The first two miles of the trail follows an old wagon trail crossing footbridges over Joe Wright Creek and Fall Creek before entering the Rawah Wilderness. The trail continues to climb toward Blue Lake and Hang Lake. Blue Lake, which is five miles from the trailhead, is a very popular destination or turn-around point. Both lakes are surrounded and protected by a ¼-mile camping closure zone.
A short 2.4 mile climb to the north past Blue Lake and a descent to a junction with West Branch trail (#960) allow easy access to Island and Carey Lakes, the Rawah trail (#961), Twin Crater Lakes, and Grassy Pass. Backpackers often arrange shuttles, entering by the Blue Lake trail and leaving via the West Branch or Rawah trails. The Blue Lake trailhead accommodates approximately approximately 14 vehicles.
Restrictions: General Wilderness Regulations: Dogs must be on a hand held leash. No motorized or mechanized equipment. Camps, campfires, and stock, where allowed, at least 200 feet from water and trails. Group size limited to 12 people or stock animals combined. Closure Regulations: ¼ mile closure zone around Blue and Hang Lakes. Alpine area closure, stoves only above 10,800 feet elevation (tree line). Stock and pack animals are prohibited from mid-May through September 15th. Stock use is prohibited between May 15th and September 15th. Between September 16th and May 14th overnight stock use is prohibited.
Directions: Travel 11 miles northwest of Fort Collins on U.S. Highway 287 to Colorado Highway 14. Turn left on CO 14, and travel 54 miles west to the Blue Lake trailhead parking lot on the right, located across the highway from Forest Road 156, Long Draw Road.
Day Hiking: Hike for about 5 miles to enjoy the popular Blue Lake, near timberline. On a clear day, you will be able to see the Mummy Range in the distance, and maybe cooled by afternoon shadows created by the nearby Medicine Bow Mountains. The trail proceeds beyond Blue Lake to above timberline. Be sure to watch for mountain thunderstorms! The Blue Lake trailhead accommodates approximately 14 vehicles.
Open Season: January - December
Closest Towns: Rustic, Fort Collins
Water: Water can be filtered and treated from nearby water sources.
Restroom: Practice Leave No Trace principles.