view of blue lake

Happy Hiking: Little Blue Lake

  • Little Blue Lake
  • Distance:  6.2 miles (but we hiked closer to 8)
  • Type: Moderate, out-and-back
  • Elevation Gain: 1,411 ft
  • Other: Dogs Allowed
  • AllTrails Link

After thoroughly enjoying my hike to Lake Isabelle last week despite parking challenges and a failed off trail excursion, I returned to the Brainard Lake Recreation Area.  This time, with my friend Colin and my National Parks card in hand.

Parking For Little Blue Lake

The trailhead to Little Blue Lake begins in the Mitchell Lake parking lot.  We arrived just before 8am on Wednesday, and the lot was full!  The attendants directed us to the Brainard Lake parking area and provided us a map.  Given they strictly enforce the parking, I wish I would have been given a map last week!

Anyway, we, along with many others, pulled into the parking lot, laced up our shoes, strapped on our packs, and began our hike.  In order to get to the Mitchell Lake parking lot, we followed the road around Brainard Lake until we reached a connector trail through the woods.

Brainard Lake
Brainard Lake

Mitchell Lake

Before long (less than a mile), we were on the trail to Little Blue Lake.  Much to my surprise, in the early going, we had the trail to ourselves.  We both wondered aloud, “Where did everyone go?”  With so many cars in the parking lot, we thought for sure the trail would be crowded.  They must have all been going to Lake Isabelle as it is spectacular!

I wasn’t sure Little Blue Lake could be as nice as Lake Isabelle, but the trail did not disappoint.  We began in the shade of the evergreens, soon crossed Mitchell Creek, and quickly arrived at Mitchell Lake about 0.75 miles in from the trailhead.  The lake is peaceful and worth a short visit, but definitely make time for what is to come.

creek on the way to Little Blue Lake

Video of Mitchell Lake

Blue Lake

As the trail leaves Mitchell Lake, the incline increases.  We ascended into a valley of numerous ponds.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen so many bodies of water on a trail, especially within the first two miles.  Between the ponds, the river, and a small smattering of wildflowers, we practically spun in circles while taking in the beauty. 

on the way to little blue lake

We continued up the rocky path above tree line where the surrounding views in the basin were stunning.  Granite peaks towered over the tundra and willows as a waterfall tumbled beneath the last of the winter snow.  While we caught up to a few people in this area enjoying the scenery, our hike to Little Blue Lake remained rather solitary.

on the way to blue lake

It was only a half mile more before we reached Blue Lake, and I can see why many hikers stopped here and didn’t continue.  This lake is magnificent!  Sadly, my photos do not do it justice.  The contrast of the white snow, grey peaks, blue lake and sky, and the green vegetation cannot be described.  Add a waterfall into the mix, and certainly it would be easy to go no further.

blue lake

Video of Blue Lake

Little Blue Lake

Knowing however, there was another lake to see, we kept trekking.  The moderate hike got harder at this point.  The trail passes to the right of Blue Lake.  Toward the end, a snow field envelopes a steep slope.  We crossed the area cautiously.  Heel-toe, heel-toe…careful to ensure solid footing on the firm, yet slick snowpack.

crossing the snow field
Photo Credit: Colin

After crossing over the snowfield and a waterfall, soon we reached a talus field.  At this point, we had to read the ridges, as the actual trail to Little Blue Lake was a large snow drift despite it being mid-July.  We climbed up the talus and over a rocky ledge where we followed the ridge to Little Blue Lake.

view from the ridge to little blue lake

Video View of this Panorama

Looking back down the valley from the ridge is absolutely splendid!  The rewarding views were definitely worth the effort.  Reaching Little Blue Lake, at first, was anti-climactic!

The lake is tucked away and doesn’t offer any views of the valley below!  That said, we settled into the tranquility as we shared the shore with only a marmot and a cool breeze.  What a nice place to have lunch and to play with lensball photography!  

Little Blue Lake
lensball photography of little blue lake

A few more adventurous souls joined as we finished up our snack and headed back down the mountain at noon.  As clouds built, we wanted to be below tree line, if a storm hit, though it looked as though any threats were moving away from us.

Marmot and the Little Blue Lake Video

The view was so marvelous, that I couldn’t help but stop several times to take another panoramic photo and video as we picked our way down the mountainside.  We didn’t quite find the same route that we took up, but we managed and carefully maneuvered through the boulder and snow fields.  Before descending to the forest, we spent extra few minutes admiring Blue Lake.  What a glorious day!  Little Blue Lake is definitely a five star hike.  ETB

view of blue lake

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned travel photographer and blogger.

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