Explore the most popular camping trails in San Juan National Forest with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

One of my favorites. This trail is increasingly popular so getting an early start is key if you’re interested in a quieter experience. Catching the sunset from the upper basin is incredible and completely worth it — be bear aware if you are going up ahead of the crowds, and definitely push for Island Lake if you’ve got the time!

You won’t hold the consistent (and, at times a bit brutal, haha) elevation gain against this trail when you see the payoff at the end. The lakes are unbelievably beautiful and the views are insane.

Amazing

hiking
6 days ago

The bluest blue water that blew my mind! Most of the hike was not too bad until the last 45min. Completed the loop rather than out and back.

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.

Challenging but so beautiful! The scenery was incredible - glad I made it to the Colbert blue lake!!

A must if you are in the area! The lake was unbelievably blue and beautiful! Felt like a straight up and straight down hike with only a very small portion that was flat. Seeing ice lake at the end makes every step you have taken worth it though!

Great views the entire time and will do this hike again when I'm back in Silverton.

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!

backpacking
10 days ago

Extremely difficult but equally rewarding

backpacking
10 days ago

I never been hiking before but, this trail changed me. Greatest trail I’ve done within my two weeks of being in Colorado. It was difficult but, worth it.

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.

hiking
11 days ago

My favorite hike ever! I hiked to Ice Lake for the 3rd time on 7/19/18. The wildflowers were in full bloom and absolutely stunning. We hit the trail at 6am and it took us 2 hours and 45 minutes to reach Ice Lake, including many stops to take photos and catch our breath. The hike is very strenuous but worth every step Don't layer too much because the incline will have you sweating 10 minutes in. Absolutely make time to continue to Island Lake as well.

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

I hiked this trail on 7/21/18 and it’s probably one of the prettiest hike I’ve been on.
The weather was perfect at this time of the year but I would suggest to go as early as possible in the morning cause it usually thunderstorms in the afternoon. We got to the lake around 11, and the storm was already brewing so we didn’t get to stay as long as we wanted to. There are also different trails to lakes around the ice lake you could visit. There’s one particular one called island lake I wanted to visit but didn’t get to. Next time, though!

The lake was so so so beautiful. It was so blue. One of the guys jumped in the lake and said it was freezing.

The whole trail was pretty tough with the elevation gain but you don’t notice the difficulty cause every second of the trail had such an amazing view.
I would definitely do this trail again.
On the way up fresh wildflowers were blooming right and left. It felt like one of this magical Ireland hikes.
20/10 would recommend! :)

Great views nearly the entire time. Friendly hikers and good footing. Less strenuous than Columbine Lake but still a good workout.

If you have time for only one hike in the area and are in good shape, this or Columbine are it.

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.

on Ice Lake Basin Trail

hiking
17 days ago

Great hike with a few areas I consider difficult. A beautiful reward awaits you at the top!

hiking
18 days ago

The views are worth the climb! Beautiful! The trail keeps a consistent incline the whole way. The section from the lower to upper basin is definitely the most strenuous, but you're rewarded with the most amazing blue water once you get to the top. We started our hike around 7 am and reached the lake around 10 am. It took us about 5 hours round trip including stopping for pictures along the way and a snack break at the lake. I would definitely recommend starting before 8 am to beat the crowds - we passed a lot of people on our way down.

hiking
19 days ago

This is definitely my favorite hike ever. The trail is varied: it goes through a forest before getting above the tree line and opening up into tundra, and the lake is the most amazing alpine lake I've seen. It's easy to access (our Mazda did fine on the dirt road), and we got an early enough start (8am) that we had the lake to ourselves for a bit. We got caught in a hail storm that forced us back down the mountain, but it passed within 20 minutes.

hiking
19 days 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.

Amazing! Lots of people, but never felt crowded. 9 and 11 year old did great, but was a challenge for us all. It's worth taking a dive, the water is even more brilliant while wading. Just be sure to rest before you jump in, as it is aptly named and one wouldn't want to cramp up or induce a heart attack after a strenuous hike. A must do hike, we'll be back again!

backpacking
19 days ago

Absolutely incredible! Started from the Purgatory Trail to the Animas River Trail to Needle Creek Trail. The trails were easy to follow and well marked all the way up to Twin Lakes and on to the top of N. Eolus. The catwalk is obvious trailwise, a little intimidating but shouldn't be something you stop you in your tracks, just take your time. Some route finding on the way to the top to Eolus. I wouldn't even be able to tell you the way my group and I went up.

Worth every step. Steep inclines but once you make it to the top you can see why so many people recommend this hike. My 9 year old had a blast! Beautiful country from start to finish.

hiking
20 days ago

This was a great hike - easy to access - No 4X4 needed. Lots of variety and an amazing reward in the end when you finally see the royal and turquoise blue lake. We did not do the loop but took the left at the "Y" and went directly to Ice Lake. The last uphill, which took approximately 1 hour from lower basin was long and hard - I thought when I finally got up over the ridge that I would finally see the prize and it was a few more hundred feet of walking before it finally came into view. Well worth the effort to get there. We started about 8:30 and there was a steady stream of hikers going back and forth, so it could be done alone on a weekend if you want to see other hikers in case of an emergency. If looking for solitude this is not the hike. We were coming from 2000' so the elevation gain was tough for us but seemed to give the locals no trouble at all.

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.

Amazing hike, beautiful views the whole way up. It is quite steep and makes for a difficult hike but worth it. The lake is unlike anything I've ever seen. It has over 400 5 star reviews for a reason. Definitely a lot of people on the trail.

Nice hike. Heavily used. Drones flying at Ice Lake not cool.

Amazing hike! Very hard. I was sore for days after this hike. It’s a very steep uphill especially the final mile up to Ice Lake. The Lake is amazing. Unlike anything I have ever seen before. Definitely go the extra half mile to Island in the Sky (or whatever it is called). I think you have to venture up the ridge a bit to see the true beauty of that lake which I did not have the energy to do.

I would note that the trail splits at one point to go to Ice Lake (left) and Island in the Sky (right). I would go left. The trail is flat for a bit but then there is a decent uphill to the lake. I came down the other way and my legs were so tired. The path is steeper and more loose rock. I slipped a couple of times so it’s definitely a little harder.

The trail is easy to follow. Someone said it wasn’t clear in a review. Follow the All Trails map and you should be fine.

Amazing hike.

camping
25 days ago

Also make sure to camp at south mineral campground, it's right next to the trailhead and is really nice.

Wow. Just wow. Tied with Zion for the best hike in my book. Beautiful views the whole way, though it is a difficult hike. Once you reach Ice Lake, it's totally worth it. Opted to go to Island Lake instead of going to the upper basin, and it did not disappoint. Pretty cool coming down a different way as well. The views on this hike were phenomenal. Would highly recommend, but agree with the other comments here that it is a difficult hike, and I think it would be tough to complete if one wasn't in shape. Overall, the hike took about 5.5 hours, including stopping frequently along the way to snap photos, eating lunch at Ice Lake, and taking the Island Lake route (the loop). Enjoy!

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