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Ice Lake Basin, San Juan Range


Star Star Star Star Star

This 6 mile round trip takes you into one of the most scenic areas in Colorado.
  • On the Trail.JPG
  • Camp Ground.JPG
  • Lower Basin, North Side.JPG
  • Upper Basin flowers.JPG
  • Upper Basin, Vermillion Peak & Golden Horn.JPG
  • Ice Lake.JPG

Note: Suggest using the TOPO map feature to define the trail.  Could not get the "trail pencil" feature to work properly when laying out this trip.

We began by selecting one of two trail heads into the Ice Lake Basins area.  The Clear Lake access road will lead to a trail head (TH1), which is about .5 mile shorter and will save about 500 feet in elevation gain.  This road is accessible for most vehicles.  The lower trail head is located near the NFS South Mineral CG. 

Approximately 150 yards from TH1 is a spectacular cascade which crosses the trail.  The trail near this point is a little narrow and crossing the cascade pond is tricky.  Be careful! 

Immediately after crossing the small pond there is a fork in the trail.  Continue straight ahead.  DO NOT TURN LEFT DOWNHILL. The trail into the Lower Basin is clear and well maintained and is uphill virtually all the way.  Elevation gain is 1200 feet in about 1.25 miles.

Upon arriving at the rim of the Lower Basin (1.25 mile point) we noticed a small trail leading to the right (north) which took us into a fine, tree covered campsite which has a beautiful view of the valley which we just ascended. (Future reference)

Continuing on into the Lower Basin we observed the steep walls all around which are covered with rich green growth to the top and the three cascades coming down the sides from the various Upper Basin lakes.  The sight is awesome!

As we continued into the Basin, we observed a small lake to the left (south) of the trail.  A little further on, at about the 1.6 mile point, we arrived at the most desirable campsites.  There are several located in this area with some under small stands of fir trees and others in open meadows.  Clear water is abundant.  Elevation here is 11,500'.

We chose to camp in an open meadow (CG1) which is located a little less than a mile from the Upper Basin and Ice Lake.  We pitched camp, had a bite to eat.  After exploring the area and taking numerous photos, we prepared for the next day with great anticipation.

Early the next morning we headed for the Upper Basin with day packs and cameras.  We knew the hike would be a "pull" with an elevation gain of 800' in less than a mile.  Added to this, the trial is rough with loose rock most of the way.  There is one particular hazardous spot which is located just above the Slot Falls.

We prepared for a breath taking sight as we descended into Ice Lake Basin.  The lake, the peaks, the flowers: all are stupendous!  It seemed that we could not take photos fast enough.  We spent the remainder of the day exploring most all of the attractions in the area and felt somewhat saddened to leave such a wonderful place.  (Elevation 12,400')

We did descend back to our camp in the Lower Basin late in the afternoon as clouds began to gather with the threat of rain. 

We spent a total of 4 days and 3 nights in this wonderful place and each of us silently made a promise to return again one day.  For those of you who may be hesitant to attempt a trip like this one because of your advanced age, know that I am 76 and my partners are aged 74 and 67.  Take your time and you can do it!

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