes back and forth to climb a hillside. As you go around the bend, look up the hill directly across the valley. There’s a tall series of cascades here. The view gets better right after the first turn.
As you hike up this next section of trail, you’ll be looking north and will get an impressive view back down the Telluride Valley. Look closely at the wall of mountains over there, you may see a road! That’s the road to the ghost town of Tomboy and the road to Imogene Pass.
The first switchback on this hike is pretty long. When you get to the next left turn/switchback, you’ll hear my favorite waterfall on this trail. It’s hard to see through the trees, but you’ll hear it. You may have even spotted the two waterfalls here on your way up the trail. Look through the trees to get a good picture.
After a picture or two of the falls, it’s time to begin the next section of climbing. This is where the switchbacks get shorter and the trail gets steeper. In this next 0.4 miles, you’ll gain about 400 feet of elevation. In this section, you may spot the remnants of old bridge, a mine and maybe even an electric pole.
About 1.85 miles from the gate, you’ll come to an unmarked trail split. The trail to the right goes to Lewis Mill and Lewis Lake. The left trail goes to Blue Lake. Take a deep breath here because the climb is about to get even steeper. You still need to climb about 800 feet in the next 1.2 miles to the lake.
There’s one more split another 0.2 miles up the trail. Turn right at that split for Blue Lake (the trail to the left goes to Mud Lake). Yes, this section is steep. But the valley you’re hiking in is incredible, so when you need a break, just take in the views!
After 1,500 feet of gain and hiking about 2.5 miles, you’ll turn left into the valley that holds Blue Lake and see an old cabin. Inside you’ll see an electric motor and a wire spool. Do a little exploring here as you catch your breath.
Then it’s time for the final half mile. You still have some elevation gain, but this valley has lots to distract you. You should spot long sections of water pipeline across the valley. There are two buildings in the valley below you. And of course, there’s the beautiful mountains around you.
Finally, you’ll walk over that last hill and see Blue Lake in a cirque. Mining equipment litters the trail and shoreline making for interesting foreground in your photos. Look across the lake and you may spot a tailings pile and another mining building.
This lake is so large it’s hard to capture it all in one photo. We enjoyed seeing this beautiful lake and exploring the shoreline. We found tons of pipe, old equipment and even the remnants of the old dam.
When you’re done exploring, return the way you came.
Details: The hike to Blue Lake is only 3 miles each way, but there’s 2000 feet of elevation gain, making it very steep. Add a little more mileage for some exploring around the lake shore.
Important note: While this hike was published in October, I did this hike in September. Once the snow begins to fall this road and trail become icy, slick and dangerous.
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Directions: Drive east through Telluride on Colorado Avenue (aka Main Street). At the end of town, the paved road turns to dirt and passed the old Pandora Mill to a large parking area. After this the road becomes rough and rocky and is only recommended for 4-wheel drive vehicles. Drive about 2.5 miles up to a spot where a gate blocks the road and find a parking space. There is no “parking lot” just part on the side of the road here doing your best not to block traffic or the turn around spot. The road above this spot is one-way traffic only, coming downhill from Black Bear Pass.