Ice Lake Basin and neighboring Island Lake is one of the most incredible places I’ve visited in the United States. This past weekend I hiked up to the basin for the third time in three years hitting it at darned near peak wildflower season. For the second year in a row I found myself in the San Juan Mountains the week after the Hardrock 100, driven by the excitement the event stirs up in me as well as desperately wanting to escape the unrelenting heat in Salt Lake City.
I slept at the trail head to ensure an early start and got moving shortly after sunrise. The 2,400 foot climb up to Ice Lake felt brutal with the trail head elevation close to 10,000 feet reminding me that Utah is so much lower in elevation than Colorado. I was delighted in finding the entire lake to myself for a brief moment so I ran around like a crazy person snapping photos in every direction as the clouds and lighting constantly changed as I audibly oohed and ahhed at every little flower.
The Ice Lake Trail is easy to follow and it is hands down one of the best hikes in the San Juan Mountains. The Best Hiking in Southwest Colorado book is a great resource of all the best hikes in the Silverton and Ouray area with good maps and trail descriptions plus it is downloadable to your phone for pretty cheap.
I highly recommend hiking up past Ice Lake to Island Lake pictured below. You need to hop across the outlet stream of Ice Lake (Roo demonstrating above) and then follow the obvious trail climbing the wildflower filled slope to the northeast. A little less than a mile and a few hundred feet of elevation gain delivers you at another gorgeous aquamarine alpine lake. You can continue up the faint trail to the north of the lake and to Grant-Swamp Pass to capture some amazing shots of the Island Lake below.