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Most Photogenic Lakes Near Durango

lakes near durango colorado

Island Lake above Ice Lakes Basin

There are over 4,000 lakes in our state of Colorado, with Durango and the surrounding area boasting some of the most magnificent spots. From Ophir all the way down to Navajo Lake, these lakes are what we consider to be the most “photogenic” spots. That is, you don’t have to be a professional photographer to snag a gorgeous shot of these destinations.

With the unbelievable amount of snow that the San Juans received this last winter, backcountry excursions have had to be postponed until later in the season. Now that we’re halfway into August, the deep snow that covered some of these alpine lakes is finally melting. As you venture into our beloved wilderness during monsoon season, make sure to take precautions and be aware of storms in the high country.

Vallecito: If you’re camping or just heading up to Vallecito for a day trip, there are hikes for every type of outdoorsmen. From easy walks to difficult hikes, everyone can explore. You even can embark on an overnight backpacking trip through Middle Mountain and the rest of the national forest.

Photo credits: Vallecito Lake Chamber of Commerce

Haviland: Not only is Haviland Lake a beautiful spot for Sunday chillin’, it’s family friendly with picnic tables and tons of trails. If you’re feeling like camping, there are 43 shaded campsites available; some even near the lakeshore. 

Photo credits: USDA Forest Service

Ice Lakes Basin: The hike to Ice Lakes is no walk in the park, but the crystal blue water will leave you stunned (and probably a little chilly).

Island Lake: Another high alpine lake, the trail to Island Lake isn’t but a short traverse over the saddle that separates it from Ice Lakes. 

CAUTION: As Ice Lakes gets up to 12,270 ft and 12,392 at Island Lake, make sure to triple-check the weather and get a good start to avoid afternoon thunderstorms.

*Pro tip: When visiting Ice Lakes Basin and Island Lake, be sure to bring a good camera to capture shots of the drop-dead gorgeous wildflowers.

Little Molas: Looking to drop a fishing line? Molas and Little Molas Lake offer some amazing fishing, hiking and high elevation beauty. Located above 10,000 feet, this lake gives you the opportunity to explore and hike around Molas Pass.


Photo credits: Max Vuong

Navajo: Navajo Lake is the second largest in New Mexico and has been a haven for boaters for many years. You can bring motorized boats, canoes, kayaks and sailing boats to this perfect summer destination. Find yourself cliff jumping and exploring rock formations as well. One tip from the pros: be sure to get there early for the best camping spot.

Photo credits: New Mexico Department of Tourism

Spud Lake: Also known as Potato Lake to “out of towners,” Spud Lake is near Purgatory but the ride up is a bit bumpy. Once you’re there, enjoy fishing and relaxing by the water.

Photo credits: https://photorator.com/photo/68149/potato-lake-colorado- 

Columbine Lake: This lake is an exquisite haven in a high alpine meadow. Camping is definitely available, but be aware that the meadow terrain is fragile, so tread lightly and use caution when setting up camp. The trek up to Columbine Lake is about 10 miles from the Chicago Basin drop-off at Needleton station if you ride the Train and is rated as strenuous.

Blue Lakes: Located in the Mount Sneffels Wilderness, this gorgeous alpine hike also features wildflowers and impressive views. The Blue Lakes are located in a glacial basin and boasts three, crystal clear lakes. Pack up the gear and camp at Blue Lakes this summer! There are several campsites along the shores of the lakes.

CAUTION: During monsoon season, keep your wits about you for this high-altitude hike.


Electra Lake: Located just barely south of Purgatory, Electra Lake offers public access for fishing, picnicking, boating, and water skiing. 

Pro Tip: Make plans to get dinner at The Boathouse - a reservation-only restaurant accessible by boat and bridge on a tiny island on the lake.

Photo by Kevin Gutowski on Unsplash


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