Ice Lakes

Distance: 7.0 - 8.2 miles (round trip)

San Juan National Forest, near Silverton in Southwest Colorado

View of Pilot Knob and the ridge to the west of Ice Lake

View of Pilot Knob and the ridge to the west of Ice Lake


This wonderful hike visits two gorgeous lake basins, traverses wildflower-filled meadows and passes numerous waterfalls along the way. Dramatic peaks punctuate the ridge forming the backdrop for upper Ice Lake, nestled in an alpine wonderland. Opportunities for exploration include side trips to Island and Fuller lakes.
See Trail Detail/Full Description

  • Distance: 7.0 miles (round trip) to Ice Lake
    8.4 miles (round trip) to Island Lake
  • Elevation: 9,840-ft. at Trailhead
    12,270-ft. at Ice Lake
    12,392-ft. at Island Lake
  • Elevation Gain: 2,430-ft. to Ice Lake
    2,552-ft. to Island Lake
  • Difficulty: moderate-strenuous
  • More Hikes in:
    Silverton / Ouray / Southwest Colorado

Why Hike Ice Lakes

ALERT: A fire was reported on the afternoon of October 19, 2020, west of Silverton, CO on the north side of the South Mineral Creek Road (FS585). The fire area includes the Ice Lakes Trail and the Clear Lake Road. Public entry into this area is prohibited for the safety of users. Fire crews report numerous fire-weakened trees on the lower sections of Ice Lakes Trail and the Clear Lake Road. Crews had cleared the Clear Lake road numerous times before the recent snowfall, but trees, rocks and boulders continued to fall. Soils saturated by rain and snow and loosened by freezing and thawing will be even more unstable.

In the spring, Forest Service crews will work to mitigate hazards along the Ice Lake Trail and Clear Lake Road. The closure is currently in place until Sept 15, 2021; however, it could be lifted earlier, extended later, or the boundaries could be adjusted depending on conditions. See the San Juan National Forest site for more information on current closures.

The Silverton area boasts a number of great day hikes but none can compete with the sheer scenic beauty of Ice Lake.

The trail wastes no time gaining elevation, climbing 1,600-ft. in 2-miles through forests and wildflower-filled meadows to the beautiful Lower Ice Lakes basin. Upon reaching the lower basin great views open to Fuller, Vermillion Peak, Golden Horn and Pilot Knob rising above the ridge at the head of the basin.

As you wander up the lower basin waterfalls emanating from unseen alpine lakes and snowfields tumble down clefts in the rocky hillside watering a breathtaking array of wildflowers. A sea of columbine, larkspur, aspen daisies, chiming bells and cow parsnips blankets both sides of the trail.

But the best is yet to come. A steep climb to the upper basin leads to the turquoise blue waters of Ice Lake nestled in a magnificent cirque of sculpted ridges and peaks soaring well above 13,000-ft. The alpine wonderland around the lake invites exploration, with routes heading toward Island Lake, Fuller Lake and beyond.

Elevation Profile

Ice Lakes Elevation Profile

Best Hiking in Southwest Colorado around Ouray, Telluride and Silverton

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Trail Resources

Trail Detail/Full Description / Trail Photo Gallery / Trail Map

Basecamp(s) Information:
Silverton / Ouray

Region Information:
Southwest Colorado

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