Explore the most popular snowshoeing 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.

A good trail close to town with fantastic views up the Animas valley. We took the eastern loop which branches often to the right towards viewing places. The view at the top is fabulous. We opted to come back down the same trail as locals on the trail mentioned the western section is steep, rocky, and limited views. Overall a great 6-7 mile hike.

hiking
13 days ago

Most beautiful hike I've even been on. The reward at the top is unbelieveable. I've never seen anything like it. The wildflowers were blooming like crazy when we went in the end of August. It was very difficult for us being from Nebraska due to the elevation but I would do it again!

13 days ago

This is our go to trail near Durango with first hikes and folks that don’t hike a lot. It has a fair elevation, great trees, very nice overlooks, beaver dams, beaver chewed tree stumps, and the reward of a pretty lake you can walk around. We call it our highest ROI hike. It’s a great opportunity to try your light/easy/first time 4X4 skills to get to the trail head. It can be done with RWD only and some ground clearance. We did it in a RWD Suburban and once many years ago in a minivan. We think the drive has gotten slightly more difficult since then. We did see a Corolla with a smashed wheel being towed off, so pick your tire spots well.

Love this hike! Soooooo gorgeous with the gold & red & green leaves falling! Beautiful year round!

hiking
14 days ago

Great hike with awesome views.

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.

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.

This hike was truly incredible. Went on 9/28/18. Amazing views, so much to do, waterfalls to climb while on you’re way up, etc. Weather was perfect!!Getting to see that beautiful blue water was so worth all the effort to get up there. Pictures can’t show how clear and blue it really is. I highly recommend hiking the summit peak directly behind Ice Lakes. You will have a great birds eye view of the lake, you can see the other side of the mountain, and I got LTE up there to make a FaceTime call!

Take plenty of water and snacks. The hardest part is the very end of the hike as it becomes really steep before you hit the ice lake. I will definitely be back!

As beautiful as this lake was, I say Columbine Lake was even more beautiful and there was more to explore and do. We went on back to back days and I highly recommend both!

hiking
21 days ago

The best hike I have ever done - and I've been on many hikes throughout the US. The bluest blue I have ever seen in a lake - rivals Crater Lake in Oregon. Definitely worth the lack of oxygen... Took us around five and a half hours round trip with many many stops to catch our breath and take in the scenery. We are in our early 30's, pretty good physical shape, but we're flat landers from below sea level so the elevation change really tired us out... bring plenty of water (we ran out of 2L before the end of the hike) and snacks.. best to come early so that you can take your time and stop as often as needed. Listen to your body especially if you are from below sea level. Saw many dogs and a few kids doing the trail as well. The first lake is within 2.25 miles of the start and the 2nd lake (Ice lake) is another mile after that at around 3.5. My app calculated 7.20 miles round trip. There is another lake after Ice lake but we didn't have time nor energy to get there.

hiking
22 days ago

Amazing! Recommend to anyone. Be prepared and start early, met many hikers that did not bring enough water and food.

backpacking
23 days ago

One of the most beautiful hikes that I’ve ever gone! Prime color season so it was amazing.

Went in late September. The weather was perfect and the fall colors were at peak season. The hike is not long, but the first half is straight uphill, so be prepared for a workout. The lake is amazing and well worth the work it takes to get there.

hiking
26 days ago

I took the recommendations below and went counterclockwise which I think was a very good idea. I started early on a Tuesday, and saw just a few people with dogs in the first mile and last mile, but no one on the rest of the trail. The views are spectacular, but beware that the trail is very rocky. Easy to lose your footing if you are not careful. The trail is adequately marked but found it helpful to have the map on my phone as well.

hiking
27 days ago

I LOVE THIS HIKE! The first time I did it was a few years ago for 4th of July, and unfortunately the lake was iced over, but the plants were in full bloom and so pretty! The second time was this year for labor day and The lake was amazing and there was no snow, however all the plants were dying. I would recommend doing this hike early August to mid August. This hike literally has all four seasons. It was sunny to start and then rained and snowed all in one hike lol. The hike isn't too bad as far as toughness but it will have your heart going. We also hiked to island lake and it was a lot closer than expected, it isn't too far from ice lake. I highly recommend just pushing a little further. There is just so much to see on this hike.
As far a the road getting there it isn't bad, you don't need a 4WD unlike other hikes in this area.

on Ice Lake Basin Trail

scenic driving
28 days ago

Ice Lake Basin and Island Lake are the most beautiful trail in Colorado IMHO.

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
1 month ago

Great trail! Beautiful views of Durango and hard enough to get your heart going. Only one caveat, there are quit a few cyclists and one has to be careful.

I enjoyed!

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

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.

1 month ago

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

hiking
1 month ago

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

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.

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!

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.

backpacking
1 month ago

Extremely difficult but equally rewarding

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.

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