Many travelers see a mountain destination as a winter retreat. Miles of snow covered, undisturbed mountainscape just waiting to be explored. And it’s true—Mountain towns like Telluride offer fabulous winter activities. From skiing and snowboarding to sledding, you can’t beat the thrill of riding something down the mountain.


However, the fun doesn’t stop once the snow melts. In fact, the mountains come alive in the spring with picturesque seasonal blooms sprinkled across the mountainside and crystal-clear lakes that provide ample opportunities for relaxing or enjoying watersports and activities.


There are numerous lakes hidden in the San Juan Mountains, though only a handful are easily accessible via foot or vehicle. If you want to see one of these beautiful natural bodies for yourself, check out our guide to Telluride area lakes for summer fun!


Telluride Lakes Accessible Via Vehicle

If you’re looking for a quick day trip or if you’re traveling with a group or kids, keep these Telluride lakes at the top of your list. Though you can hike to these hidden mountain destinations, they are also accessible via an off-road vehicle, which makes the trip easier and allows you to pack fishing gear, kayaks, etc. to make the most of your travels!

Alta Lakes

Distance From Telluride: 10 miles | 22 minutes

Accessibility: Rugged, off-road vehicle recommended

Activities: Fishing, hiking, kayaking, paddle boarding


Located just 20 minutes outside of Telluride, Alta Lakes is a popular destination for couples and families seeking a convenient water retreat. The lakes are easy to find, though the road is rather rugged, so an off-road vehicle is recommended for travel. Upon arrival, enjoy scenic alpine hiking or activities like fishing and kayaking on the crystal-clear water. The area is also well-known for a historic ghost town, which is situated right along the road to the lakes.


Silver Lake

Distance From Telluride: 2.5 Miles | 12 Minutes

Accessibility: Hike or drive; off-road vehicle recommended

Activities: Fishing, hiking, kayaking, paddle boarding


Situated above the famous Bridal Veil Falls, Silver Lake is an adventurer’s paradise. Accessible via an easy hike or car ride, Silver Lake is stocked annually with trout which makes for an exciting afternoon of fishing and enjoying the great outdoors. The surrounding landscape features a beautiful variety of wildflowers and meadows, for a scenic and memorable backdrop. Silver Lake is also a popular spot for hikers to enjoy a refreshing ‘ice bath’ after a long day of hiking!


Clear Lake

Distance From Telluride:  79 Miles. 2+ Hour Drive | 9.5 Miles, 3+ Hour Hike

Accessibility: Hike or drive; off-road vehicle recommended

Activities: Sightseeing, hiking, fishing


A trip to clear lake makes for an adventurous hike or a fun drive. As with other area destinations, an off-road vehicle is required to make the trek. Clear Lake is a beautiful spot for sightseeing or recreation, like trout fishing. And, Clear Lake is a short distance from Island lake and Ice Lake, among others, making it an easy stop for a full day of mountain lake exploration.


Trout Lake

Distance From Telluride:  3 Miles | 15 Minutes

Accessibility: Hike or drive; off-road vehicle recommended

Activities: Fishing, hiking, kayaking, paddle boarding


As the name suggests, Trout Lake is a top destination for fishermen and women. Stocked annually by the Hotchkiss National Fish Hatchery, the lake is brimming with rainbow and brown trout. In addition to world-class fishing, Trout Lake is a popular spot for canoeing, kayaking, and paddle boarding. Local purveyors often host fun events in the summer, like SUP board yoga. Swimming is also allowed, though be prepared for a chilly dip! You’ll find this lake might be the most accessible and a great lake choice if you’re traveling with children. Various areas around the lake allow for dipping toes, and filling and dumping buckets full of rocks for hours of lakeside fun. 



Telluride Lakes Accessible Via Hike


The following area lakes are only accessible via a hike. You will be able to drive to the trailhead from Telluride, but access to the actual lake requires a bit of legwork. Most of the trails are short but challenging, making the trek best suited for moderate/experienced hikers.

Hope Lake


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Hike Round Trip Distance:  4.5 Miles | 3+ Hours

Accessibility: Moderate hike to access lake

Activities: Hiking, sightseeing


Accessible via a moderate hike, Hope Lake is well worth the effort. The deep, turquoise blue lake sits in stark contrast to the bright green meadow and gray mountain that tower over the valley. The hike is a big rugged but short—only 4.5 miles round trip. There is a small pullover area that’s accessible via an off-road vehicle, but hiking is the go-to method of finding this hidden gem.


Blue Lake

Hike Round Trip Distance:  5.5 Miles | 4+ Hours

Accessibility: Moderate hike to access lake

Activities: Hiking, sightseeing


The journey to Blue Lake begins with a drive or hike to Bridal Veil Falls. The route takes travelers on an interesting adventure past abandoned cabins and historic coal mines. These subtle backdrops are fun to explore and capture in pictures. The scenic trail also features sprawling meadows and babbling creeks and waterfalls. The lake itself lives up to its name with a beautiful deep blue hue. The hike to the creek is a moderate six total miles in and out.


Blue Lakes

Hike Round Trip Distance: 6-11 Miles | 4+ Hours   

Accessibility: Moderate hike to access lake

Activities: Hiking, sightseeing


Considered one of the premier hikes in all of the northern San Juan mountains, a trip to see the Blue Lakes is a bucket list item for any hiking enthusiast. Not to be confused with ‘Blue Lake’, the Blue Lakes is a group of closely clustered lakes accessible via a moderate hike. The trail passes beautiful stretches of wildflowers, rolling meadows, winding forest creeks, and more. The first lake can be found after about three miles, while the last lake is about five miles down the path. The Blue Lakes trek is perfect for a day-long hiking and sightseeing adventure!


Ice Lake

Hike Round Trip Distance:  7 Miles | 5+ Hours

Accessibility: Challenging hike

Activities: Hiking, sightseeing


Reviews of the hidden Ice Lake are riddled with phrases like “breathtaking views” and “blue like the Caribbean,” which is just a teaser of what awaits. Best suited for experienced explorers, the terrain to find Ice Lake is rocky and steep. Set aside a full day for exploration, as the trail is located outside of Telluride with another several miles of hiking to actually find the lake. The entire trip is seven miles out and back and takes about five hours. The journey is half the fun, however, as the trail includes beautiful mountain greenery, wildflowers, waterfalls, and plenty of wildlife. Continue along the hike to find the neighboring Island Lake.


Island Lake

Hike Round Trip Distance:  8 Miles | 6+ Hours

Accessibility:  Challenging hike

Activities: Hiking, sightseeing


Island Lake is one of the mountain’s glacial water lakes, hidden gems among alpine wildflower meadows and endless rolling hills. Situated right next to Ice Lake, Island Lake offers similar aesthetics. The main difference is a prominent island located in the center of the lake—hence the name! Island Lake is also a richer hue of ice blue, which makes the perfect backdrop for pictures.  



Looking for more Telluride vacation inspiration? Check out our full Telluride blog for more itineraries, travel ideas, booking best practices, and more!