Explore San Juan Autumn - view hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

San Juan Autumn Map

It was a bit tiring but me and my girlfriend rocked that hike like champs, the first lake was amazing and the views are beautiful, you don’t need much gear to get to this point but we ll definitely recommend hiking shoes and not be afraid of heights if you wanna continue the short trip to island lake, there are parts that are a bit scary for first timers.

We ll definitely go back

Beautiful Hike! Definitely worth it

After seeing the blue water of ice lake this water was a disappointing green..,still it was pretty cool with the backdrop of the snow on the mountains. If you hike to ice lake...make the extra distance to this lake as well. Part of the trail is close to the edge of drop off...a little scary!

We hiked to Island Lake over Labor Day weekend. The scenery was great, but we liked Ice and Fuller Lakes better out of the 3 lakes. Giving this hike only 3 stars because of the condition of the trail to Island Lake. The trail was sketchy in a few places. I am afraid of heights and exposure, and there were 2 sections that really scared me. One was rocky, which required some scrambling, and the other one was a steep gravel slide path. We had forgotten to bring daypacks, so we had to maneuver around with our backpacking packs (although they were mostly empty, it was quite awkward). Very glad we had trekking poles!
There weren't as many flowers around this lake as there were around Ice and Fuller Lakes. You have to get creative going to the bathroom since it's above treeline. The water is much greener, and the island is neat. One guy swam across to the island, and his dog followed him. Brrrrrrr!

Really tough hike. Amazing views at the top

Great Hike and totally beautiful. Make sure when you come to the first creek crossing towards the beginning you follow the sign to ice lake trail. The trail continues just to the left of the creek once you cross. The map in alltrails seemed to lead a different way that is now blocked off by some fallen trees.

This is confusing to me. Maybe I missed a part where you are supposed to cut over trails to just Island Lake, but we made it up to Ice Lake first (which was amazing), and then got on a steep path up to Island Lake from there (which only took about 15 mins), so I don't know where this 7 mile timeframe comes from or where the base for that would begin. Besides that it was absolutely incredible! Didn't stay for long because the wind picked up a lot and it begin to lightly snow/drizzle. Very green water compared to Ice Lake. Super cool!

My favorite hike so far! I took the faint trail up to Island lake first before cutting over to Ice lake. Much less crowded and didn't see a single person until I reached the lake. Also I found a really nice knife sitting on a rock above Island lake if anyone is missing it! Would be happy to send to you if you can identify it. (Found August 10th)
Take plenty of water and snacks for this hike as it is tough with lots of elevation gain. Worth every second!! Start early. Parking lot was about half full at 7:45am on a Thursday in early August.

This is a beautiful, strenuous hike. There's plenty of shade and tree cover for the first half of the hike as well as streams for your dog to have a drink. Once above tree line you spend a decent stretch of trail walking through fields of wildflowers which grow more magnificent once you take the fork to Island Lake. The elevation gain makes for a great workout. Keep an eye out for marmots (I counted almost a dozen) and consider hiking poles for the steep descent and multiple stream crossings.

scenic driving
9 months ago

I've driven up to the pass before from Howardsville , but not down the other side. Kinda rainy and cloudy the day I went though, so I didn't get to take in the view. I'll go up again some day when back in that area. Road was pretty good, with only one spot where you hope you don't meet someone coming from the other way, as it is down to a one lane width at that place. An otherwise nice drive like you'd expect when in the San Juan's

Moderately difficult, but incredibly beautiful hike and seeing Ice and Island lakes makes the trip well worth the effort. Went in early July and did experience a sudden, but short rain/hail storm that dropped the temperature dramatically. Thankfully that passed quickly and the rest of trip was fantastic.

Amazing! Ice is melted, still a few snowy patches, but easy to find the trail again.

Fairly easy hike (half paved, half gravel path), amazing rewards! The whole trail is great views! We went on a beautiful Saturday and no one else was on the trail - we had the whole trail to ourselves. A must do if you're in the area :)

We didn't use black bear road; we came from the bottom in telluride, but there is no trail on here for that route for some reason.. Just come straight down main street of telluride and it deadends into it. It's the same place if you want to go to Bridal Veil Falls.

