Ice Lake Basin Trail

#1 of 82 trails in San Juan National Forest
Ice Lake Basin Trail is a 6.1 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Silverton, CO that features a lake and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible from April until September. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

6.1 miles 2349 feet Out & Back
dogs on leash birding camping hiking nature trips rock climbing snowboarding snowshoeing walking lake views waterfall wild flowers
Hide Map

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.

Taylor Beeson
12 minutes ago

1 Completed1 Reviews

A lot of snow on the top half of the trail. Gaiters were nice to have. Beautiful hike.

Jr. Santos
4 days ago

1 Completed1 Reviews

Is there snow or it dry up? I'm going next week to hike here ???

Keith Warren
26 days ago

40 Completed23 Reviews

Loved this trail! surrounded by rockies. the glacier water was freezing! Went with Lyons.

Jess Steinert
1 month ago

33 Completed12 Reviews

Definately one of the hardest hikes I've done, but the most rewarding. We ran across locals who do it once a week. We made it to Ice Lake in about 3-4 hours, and back down in a little over 2 hours. You'll feel it in your lungs before you feel it in your legs. This hike offers some of the most beautiful scenery including a waterfall shortly into the hike and then again if you look back over middle basin once you make the final climb to Ice Lake. But even those don't compare to how you'll feel when you reach the clear blue water. We stayed by the water for awhile and watched it change different shades of blue depending on what the sun/clouds were doing. Everyone at the lake was friendly and we threw balls into the water for the dogs to fetch. I hiked this in September of 2015 and it was 30 degrees or so. But the hike had us peeling our layers off and by the end we were in tank tops as it was sunny and hot. I'd definately recommend doing this when you know it'll be sunny to get the full effect of the lake. An overcast sky would dull it. If you reach Ice Lake and want another challenge...continue hiking up to the other lakes.

Kyle Bredemeyer
6 months ago

1 Completed2 Reviews

Kyle Bredemeyer
6 months ago

1 Completed2 Reviews

Andy Burdin
7 months ago

17 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
7 months ago

3 Completed3 Reviews

Elizabeth Cassidy
7 months ago

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
7 months ago

24 Completed4 Reviews

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

Jenn Jennings
8 months ago

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
8 months ago

5 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
8 months ago

68 Completed3 Reviews

Lauren B.
8 months ago

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.
9 months ago

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

Sarah Hautamaki
9 months ago

8 Completed3 Reviews

Ernesto Diaz
9 months ago

4 Completed3 Reviews

Best hike in Colorado. The lake and peak views are incredible.

Richard Stefan
9 months ago

1 Completed1 Reviews

Pretty difficult for flatlanders from the Midwest, but so worth it in the end. My wife and I, and our three teenage sons hiked up to the lower ice lake basin and set up camp in a beautiful spot near the river and under some trees. It rained pretty hard with some strong winds and although it was early August, it got cold at night. My sons hiked up to upper ice lake in the morning and they came back in awe of the beauty. Their pictures were amazing. My wife and I hung back at camp, and enjoyed the sunrise with a hot cup of coffee. I wish we had read the previous post of Celene because we also went the wrong way up the right side of the first waterfall and it totally sapped our energy since we had big packs for overnight camping. In the end though, absolutely amazing hike with great views of surrounding peaks and valleys with beautiful wildflowers.

Phil Kenley
9 months ago

1 Completed1 Reviews

Last trip to So Mineral we met a man 74 who had just returned from Ice Lakes. Here is our situation.... My wife and I made this hick 50 years ago this month and now wondering if we should try again. We will have been camping in Wyoming and Colorado mountains for about 3 weeks before arriving at So Mineral so we should have adjusted to the altitude at that point. The only question will we be in good enough condition. I guess we could always turn around and go back down. Wish us luck.

David Bencaz
9 months ago

7 Completed7 Reviews

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