Ice Lake Basin

#1 of 161 trails in San Juan National Forest
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.

9.3 miles Out & Back 2870 feet
Dog Friendly
birding camping hiking dogs leash lake views
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Go north of Silverton on Hwy. 550 to Mineral Creek Rd.,turn left and follow it to the Mineral Creek Campground, where the Trailhead is located.

Andy Burdin

18 Completed7 Reviews

I've been wanting to do this hike for several years and finally did it in late September! It's a serious trek up but you're greeted with a couple nice stream crossings and the lakes are outstanding. The water is incredibly colorful!

Chris Smith

2 Completed2 Reviews

Elizabeth Cassidy

2 Completed2 Reviews

This was a beautiful hike with lovely fall colors! The switchbacks can be a bit brutal, especially if you're not used to the altitude but totally worth it! Be sure not to miss the small wooden sign pointing left for the Ice Lakes trail in the beginning of the hike :P

Alex Randel

15 Completed4 Reviews

Wow! This hike will definitely test you but the view at the top is worth it.

Jenn Jennings

2 Completed2 Reviews

This was amazing! Great end to a tough hike! Bring lots of water and prepare to stop a lot to adjust to the altitude if you are not used to it! Pretty long hike recommend starting very early - like before 9am!!! BUT when you get to the end where all the lakes are, it is all worth it!!!

Shelley Raymond

4 Completed4 Reviews

Absolutely stunning! The hike is horrendous for those in great shape....however, it was so worth it in the end. Being from Florida originally, I am used to seeing turquoise waters, but nothing could compare to the cobalt-turquoise of this lake.

I have two pieces of advice, take your time and take lots of water.

Also remember going down can be even more treacherous than the hike up.

It was definitely worth the pain and at the end, we saw a Bull Moose near the entrance!

Audrey Clark

65 Completed4 Reviews

Lauren B.

I'm a native who has explored all over the state, and this trail in all of it's midsummer glory, with waterfalls and wildflowers abound, is the most beautiful place I've been.

However, as a former search and rescue volunteer, I'm extremely concerned that it's a tragedy waiting to happen. As we were coming down in the afternoon we encountered loads of unprepared people starting way too late in the day carrying little more than the cotton shirts on their back. Many also had clearly miserable and exhausted kids with them and continued on despite our warnings that storm clouds were brewing.

I think many people see the relatively short mileage of the trail, fail to realize how steep it is, and underestimate the time/exertion it will take.

First of all, you gain around 2,500 ft on the trail. Really this trail is quite comparable to many of the 14er routes in elevation gain and length, it's just lower. In my opinion it's better to see this more like an easy 14er than a quick easy day hike. It's not overly difficult but it will be quite a challenge for many kids, flatlanders, out-of- shape folks etc.

Much of the route is above timberline, there's water everywhere, and several stream crossings. In Colorado wicked thunderstorms are to be expected on summer afternoons. Getting caught in a storm here, especially in the upper basin, would be a nightmare. The section leading to the upper basin is very steep, rocky, in parts wet with little streams, somewhat exposed and above timberline - extremely dangerous in a storm with slick rocks, lightning, swollen stream crossings etc. Thunderstorms at these elevations are an entirely different beast than the ones you may be used to closer to sea level. They also can develop very rapidly and seemingly come out of nowhere.

Compounding these issues is that for the vast majority of the trail, you won't even be able to see a storm coming in. The vast majority of storms travel west to east here, and all those 13ers ringing the lakes block your view of the skies. We saw nothing but blue skies until we reached the upper basin... Then we could see the ominous clouds gathering right behind the 13ers. As we hurriedly descended, ascending folks were oblivious to the impending storm.

START EARLY IN THE MORNING TO AVOID STORMS. A good rule of thumb for hikes like this is to aim to be below timberline descending by 10-noon. Check the weather beforehand and reschedule if necessary. On your way up ask people coming down from the top how the sky looked and turn around if it sounds iffy.

There are also a few spots that are somewhat confusing. Read some of the posts below and you'll find plenty of people who went the wrong way. Bring a good topo map like Trail's Illustrated and a trail description.

This is a fantastic, gorgeous hike and it can be done very safely if you follow basic mountain safety guidelines and prepare properly.

Frank C.

A beautiful alpine hike featuring waterfalls, creeks, wildflowers, and Alpine vistas. Upper Ice Lake is worth the effort.

Sarah Hautamaki

8 Completed3 Reviews