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Backpacker Magazine – January 2014

Alpine Lakes

Kick back at one of these campsites—where nothing but an idyllic, high-country pool separates you from the Rockies skyline.

by: Maren Kasselik

Photo by Glenn Randall
Photo by BP0114MTW_Randall_IceLakeBasin_bjk445x260.jpg
Photo by Glenn Randall

San Juan NF, CO
Ice Lake Basin

If you’re a peakbagger (or a sucker for wildflowers), then this basin in the San Juans is your primo destination, says Ben Frihauf. Just a 3.5-mile approach lands you at turquoise Upper Ice Lake, a 1.3-acre tarn nestled in a cirque below a half-dozen Thirteeners. From the Ice Lakes trailhead, wind 2 miles west through columbine-laden meadows to the lower basin. Snowmelt-fed streams drain into the pool, while a sea of larkspur, alpine daisies, and blue bells (blooming in July) line the trail. From here, climb 800 feet in a mile to Indian paintbrush-edged Upper Ice Lake. “It looks like a Caribbean beachfront, except it’s surrounded by the most impressive peaks,” says Randy Van Winkle. Camp near the southeast shore with western views of the San Juans, and take daytrips to explore Ulysses S. Grant Peak or Island and Fuller Lakes.

Trailhead 37.806512, -107.773474*; 58 miles north of Durango off CR 12 INFO (970) 247-4874; Website


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