Hiking Island Lake in Colorado's San Juan National Forest - Backpacker

See in Color in Colorado's San Juan National Forest

Picture the Alps without the crowds, and you have Island Lake.
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San Juan National Forest

San Juan National Forest

“This spot has the postcard grandeur of the Alps,” says photographer Kennan Harvey. And that’s about where the similarities end, because we guarantee you won’t be shoulder to shoulder with other visitors. Alas, no midday espresso either, unless you pack it in: Island Lake is 4.2 miles from the nearest trailhead. Check conditions (snowfields may persist through June, though unlikely this year) and head out on the Ice Lakes Trail past its namesake basin, which should be filled with an array of blooms in summer, near mile 2. If you do it as an overnight (recommended), set up camp near Upper Ice Lake in a cirque below five Thirteeners near mile 3.5, then continue .7 mile north to Island Lake (pictured) in the morning. Cast for small cutthroat, see if you can withstand the frigid water long enough to swim 100 yards to the island, or just sit and take it all in. “This is American wilderness. It’s endless,” Harvey says.