Ice Lakes Basin Trip Planning
In mid-October 2020, Ice Fire ripped through the bottom portion of the Ice Lakes Trail, as well as areas east of the trail. Learn More
Due to the popularity of Ice Lakes trail, planning ahead is necessary to minimize your impact and ensure you have the best experience once you arrive.
See Trail Information for trail statistics, driving instructions, etc.
Trail Tips to Minimize Impacts
- Please check out our Best Practices to minimize your impact. SJMA's Ice Lakes Educational Basecamp provides a presence at the trailhead to promote responsible use and Leave No Trace ethics.
- Stay on the trail to avoid trail braiding and erosion:
- Visitors often avoid seasonal mud and the occasional downed tree by creating trails around the obstructions causing vegetation to get trampled.
- To avoid trail erosion, do not cut switchbacks.
- Do not litter: Human waste, toilet paper, and feminine hygiene products have been found both trail side and in the basins. Dog poop bags are left behind, presumably by people who plan on picking them up on the way down and forget.
- Keep your dogs under control: Dogs must be on a leash or under voice control at all time. Dogs not under control can potentially frighten or injure wildlife, disturb other forest visitors, and create negative impacts on the natural resources. Check out the San Juan National Forest page on hiking with dogs on the National Forest for more information.
- There is a stream crossing -be prepared to get your feet wet during spring run off or during monsoon storms.
- This trail is too steep for most small children.
- If you are afraid of heights or unsteady, there is a steep climb just before the upper basin that may require extra caution and the use of your hands as you navigate over the rocks.
- In mid-July, the Hardrock 100 race course crosses the Ice Lakes Trail and it can be extra busy around race time.
Camping Options along South Mineral Creek Road
- Campground camping: South Mineral Campground is located across the road from the Ice Lakes Basin trailhead parking lot.
- Dispersed camping: There are 4 camping areas with outhouses in the first 2.6 miles of FS 585
- Kendall on the left at 0.6 miles
- Anvil and Sultan on the right at 1 mile
- Golden Horn on the left at 2.6 miles
- About 7 slight pull outs with single camping spaces between 1.4 and 4.6 miles
- Please note: Overnight camping is not allowed at the Ice Lakes Basin trailhead parking lot.
- Parking: The parking lot fills very quickly during the summer months. Be sure to plan ahead so you do not feel the need to park illegally, double park other visitors or increase ecological damage by parking on surrounding vegetation.
- There are no trash containers, potable water or restroom facilities at the trailhead.
- Nearest restrooms and trash containers are located at the Silverton Visitor Center.
- Water: Potable water at the campground is limited to 5 gallon to non-campground users.
Backpacking into Ice Lakes Basin
Please review our our Best Practices to minimize your impact.
- There is no permit system for the Ice Lakes area for 2021. This fall, the San Juan National Forest is planning to come up with a large landscape strategy to manage high visitation use in the area which may include a future permit system.
- Camping in the Lower Ice Lake Basin is strongly encouraged for the following reasons:
- The alpine vegetation in the Upper Basin is fragile and easily damaged by tents.
- Digging a cat hole is very difficult in the alpine tundra and there’s very little privacy.
- Fires in the Upper Basin's alpine zone are highly discouraged for several reasons:
- There is little or no wood there for a fire, so you would have to pack it in.
- Fire scars out in the open are unsightly and may take years to revegetate.
- The Lower Basin has trees for protection and hanging food. You will be exposed to storms and strong winds in the Upper Basin.
- In the Lower Basin, you will find a number of campsites across the wide creek and tucked into the trees to the south of the basin.
- Leave No Trace Principles recommend that you camp at least 200′ from lakes and streams.
- It’s best to filter water from the "clear" (non-chalky) stream from Fuller Lake.
- Weather: Check forecast. Start early to avoid afternoon thunderstorms. Take rain gear, even if the skies are bright blue in Silverton. Especially during summer "monsoon" season, storms can suddenly appear, bringing cold winds, rain, flurries, sleet, or all of the above.
- Lightning: If lightning is present, the higher you are the more vulnerable you are. Head to lower ground for safety. Check out San Juan National Forest Lightning Safety page for more information.
- Sun: Bring high SPF sunscreen, SPF lip balm and sunglasses because the UV rays are more intense at high altitudes.
- Treat any water you might take from streams.
- Altitude: Be aware that even minimal physical exertion can be quite taxing at high elevation. Pace yourself, drink water, and eat snacks to help prevent altitude sickness. Symptoms include headache, loss of appetite, and weakness or drowsiness. If affected, descend quickly. If symptoms persist, seek medical aid.
- Winter: If you visit the area in winter, Forest Road 585 may be closed, so be prepared to hike, snowshoe or ski 9 extra miles roundtrip
- Emphasizes how to have low impact when backpacking at Ice Lakes: https://rootsrated.com/stories/backpacking-ice-lakes-basin-big-views-low-impact
- Outbound Collective: https://www.theoutbound.com/colorado/backpacking/backpack-or-hike-the-ice-lakes-trail