NEAR OURAY, CO
Blue Lakes Trail
The trail zigzags up steep flower-dappled slopes of Yankee Boy Basin to Blue Lakes Pass and drops down equally steep switchbacks to a chain of lakes just south of Mt. Sneffels. Making it to the pass, at almost 13,000 feet, is an achievement; if you go down to the lakes, remember you have to climb back up. Or, if you have a four-wheel-drive, you can skip the hike and drive to the end of Campbird Road at the wide basin, where flowers blaze along Sneffels Creek and on surrounding mountainsides.
DISTANCE: 6 miles round trip to the lakes
WHERE: Take Ouray's Main St. south 1/2 mile and turn right on Campbird Rd. (County Rd. 361). You can easily negotiate the first 6 miles in a standard passenger car and start hiking from there; the last 2 miles require a high-clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicle.
CONTACT: Ouray Ranger District (970/240-5300)
ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK, CO
Leave early to hike the wide, well-used Longs Peak Trail, which snakes through the trees before breaking out into a broad, conifer-dotted basin. At 3 miles, the Chasm Lake Trail forks left past Peacock Pool, Columbine Falls, and the flanks of Mt. Lady Washington and Mt. Meeker. After one last short, steep section, Chasm Lake, which sits at 11,760 feet, suddenly comes into view, tucked below Longs Peak's imposing 2,000-foot east face.
DISTANCE: 8 1/2 miles round trip
WHERE: From Estes Park, take State 7 south 9 miles and turn right on Longs Peak Campground Rd. Go 1 mile to the trailhead parking area, which can fill by dawn on weekends.
CONTACT: Rocky Mountain National Park (970/586-1206)