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. 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

Note: Ice Lakes is one of the most popular and heavily used trails in southwestern Colorado. Social media postings in the past few years have resulted in an explosion of visitors to the area. Meanwhile recent avalanches have scarred the Clear Creek drainage and a fire in October 2020 burned the lower section of the trail.

Read and follow Leave No Trace principles while hiking and camping in Ice Lakes and other public lands. It is imperative that we all act responsibly to protect and preserve this beautiful area.

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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