You need 4WD if you want to start the hike up by the falls like a lot of people do. We did not have that, so we had to hike from the bottom. This turns the hike into about 9 miles and 3000 ft elevation gain. You may be able to hitchhike to the falls though.

There are a number of times you need to make sure you know where you are going. Ajax is the peak on the left on the way up. Once you cross the water near the top of the rocky switchbacks, soon after, you will cut hard to the left and leave the rocky path. It's easy to miss so look out. As you go up the grassy side of Ajax, about the top of those switchbacks, there will be another hard left that is easy to miss. Do not continue over the hump and go up to the higher peak. If it looks like you are going too far away from Ajax peak, then you are going the wrong way.

There were wonderful waterfalls and wildflowers throughout the hike, and the views of the surrounding mountains and down into telluride are definitely worth it. Good luck!

Possibly one of the most beautiful, but challenging hikes I have done in Colorado! 7.3 miles seems like an underestimate as my fit bit read around 11 after going from ice lake to island lake and back down. Right now the flowers are all out and there are only a few snow patches that require crossing, but note there are a few large stream crossings that may get your feet soaked! Overall, it was totally worth it!!

One of my favorite places to hike to. The lakes are gorgeous!

Gorgeous views and a fantastic hike. Just make sure to get a good weather report before heading out. When we went in early June, we could not reach the top due to snow completely blocking one of the tighter portions of the trail.

10 months ago

This trail was incredibly packed over Labor Day weekend last year (2016). We backpacked in, and ended up camping at the Ice Lake Basin. We woke up, finished the hike to the top of Ice and Island Lakes and then came back down, packed up and trekked back down.

I gave it four stars purely for the extensive foot traffic, but it was one of the more gorgeous hikes I think I have ever done (to be fair I haven't spent much time in San Juan National Forest area, but I can't wait to go back).

amazing trail!!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

I did this loop in Sept. of 2011. Great hike and had a gorgeous day to do it. Especially seeing as it had rained the entire day before and I was stuck in my truck for the most part. I car camped the night before in upper Cunningham Gulch, and it allowed me an early start the next day. It was 38 degrees when I left the parking area and I was at the first lake in an hour and twenty minutes. Another ten minutes or so and I was at the biggest lake. Elevation here is right around 12,200'. Great views of course, but the forest ranger down in Silverton told me to climb the small knoll just south of the big lake. So I did just that and what a view from there. Sat there for quite a while taking it in. The Grenadiers are right there in front of you, and you could see further south to the Needle Mountains too. Awesome spot. Then I followed the not so well beaten path from the bottom of the knoll towards Verde Lake, and then east to where it connects to the CDT. I will say one thing about trails in Colorado, they are not very well signed. Some places have good signage , others nothing at all and you're on your own. Once on the CDT the trail starts to drop pretty quickly on its way back to the parking area in Cunningham Gulch. There were sheep everywhere in this area that day, and of course the guard dogs were out in force too. Luckily didn't have any encounters with them. I did have one chase me as I was driving out of the gulch though. They do their job for sure!! This was a great loop and I would do it again for sure.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

We hiked to Ajax in Sept. of 2015. I rate it moderate but some folks might think it should be difficult. The switchbacks are such that it takes a lot of the sting out of the climb. I have hiked steeper switches than this, but these are long and quite easy to do. I suppose one could hike earlier or later in the season than posted as well, but the threat of avalanche in the winter months is very real. The hike has some of the best views around Telluride. Pretty much all above tree line as lots of Colorado hikes are. We parked at the car park where you can go no further up the Black bear pass road. It becomes one way at the cutoff to the top of Bridal Veil Falls, with downhill traffic only coming from Red Mountain Pass. So you hike the road up from there, till you get to the cutoff for the trail which is fairly obvious with an old mine tailing that sits right above it. Now the switchbacks start in earnest as you will climb about 1,330' to the ridge above, after about 11 switchbacks in only 1.6 miles. Then it's actually an easy down and back up to get to the peak. 360 degree endless views on top. Look down on Telluride, over to Imogene Pass, Black Bear Pass, The Wilsons, Sneffels, you name it. If you haven't done it, you need to :)

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

One of my favorites. Spring with a little snow is my favorite times to hike this one.

off road driving
Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The first part of the trail was easy but the last ten miles before you come to the Rio Grande Reservoir were very rocky, rough and parts were washed out. It was anything but easy!

