I am very familiar with the first two miles of this trail.
Last year the husband and I, without children, started Blue Lake Trail with our 30 pound packs strapped to our backs for our first ever backpacking adventure.
A half-mile in his 10-year-old hiking boot broke. We stopped and tried some makeshift surgery, but after a few steps further we turned around to go back to the Land Cruiser. Not wanting to ruin our much anticipated trip, he changed into his Chaco sandals and we set forth again but a quarter mile in it was decided 12 miles in his Chacos was not going to be possible.
We went back to the truck (again) and opted to do the shorter American Lakes Trail instead. (Which coincidently ended up being one of my favorite hikes of all times so hooray for broken boots!)
We visited Blue Lake trailhead again this past February for a “day date” snowshoe. We knew we would only do a portion due to weather and time and probably did 3 miles round trip.
For our third time on this trail in a year, we had the kids with us and we actually had L’s best hike of the summer, completing 4 miles round trip.
So you can take it from me, the first couple miles of Blue Lake Trail are beautiful-snow or shine- and a great trail for beginner hikers.
Much like Big South Trail down the road, Blue Lake immediately immerses you in thick subalpine woods, crossing a great bridge over a roaring Joe Wright Creek. It’s high enough elevation that snow remains well into June, which is always a treat for youngsters. We took time to slide down a little snow hill and make a couple snowballs. Some backpackers coming back down even said they were unable to reach the lake due to large amounts of the white stuff. We made it to the Fall Creek crossing that features a bridge that was pretty much a log that definitely required parental assistance to cross.
Due to the popularity of this trail the parking lot can fill up fast on the weekends. We hiked on a Friday this time and had no issues and only ran into two other groups. Spirits were high, the weather was perfect and it gave us hope that we might make our goal of completing a 5-mile hike with L and C this summer. Even our curmudgeon of 10-year-old lab who hates being leashed had a good time.
Drive Time: Approx. 54 miles up Poudre Canyon, 1.5 hours from Fort Collins
Trail Distance: Approx. 5 miles to the lake one-way
Forest Service Difficulty Rating: Moderate
Toddlerado Rating: Agreed, the first two miles are not too strenuous for kiddos
Highlights: Shady! Thick woods! Not steep! Might find some snow to play in!
Usage: Very popular on weekends, however we were there on a Friday in June and only ran into two other groups
Amenities: Vaulted toilet on the opposite side of highway 14 just before the turn off for Blue Lake Trailhead
Would we go back? Absolutely.