Ice Lake + Island Lake Hike

San Juan Mountains, Colorado

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Ice Lake + Island Lake Hike
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  • Signs at the trailhead parking lot.- Ice Lake + Island Lake Hike
  • Very few signs on trail. It is a good idea to sign in on the book, just in case.- Ice Lake + Island Lake Hike
  • Clear Creek and one of the waterfalls along the trail.- Ice Lake + Island Lake Hike
  • The trail crosses an aspen grove along the way.- Ice Lake + Island Lake Hike
  • Wildflowers can be quite abundant in the summer.- Ice Lake + Island Lake Hike
  • Hikers on the trail close to the Lower Ice Lake basin.- Ice Lake + Island Lake Hike
  • Fall arrives early around the tree line.- Ice Lake + Island Lake Hike
  • The first step of this double basin. Ice Lake is above those cliffs. The runoff creek forms the beautiful waterfall on the right.- Ice Lake + Island Lake Hike
  • Hikers coming down from Ice Lake.- Ice Lake + Island Lake Hike
  • View of the basin on the final hike up to Ice Lake.- Ice Lake + Island Lake Hike
  • Hikers coming down from Ice Lake.- Ice Lake + Island Lake Hike
  • Ice Lake, wonderfully blue.- Ice Lake + Island Lake Hike
  • Wildflowers by the blue Ice Lake, and the creek on its way to a waterfall.- Ice Lake + Island Lake Hike
  • Camping is allowed in the area.- Ice Lake + Island Lake Hike
  • Wildflowers around Ice Lake with mountains in the background, including Golden Horn and Pilot Knob.- Ice Lake + Island Lake Hike
  • Trail between Ice Lake and Island Lake.- Ice Lake + Island Lake Hike
  • View back toward Ice Lake.- Ice Lake + Island Lake Hike
  • Panorama of the trail: South Fork Mineral Creek and trailhead on the left, subalpine forest, Lower Ice Lake Basin, trail up to Blue Lake on the right, and the first part of the trail up to Island Lake.- Ice Lake + Island Lake Hike
  • Island Lake with its namesake rock island in the middle.- Ice Lake + Island Lake Hike
  • A different view of Island Lake.- Ice Lake + Island Lake Hike
  • Trail east of Island lake looping back to the main trail near some evidence of old mining activity in the area.- Ice Lake + Island Lake Hike
  • View of the trailhead over 2,000 feet below.- Ice Lake + Island Lake Hike
  • Frozen Ice Lake in late June (though ice is usually gone by late June).- Ice Lake + Island Lake Hike
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Beautiful lakes and waterfalls. Few people on weekdays. Beautiful fall colors.
Cons: 
Long drive from Denver.
Region:
San Juan Mountains, CO
Congestion: 
Low
Preferable Season(s):
Summer, Fall
Day-Use/Parking Pass Required:
Not Required
Total Distance: 
8.00 mi (12.87 km)
Trailhead Elev.: 
9,844 ft (3,000 m)
Net Elev. Gain: 
3,000 ft (914 m)
Trail Uses:
Hiking, Horseback
Trail type: 
There-and-back/Loop
Dogs allowed: 
Yes

Current Local Weather

Powered by Dark Sky

Today

Snow (1–4 in.) starting in the afternoon.
32°F

Thu

Snow (2–5 in.) throughout the day.
25°F

Fri

Snow (6–9 in.) throughout the day.
23°F
13°

Sat

Snow (1–4 in.) in the morning and afternoon.
32°F

Sun

Snow (4–7 in.) throughout the day and breezy until afternoon.
32°F
21°

Mon

Snow (2–5 in.) throughout the day.
20°F
-8°

Tue

Partly cloudy starting in the afternoon, continuing until evening.
18°F
-13°
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Pro Contributor

The hike up to Ice Lake and Island Lake in Colorado's San Juan Mountains is truly an amazing one. It is moderately difficult, clocking in right at 8 miles with a total 3,000 feet of elevation gain, but the waterfalls, fantastic lakes, and wonderful views below and above the tree line are absolutely fantastic.

The trailhead and parking lot are just across the street from South Mineral Campground. There is a book to sign in at the trailhead, which is a good idea, especially weekdays when there aren't usually many people on the trail. The first mile proceeds through subalpine forest and crosses Clear Creek a couple of times. A wonderful waterfall can be seen around 0.9 miles from the trailhead (watch for slippery rocks).

After passing an aspen grove, which looks great in early fall, there is a fork on the trail 2.2 miles from the trailhead. Stay on the left to get to Ice Lake. The trail continues on the first step of this double basin, and a beautiful meadow opens up, surrounded by almost vertical cliffs and a towering waterfall on the right. The hike is steep to the second step of the basin where Ice Lake is located, but it is well worth it as the deep blue of the lake is unparalleled. Glaciers eroded rocks in the area thousands of years ago, leaving a fine rock powder suspended in the water. This is a great place to camp or pass some time admiring the view. A walk around the lake is very rewarding as well, providing different views of the spires behind the lake and the silver-like runoff creek.

The view alone is worth the hike, but continuing the loop to the nearby Island Lake is hard to miss. The hike to the Island Lake lake is just over half a mile and gains some 200 feet of elevation. It is a beautiful green lake with a rock island in the middle, which gives the lake its name.

From there the trail loops around the basin and returns back to the main trail. Along the way there is some evidence of old mining activity, including mine tailings. The trailhead parking and campground lot are also visible some 2,300 feet below.

Note that the hiking trail to Ice Lake and Island Lake is not very well marked. Take a map and compass or a GPS unit to help you stay on track. Also, if you are looking for camping in the area, South Mineral Campground is nearby and an excellent choice for longer stays in this section of the San Juan Mountains.

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Nearby Camping + Lodging

(6 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(27 within a 30 mile radius)

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Published in collaboration with Conservation Colorado

Conservation Colorado has worked with communities around the state for over 50 years in pursuit of our mission - to protect Colorado’s environment and quality of life by mobilizing people and electing conservation-minded policymakers. We fight to protect the air, land, water, and people of Colorado. Our collaborative approach and focus on electing pro-conservation officials has yielded successes in addressing climate change, supporting clean energy development, conserving water resources, and protecting our public wildlands and rivers. These priority issues, and the incredible natural resources of our state, inspire our motto - The Future is Worth the Fight.

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