Ice Lakes Basin Trail Information

Ice Lakes Trail Stats (#505)

Distance, Round Trip:                7 miles to Upper Basin

Elevation Gain:                          2420′

Start Elevation:                          9840′

Elevation at Lower Ice Lake:     11,510′ (2 miles from trailhead)

Elevation at Ice Lake:                12,260′

Elevation at Island Lake:            12,392′

Elevation at Fuller Lake:            12, 605′ (largest and highest lake)

Trail rating:                                 Most difficult

Trail Description

The Ice Lakes Trail offers a lot of variety. It leads you through old-growth forest to subalpine meadows, to alpine tundra and views of mountain lakes and rugged 13,000+ peaks. The trails climbs through 2 basins, each with its own ecosystem. On the way up to the first basin you will pass a Clear Creek waterfall on the right and an old mill off to the left. After 2 miles of climbing, the trail traverses through the Lower Basin. The trail concludes at Ice Lake, which is the bluest lake you will ever see. During July and August, you will pass through a stunning array of flowers at each level.

If you have the time and energy to explore more of the upper basin area before returning to the trailhead, two popular side trips are to Island Lake and Fuller Lake.  These are non-system trails that are not maintained by the San Juan National Forest.  Please use caution and travel at your own risk.

Side Trip Options:

  • A side trip to Island Lake to the northeast adds about 1.12 miles round trip and 130′ elevation gain. This lake with a unique island, is in its own cirque surrounded by U.S. Grant Peak and its ridges.
  • A side trip to Fuller Lake to the south adds about 1.75 miles round trip and 335′ elevation gain. An old collapsed metal-sided mining cabin with an adjacent picnic table stands beside the lake.

Note of caution:

Be very cautious when hiking the trail where it transitions from the lower basin to the upper basin and vice versa. This is a rocky section with a drop off that could be challenging for some.

Ice Lakes Highlights:

  • Activities to enjoy in the area include hiking, trail running, backpacking, mountaineering, photography, fishing, and wildlife, wildflower and scenery viewing.
  • From late July through August, the wildflowers are spectacular, with sub-alpine species in the Lower Basin and alpine species in the upper basin.
  • Ice Lake is a brilliant ice blue color and is in a cirque under 13,767-foot US Grant Peak.
  • In the Lower Basin, there is a shallow lake to the south of the trail. In the Upper Basin there are 3 large lakes including Ice Lake, Island Lake and Fuller Lake (the largest), as well as numerous smaller lakes.
  • The jagged 13,000+ peaks surrounding Upper Ice Lake Basin include (from north to south):
    • U.S. Grant Peak   13,767′
    • Pilot Knob           13,738′
    • Golden Horn       13,780′
    • Vermillion Peak   13,894′
    • Fuller Peak          13,761′

Access and Driving Directions

Picture of Ice Lakes Basin Trailhead parking lot taken July 20th at 7 AM

The Ice Lakes Basin Trail is located near Silverton, Colorado, within the Columbine Ranger District of San Juan National Forest. The Ice Lakes Basin trailhead begins from the dirt parking lot across the road from South Mineral Campground. The parking lot is at N 37 48.394, W 107 46.428, The trail heads out NW from the parking lot.

Driving Directions:

From Silverton: To reach the trailhead from the intersection of Highway 550 and the turnoff into Silverton (Highway 110), drive 2 miles north toward Ouray on Highway 550 and look for the turn off to South Mineral Campground which is Forest Road 585 (also called County Road 7 or South Mineral Road). This turn off is located between mile markers 72 and 73. Follow the good gravel road for 4.4 miles to the trailhead parking area on the right (North) side of the road, just across from the South Mineral Campground. This road is suitable for two-wheel drive vehicles, though there may be some potholes to avoid. Also, be aware that shortly after the campground the road becomes only 4WD accessible.

From Ouray: Follow Highway 550 south from Ouray for about 20 miles to the turn off to South Mineral Campground. Make a sharp right onto County Road 7 and follow the gravel road for 4.4 miles to the trailhead parking area on the north side of the road across from the South Mineral Campground.

Note: South Mineral road (FR585/County Road 7) is not plowed in winter, so if you plan on doing a winter trip, add 4.4 miles each way to your hike, snowshoe or ski.