Ice Lake Basin

#1 of 161 trails in San Juan National Forest

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Ice Lakes trail has two common destinations, lower and upper. The upper basin is surrounded by awesome peaks. Vermillion, Fuller, Pilot knob and Golden Horn are climbed from this basin. Amazing blue/green lakes, late season wildflowers, moderately strenuous hike to creekfalls and waterfalls too.

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David Bencaz (197)

7 Completed7 Reviews

Awesome hike. It's pretty strenuous, but our 4 year old did it, too.

Christine Larsen (38)

1 Completed1 Reviews

Magical. It's certainly a climb but not to be missed. Absolutely wonderful!

Tara A. (56)

Celena H (36)

1 Completed1 Reviews

There is some gorgeous scenery here and the hike really shows if off.


There is a part of the trail that splits off near the beginning. One will take you to the actual trail and the other is a more risky route that eventually leads to the trail. I cannot tell you exactly where it is because I ended up taking the wrong way up and the right way down - unable to distinguish where it was.

I can tell you, though, that if you find yourself hiking up along the waterfall stream and climbing steep terrain in dark colored soil, you went the wrong way. Turn around and look for a path that has red soil - it will be obvious that it is a frequented trail. It will eventually lead you across the stream - farther below where the waterfall is.

If you go the wrong way, there is a point where it gets steep and the dirt is loose where you have to grab onto a dead tree to climb up. At the top you will end up at a trail and will need to turn left and cross through the waterfall. I would suggest only doing this if you are physically active and/or adventurous or looking to go off the more beaten track. Some people expressed their concern for going up that direction, and it wouldn't be too desirable to go down it.

Now, once you have gotten to open space you will eventually cross another stream and hit a fork in the path. Turn right into the tall plants. This will lead you up a stream bed towards Ice Lake Basin.

After reaching Ice Lake, I would highly suggest checking out Island Lake. It is about half a mile or less from Ice Lake. I was pooped after Ice Lake but Island Lake was doable. If you still have time and/or energy, there is a trail to reach the peak from Island Lake. It looks only to be a half mile again but much steeper.

There are 4 campgrounds leading up to the trailhead. The first three are free-for-alls and the last one (South Mineral Campground) is $19/night. It is located directly across from the trailhead. Potable water, toilets, and firewood are all located there. All campgrounds are first come, first serve.

J. Crom (199)

8 Completed6 Reviews

The prettiest final destination for a hike I've ever been on.

deborah T. (47)

Natalie Bessios (118)

3 Completed1 Reviews

Beautiful Hike! Hiked on Sept 2nd....Thoroughly enjoyed everything about this trail. The meadow has pretty flowers and the colors are starting to change. The day was bright and sunny which made ice lake turquoise and azure blue. I am hoping to get up there again in the next week or so and taking in the other lakes up top.

Sam Roy (376)

25 Completed1 Reviews

Best hike I've ever been on. You're really missing out if you don't do a loop through to Island Lake as well. We made this a two day one night backpacking trip. There are lots of spots to set up camp in the lower ice lake basin area if you're not looking to camp above tree-line by the lakes. We got to the lower lakes basin where you meet the sign directing you towards Island Lake to the right or Ice Lake to the left. We started towards Island lake and after about 500 feet just before a large boulder, turned right up a hill and found a site equipped with a fire circle and 360 view of the valley! We dropped our bags here and then headed towards Island Lake. This lake took our breath away and luckily we ran into a sole hiker who instructed us beyond the lake on a path towards Ice Lake. We had been planning to descend and re-ascend to ice lake. This saved us a tremendous amount of time and energy and we were able to loop past ice lake, down to lower ice lake, and then return to the path to descend to our campsite a different way! Having descended down the ice lake trail we realized ascending the island lake trail was much less treacherous!! It seemed everything fell into place for us just by fate. What a weekend!


4 Completed4 Reviews

Did the hike on august 17th 2014 with my wife and Saint Bernard! (Two diff people for all you funny people)...this was a long hike up due to elevation change and climb, but honestly the best hike I have ever been on! Amazing views and surreal beauty when you reach the top!!! We will be going prob a couple time a year now... We have two kids ages 6&4 and feel it's too much for them... I would say age 8 and up! Couple of places you need to pay attention to, and would be very difficult trying to carry child through them! Enjoy your hiking!!!

Darren White (286)

6 Completed6 Reviews

July 27th I did this hike....I had camped up at Clear Lake the night before and after shooting the wildflowers and sunrise I made my way down to the upper trailhead on clear lake road...found a parking spot and left the trailhead at 9am...This trailhead cuts off about 500ft elevation gain instead of starting at the campground trailhead...Where the 2 trails meet about 200 yds into the hike you have to cross a waterfall...If your feet and shoes are already wet don't make the mistake I did by changing into dry shoes and will get your feet wet...after this its all uphill until you reach the lower basin...This hike is no joke, take lots of water and some snacks to keep your body fueled for the climb... Once you crest the first hill into the lower basin you see majestic peaks and meadows of wildflowers....the views and surrounding areas are gorgeous....Then way off in the distance on the other side of the basin you can see the people in front of you going up again on their way to the upper basin...Don't feel bad if you take a quick break in the lower basin to get water and food... you earned it....get your breath and start the climb up to the upper wont regret's like nothing I have ever seen green lake surrounded by massive mountains and fields of sure to head over to the creek that is exiting the lake for some nice views as well.... I left the trailhead at 9am and was back down by 1:45pm due to a lightning storm that pushed us off the mountain....As I was coming down just after leaving Ice Lake there was a young lady maybe 28 or so breastfeeding her baby as she hiked up....I think everyone who walked past her was surprised to see that, given the difficulty of the trail....