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

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Moderately difficult and strenuous trail with beautiful views. Upper Ice Lake was spectacularly blue and purple and well worth the hike. It took us 5.5 hours round trip with frequent photo op stops and about 40 minutes at Upper Ice Lake.

Recommend starting with island lake, then going to ice lake. Adds some mileage to the hike, but from island lake you're going mostly downhill to ice lake then to the trailhead, which was a relief after the tough climb. Couldn't get over the views!

I went last week. Weather was perfect. If you don’t have 4WD, turnoff the highway and go down the hill. Park after the bridge and hike up to the trail (~1 mike).

Trail is steep for the first 2 - 2.5 miles once you get to the trail head. First 2 miles are a series of switch backs and then you climb uphill after that. Once you reach the top of the hill, you descend a bit and it flattens off until you reach the lake where there is a slight uphill.

The lake is gorgeous! It’s much bigger and less populated than Ice Lake.

Careful going down. The trail is steep and covered in loose rock. I had hiking poles and went slow but still managed to totally wipe out a couple of times.

The hike was great but the scenery leading up to the lake was okay (Ice Lake was better). The lake is surrounded by mountains so you also don’t get a view of the mountains like Ice Lake.

10 miles if you park after the bridge and 8 if you start at the trail head.

Did with baby and dog - challenging but doable.

EPIC!!!! There is really nothing I can say, nor are there pictures I can show that will accurately describe this hike. You just have to go and see it for yourself. Such an amazing lake, even more beautiful than Ice Lakes. There are plenty of peaks all around Columbine Lake to summit and you will see other lakes as well as gorgeous mountain ranges that seem to go on forever.

As others have mentioned, be prepared for a grueling first 2 miles. The switchbacks are steep and feel like they keep going, and then when you get out of the trees you will see how steep and high of a mountain you have to climb, basically straight up. After that, it’s nice and easy hills with spectacular views before you hit the last little incline that takes you to the lake. Get through those 2 miles and you will be rewarded with an experience that is unrivaled.

Went on 9/29/18 and the weather was gorgeous. Bring layers. Gets hot on the hike up and can get a little windy at times. Never needed a jacket, just one long sleeve to go over my short sleeve when it was windy up top. Mostly just had hiking pants and a short sleeve tee on.

We drive through Molas Pass so often we finally made the decision to take a hike! We started at Little Molas lake and made the round trip as it was mapped out.. The weather was great, the fall foliage was on her way out, the gold and orange contrast was barely evident. The mountain vistas were awesome. I highly recommend the trip.

The most beautiful views - the last 2 miles hiking up was a bit hard but overall a great hike.

The trail is 3 miles from the parking lot to the top. The last .8 miles from the fork is really steep. Beautiful views when you get there.

hiking
1 month ago

This is one of the prettiest areas in Colorado. Getting all the way to the lake is only possible for a few months during the summer, but still worth the hike even if you get stopped by snow near the top (as I did in May). Be prepared to encounter some gorgeous waterfalls and mountain panoramic views on your way up.

1 month ago

It was a challenge but it was worth it. Wow it view tho!

Steady climb up but the view at the top is more than worth the effort. Great short hike with lots of brilliant yellow Aspens. RT was ~3.5 hours with plenty of time at the top for lunch and water for hiking companion, Daisy the Wonder Dog. Trail is shaded ~75% of the hike. Recommended hike near Durango.

Amazing hike, well worth the trek up. It is hard as people have mentioned, but the lake is amazing.
I took another person's suggestion and parked at the bottom after the one lane bridge because I dont have 4wd. One note about that you have to turn right at the very first road after the bridge and the trail head is .7 miles up that road. I ended up walking up the main road and added another 2 miles to my trip.
A couple people have compared this lake to ice lake. They are both great hikes and unique. Personally I thought that ice lake had better panoramic mountain views going up but Columbine lake was way cooler. I would say that they are equally hard because ice lake is steep the whole way up. Columbine lake is steeper for the first two miles and then you have another mile or so of flat, and of course have to go uphill another quarter of a mile before you get all the way there.
Overall great hike!

