Proposed Regulations for Colorado's Blue Lakes and Mount Sneffels Summit


Well-known member
Aug 26, 2023
If you're excited about visiting Colorado's breathtaking Blue Lakes, positioned between Telluride and Ouray, you should know about a potential upcoming change. The United States Forest Service is considering a plan to control the number of summer visitors due to the soaring popularity of these picturesque alpine lakes and the Mount Sneffels summit, which have become popular spots for Instagram enthusiasts. The primary objective behind this proposal is to minimize the environmental impact caused by the influx of tourists.

The suggested plan, which would be a first for a national forest in Colorado, involves implementing a permit system not only for overnight campers but also for daytime hikers. This step is aimed at addressing various environmental concerns stemming from the increasing footfall, such as improper waste disposal and disturbances to the natural habitat. Additionally, the plan includes provisions for marking designated parking areas, closing unofficial trails, and introducing new camping regulations. The final decision on these proposed measures will be implemented by early 2024.

You can read the details here
Colorado, United States
This is an interesting case study in the inadvertent environmental effects of human foot traffic on our protected natural areas, such as the Blue Lakes wilderness in Uncompahgre National Forest in this case. Not everyone's committed the Leave No Trace ethics unfortunately and as a result the Forest Service is having to mitigate the environmental consequences through this permit program restricting the number of visitors and recreational activities. The article mentions that under the new system they expect that 64 people will be able to visit Blue Lakes per day, which sounds like a dramatic decrease from the current number of visitors (e.g., they mention there was a peak of 509 visitors one day in 2021).

I actually hadn't heard of this National Forest before but can see how it's an amazing place to visit based on photos from the web. "We've already started to feel some of these places we love are getting loved to death," said the Forest Service official quoted in the article. I can see how that's true of the Blue Lakes. In addition to better protecting the environment, hopefully the reduction in foot traffic also makes for a generally higher quality experience for those able to secure permits and visit after 2024, when the Forest Service begins implementing the new permit system.
The proposal to limit visitors to Colorado's Blue Lakes is a necessary step to protect the environment from over-tourism. While it may inconvenience some, preserving these natural wonders for future generations is paramount. Sustainable tourism practices and permits can strike a balance between enjoying these sites and safeguarding them.

For further information on this GPT, visit the U.S. National/Federal GPT page.