Ouray, CO: Ice Lake

This 7.6-mile hike in the San Juan Mountains travels past golden meadows and three waterfalls en route to a stunning tarn in Ice Lake Basin.
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This 7.6-mile hike in the San Juan Mountains travels past golden meadows and three waterfalls en route to a stunning tarn in Ice Lake Basin.

Perfect for dayhikers and backpackers alike, this 7.6-mile out-and-back in the San Juans features alpine tarns, waterfalls, and views of ragged peaks. Come early to fit this trek into a day, or spend the night and savor the scenery. From the dirt parking area across from the South Mineral Campground, head northwest to pick up the marked Ice Lake Trail.
The first 500 feet of trail winds through a meadow before entering cool conifer forest. Soon after entering the woods, the trail starts to climb. Cross the first creek at mile 0.5, then ascend a handful of switchbacks to a short spur that leads to a small waterfall. Watch your footing: There's a steep drop-off on the right.
From here, the route winds to the west toward Lower Ice Lake Basin, passing mining remnants, potential campsites, and views of another waterfall. After 2.3 miles, the trail enters Lower Ice Lake Basin and continues west; grab a bite to eat on a massive trailside boulder with views of the surrounding peaks.
A half a mile later, the final climb to Ice Lake begins. Cross a creek, then follow the rocky trail up and out of the lower basin to the grassy banks of Ice Lake. Drop your pack and spend some time at this stunningly blue tarn surrounded by stark and jagged peaks. Next, follow the upper path to a second smaller lake that sits just south of Ice Lake. Follow the same route back the trailhead.
-Mapped by Kim Phillips

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 12.2

Waypoints

ILT001

Location: 37.806512, -107.773474

From the dirt parking area, hike northwest to Ice Lake Trail.

ILT002

Location: 37.806715, -107.774034

The marked Ice Lake Trail starts on the west edge of the parking area. Follow the narrow dirt path through a meadow, then into the forest.

ILT003

Location: 37.810521, -107.778432

Although the trail appears to continue straight ahead, turn left and rock hop across the creek. Pick up the trail on the other side.

ILT004

Location: 37.811725, -107.778336

At this switchback, continue straight on a short spur trail for views of a small waterfall. Watch your footing: There's a steep drop-off on the right.

ILT005

Location: 37.812657, -107.782874

Turn left on a short spur to check out the remains of an old mining structure.

ILT006

Location: 37.812412, -107.782756

The remnants of an old mine are hidden in the trees.

ILT007

Location: 37.812369, -107.785015

A short spur on the left leads to views of another waterfall.

ILT008

Location: 37.812502, -107.792783

Pass a small campsite on the left-hand side of the trail.

ILT009

Location: 37.812606, -107.793108

This massive trailside boulder is a good spot to grab a bite to eat.

ILT010

Location: 37.811742, -107.798892

A faint trail on the left leads to a campsite.

ILT011

Location: 37.811818, -107.801414

Cross a creek, then begin the ascent out of the Lower Ice Lake Basin.

ILT012

Location: 37.809299, -107.803949

Keep right where a faint trail veers off to the left.

ILT013

Location: 37.813094, -107.807853

Ice Lake: This stunningly blue alpine lake sits at 12,257 feet in a stark basin. Next, follow the upper path to a second lake.

ILT014

Location: 37.811479, -107.810662

This smaller, unnamed lake sits just south of Ice Lake and is surrounded by jagged peaks. Turn around and retrace your route back the trailhead.

Lower Ice Lake Basin

Location: 37.812234, -107.798216

Ice Lake Trailhead

Location: 37.806715, -107.773916

Ice Lake Trail

Location: 37.806893, -107.774553

Conifer Forest

Location: 37.807885, -107.776866

Meadow

Location: 37.809419, -107.777928

Meadow

Location: 37.810785, -107.778744

Waterfall

Location: 37.811708, -107.778164

Waterfall

Location: 37.811666, -107.777821

Trail Views

Location: 37.812522, -107.781694

Trail Views

Location: 37.812844, -107.783818

Ice Lake Trail

Location: 37.812395, -107.78517

Views to the North

Location: 37.812242, -107.789633

Nearing Lower Ice Lake Basin

Location: 37.812073, -107.790073

Trail through Lower Ice Lake Basin

Location: 37.812098, -107.798442

Waterfall

Location: 37.811657, -107.80003

Lower Ice Lake Basin

Location: 37.811649, -107.800448

Ascent to Ice Lake

Location: 37.810318, -107.802658

Final Climb

Location: 37.813149, -107.805748

Ice Lake

Location: 37.813115, -107.807733

Marmot

Location: 37.812351, -107.808524

Upper Lake

Location: 37.811403, -107.809514