One of the best trips of my life, PART ONE: Salida, Ouray, Ridgway, + Hiking the Blue Lakes Trail

Hi. Wow, it’s been awhile. A whole month! How are you? 

I decided to disconnect a little bit the last month because of everything going on in the world and also just for some personal reasons. Anyway, last week I went on a mini road trip and it was one of the best vacations I have ever taken. I camped (glamped, ha), hiked, biked, ran, caught up with old friends, and saw some really beautiful places.

This is going to be a three part-er because I got up to A LOT in just a few days! Enjoy.

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I didn’t fully realize how badly I needed this trip until I shut my laptop, got in my car, and pulled out of my driveway headed west.

Before this trip, I hadn’t taken much (any?) time off work since Christmas, which felt like an eternity. We were coming off an awesome 2019 and expecting the same for 2020, but when COVID-19 hit and we all started working from home, I found myself working more on off hours without setting necessary boundaries between work and home life. Burn out was approaching, and I needed time to disconnect. I understand that work stress is something of a privilege these days, but I’m simply sharing my personal experience and situation.

^^^ I cried on the way to work this day, lol. 

Anyway, a couple weeks ago, as I was trying to figure out what I’d do with my sneaky six-day vacation, I remembered hearing about the Blue Lakes Trail outside of Ouray. As I did some more research on that area of Colorado, I disappeared down a Google hole and discovered so many cool places to see, good spots to eat, and an amazing glamping campsite—a vacation experience I’ve always wanted to try. I booked two nights at the site in Ridgway, CO before I could talk myself out of it, then counted down the days until it was time to get on the road.

My trip started last week on Tuesday morning when I was officially on vacation. I went for an early run that morning, then got cleaned up before loading my bags and road trip snacks in the car. I think I was on the road by 9:30 a.m., which would land me in Ridgway right around check-in time.

After about three hours of driving, listening to podcasts, and gawking at the gorgeous mountain views along the way, I was ready for a stretch break, so I pulled off the highway into Salida. The weather was so perfect; a little hot, slightly breezy, and perfectly sunny. I stopped into Howl for an iced Americano and strolled the cute little downtown for about 45 minutes or so before getting back on the road.

I can’t wait to visit Salida again to do some hiking, trail running, and mountain biking one day…when I eventually get a mountain bike.

^^^ Pulled off the road in Gunnison to take in some views along the way. Just absolutely stunning. 

Nearly three more hours on the road later, fueled by The Growth Equation podcasts and Kashi granola bars, I had made it to the tiny town of Ouray. I passed through Ridgway, where I was staying for two nights, but I had time to kill and wanted to see Ouray. It’s referred to as a little Switzerland, which totally made sense when I parked and took in the mountains surrounding the town of about 1,000 people.

Mentally, I had checked out of work, and I was feeling so relaxed and ready to unwind. Physically, I was so hungry, so I ordered takeout from a Thai place on the main street and brought it back to my glamping campsite. My mouth dropped to the ground when I pulled into the lot and got to my tent.

The row of four glamping tents are lined along a fence with an unbelievable view of Mount Sneffels in the San Juan Mountains. I dropped my things in the tent and ate my Thai food in peace and quiet listening to the birds and the wind, watching the sun wash the mountain peaks an orangey pink. Perfection.

The next morning, I woke up around 5:30 a.m. without even an alarm, so I prepared some instant coffee I brought along with me and sipping it slowly on the porch, then gathered my things to get on the road to the trailhead of my first hike of the trip.

One of the reasons I drove so far for this vacation was to hike this specific trail, the Blue Lakes Trail. The photos on AllTrails of aqua blue lakes sitting nearly undisturbed at 11,000 feet looked absolutely magical, and I wanted to see it for myself!

The drive to the trailhead was less than 15 miles away from my campsite, but the road to the park is VERY rough; I think I drove less than 10 mph the whole way in. I made it to the park a little after 7 a.m. and was happy to see there were very few cars in the lot in the middle of the forest. I strapped my Camelbak on and followed another couple toward the trailhead; I stopped quickly to tie my shoe and when I looked up they had already disappeared onto the trail. That was when my biggest mistake of the day happened—I took the wrong trail! There were two that split off different ways and I didn’t read the sings closely enough. Suddenly, two miles later, I knew something was funny with the trail and when I turned around I ran into two women who told me I’d literally made the only wrong turn I could take all day. GAH!

By the time I got back to the lot and onto the correct trail, I had already hiked 4.5 miles with a lot of vertical. It was going to be a LONG day, for sure. The easiest way to describe the Blue Lakes Trail is: HARD – MEDIUM – REALLY HARD.

The beginning is very steep for about 2.5 miles, then things roll a little bit, then they get steeper again. Mix that last section with elevation and I was stopping every 50 feet or so to drink some water, catch my breath, and take a bite of the granola bars I stashed in my pack. I knew I could do it, and I told myself not to quit since I had traveled so far to see the three beautiful lakes at the end of the trail.

The day also warmed up very quickly, so my pants and long sleeves were a bit much, especially towards the top of the hike where there is little to no shade. Navigation-wise, getting to the first lake is very straightforward, but the second is a little trickier to follow, so I took the path a couple teenagers took and after a little scrambling on a trail that wasn’t really a trail, I made it to the second, finally. And it was unreal.

The view of the first lake from the trail was such a treat. It looked even more vibrant from above. I’ll have to look up what actually makes the lake glow so bright blue like that. It’s something you need to see in person to believe!

I pressed on to the third lake and was happy that was the end of the trail (for me, that day) because I was out of push. My legs were screaming, especially after going so far out of the way in the beginning.

By the time I got down to the lot again, I had hiked for nearly five hours and covered over 13 miles. I was dead and starving for a real meal. On the way back to the campsite, I stopped at Gnarly Tacos and spend $35 on salad, tacos, chips, salsa and soda.

Worth every penny. I enjoyed it while sitting on the porch, sending photos to my family of my epic morning. I showered and ended that night like I did the first: reading my book on the porch, planning the next day’s adventures…

In my next post!

3 Replies to “One of the best trips of my life, PART ONE: Salida, Ouray, Ridgway, + Hiking the Blue Lakes Trail”

  1. This looks like a perfect adventure day, it reminds me so much of my holiday from January when we also went hiking a lot and slept in a motorvan 🙂 Looking forward to the next posts!

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