We started at 6:30 a.m. Beautiful weather and not a lot of other people. This is the prime time to hike this trail with the autumn colors coming in.

My husband, dog, and I hiked this trail today. First things first, this trail is wayyyyyy more than advertised. We clocked it at almost 9 miles with our GPS watch. Besides that, Ice Lake was absolutely beautiful - blue and full of water. The scramble further to island lake had some sketchy spots that I would have loved to use trekking poles on. Island Lake itself wasn’t as pretty as Ice Lake but still cool I guess. The water was kind of green and not nearly as striking as the ice blue water.
As far as the trail goes, it starts out in a nice pine forest that goes in and out of sunny aspen meadows (some of the leaves already started turning yellow which was beautiful!). Finally you get to a clearing where it flattens out a little followed by a pretty long and difficult climb to Ice Lake. The scramble to Island lake was less than a mile.

VERY difficult hike!! But like with all of these alpine lakes, it’s 1000% worth it. But seriously, it’s extremely difficult and I highly recommend bringing a walking stick or trekking poles to help with the decent as some areas (especially the switchbacks) are pretty steep with loads of loose gravel. We saw a couple of very friendly folks along the way. Note that the trail head (509) is marked by a pole on the left of the road.

Waterfalls everywhere on the way up, ice lake was gorgeous...I’ve never seen water so blue. Island Lake is a quick scramble over. We took the loop down...it was steep! I’m glad we took the trail to lower basin, ice lake, island lake...because there is a spot where the trail cuts and you can hike to island first. I would not recommend. We saw a bobcat on our way out. Can’t wait to explore more in the area. There is a camp ground at the base and a few places to camp if backpacking by the lower basin. (Hiked mid August)

One of the best hikes with a views near Durango.

Spectacular view from the top. Good workout going up the trail.

Nice hike for kids and dogs. Lots of trees and shade.

One of my favorite hikes in the Durango area. We did it today and were thrilled to see very little fire damage. You’ll work to get to the top but the views are well worth the effort.

The water and views from the top are amazing. We are on a six month road trip across the US and Canada, and this is the most beautiful water we have seen.

Definitely more strenuous than Ice Lake. The beginning is all steep switch backs and a green tunnel.

Parking may be an issue. We drive an RV and parked at a pullout about a mile before the trailhead. A good idea for those without AWD/4WD.

Trail is open as of 09/01/18. Great hike! Easy to navigate. Great views! Took us a little over 3 hours from start to finish including stopping for photos.

hiking
1 month ago

The lake at the top is breathtaking & water is as blue as photos show. Got caught in 2 hailstorms throughout the course of the hike - one on the way down but weather was only deteriorating. Start this hike early. Once you hit the notch the trail flattens but before that prepare for a lot of incline, it is a very strenuous hike.

The app says it is a loop but there are so many forks in the road we ended up just wandering through the woods and not getting anywhere. There are no signs to indicate which path the "loop" is on. It was still a nice hike but definitely better ones around.

Did this hike on Saturday! Very beautiful. You should Plan to go early as we headed up around 11:30 and got caught in the monsoon rains. We were prepared with rain gear, and continued. The lakes were beautiful. I would say this hike is challenging but not hard. Coming back down was quite slippery and steep. I would suggest walking sticks if you have knee issues. They helped me greatly coming back down. We did not make it to verde lake which is just past the highland Mary lakes, as it was 4 and we were worried about getting back down before more storms.

Amazing walk up hi.... got off track a few times and never made t to the lake due to rain storms yet it was beautiful and. Hike we will want to do again!!

Beautiful, serene lake that is worth the tough hike! I suggest bringing hiking poles, especially for the steep decent. This is definitely a tougher hike than Ice Lake, but the lake is even more gorgeous!

Nice easy trail. Saw 2 deer at TH parking lot near Molas Lake. Hiked RT from Molas to Little Molas and back. Highway noise, but started pretty early so not too bad. Nice scenery!

Tried hitting the trail today(8/19/18) and it’s closed due to the 416 fire and mudslides.... bummer

Pros: 70% shade
Cons: no signage, manure everywhere, no cave access— walked by 3 times, but never found, no good views.

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