Monday, August 29, 2016

We hiked out to Highland Mary Lakes on Saturday -such a beautiful hike! The next morning we went out to fish verde lake and caught several fish. We also passed lots of fisherman coming from that lake. We almost lost the trail coming from the lake but after some backtracking, we realized you had to follow the posts. After leaving the lake there were some incredible views! My favorite part of the trip. After you loop around and towards the end it is a pretty steep decline. I'm glad that we hiked down it instead of up it, but still very hard on the joints!
Went in August and the trail was in good shape!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

One of my favorites. A "go-to" in my book.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

I returned to this trail recently after a botched attempt at a thru-hike from Williams Creek in 2014. Last year we came up Williams Creek and found snow on the Alpine Gulch side that completely obscured the trail down from the ridge line. My wife and our dogs went down a false trail and ended-up bushwacking off the mountain.

On this successful attempt we started our Alpine Gulch hike early in the morning. The sun was not yet shining into the gulch and there was ice on the trail. There were numerous water crossings, but we managed to cross all of them with little difficulty. Some were crossed via logs, while others were made via stepping stones or just carefully stepping across via shallow-water pools.

The trail was initially well-worn and easily identified. Only one sign at the trail head and another after a few miles and water crossings. As we entered a large gulch we had to search carefully for the trail due to thick brush. It appeared that we should head off to the right up one gulch, but we found more tracks and signs leading to left up a different (and correct) gulch.

Entering the forest again we began climbing through a forest filled with flowers and fallen trees. This eventually put us onto a ridge and ultimately onward toward a descent via Williams Creek. The trail was easy to identify through this area. Look for large (5 foot tall!) cairns along a treeless trail once you are above the treeline.

We then reached a point where the trail ran-off into the grass and simply stopped. Looking behind us, and to the right, we could then see another well-worn trail leading up a steep ridgeline. Retracing our steps we found stones in the trail in an attempt to "point" us into this direction through the tall grass.

It was a strenuous climb to the ridge marked cairns. Sometimes the trail wasn't evident, but the cairns marked the way.

The views were spectacular. Strenuous, but well worth the effort.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

This was one of the first trails that we hiked when we first moved to Lake City. The trail head is easy to find along County Road 20, and very close to the Hard Tack Mine. On our first trip the water level was rather high, so this made the numerous water crossings difficult. Our dogs were with us on this trip, and the current made it difficult and dangerous for them -- we had to help them across several crossings.

This is a beautiful tree-lined trail that connects to the Williams Creek trail. We have not completed a through-hike from this direction -- only out-and-back hikes and runs.

Would not recommend this hike for children or folks who have unsure footing. The water crossings an be difficult of the water flow is high and fast.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

This has been one of our family's favorite hikes when we would vacation at Breckenridge, CO

Friday, July 03, 2015

Great trail! Well worth the effort to go to the lake.

off road driving
Monday, June 22, 2015

Went up in a jeep with a large pick-up following behind. Nice trail. Steep for the first few miles but levels out a bit near the top. Definitely needed 4WD low to get up the steeper climb. Road was dry that day but could see it becoming a muddy, slippery mess had it rained. Two water crossing but we went in June 2015, when there was still a lot of snowmelt. In fact the road over the divide was still closed and we could see a snowplow at work. Very cool town. Learned it was private land & the owners keep it open as long as there is no vandalism. But you can see many people have carved initials into the old wood, not respecting the wishes of the owners. That was disappointing. We are lucky the site is still open to tourists that brave the road.

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