Explore the most popular waterfall 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.

camping
14 hours ago

It was a great hike. Trail was clear in the way in, but wind knocked down some trees and the trail was obstructed on the way back. Camp close to the hot springs so the walk back wet is short. Amazing views! The only wildlife we saw was snakes. The hot spring on the other side of the river is the warmest.

hiking
22 hours ago

Difficult trail, but can be done in 5 hours if you hustle, steep for a good amount of the trail, but it’s worth it when you get to the lakes, very scenic

off road driving
1 day ago

Off road with front wheel drive rental suv. Made it with no issues.

Beautiful drive

This trail is amazing! did it two days ago and it's so rewarding! It is tough in spots but it does give your legs a break in spots. It's not strictly uphill. Take lots of water and sunscreen because much of this trail is in the sun. Take your time and have fun

Very good trail. The view up there is worth it. Also, camping at the lake is a good idea (if you check the temperature first)

We did this one today and it was absolutely gorgeous. The entire trail had so many different views and the lake itself was mesmerizing. We started at 6:30a (on a Friday) and there weren’t too many people. We thought the trail was confusing at a couple junctions as there aren’t any signs. There were a couple river crossings.

Absolutely Incredible hike! Easily my favorite hike I’ve done in the 7 years I’ve lived in Colorado! Very challenging but worth every moment of struggle. The entire trail is filled with breathtaking views, each one better than the last!

Start early!! Limited parking if you don’t camp at the trailhead and a big majority of the hike is in the sun so it gets very hot very quickly. We started at 7:20am and were back at the car at 12:30pm (If doing it again I would start even earlier.) The 5 hours included water, snack, picture breaks and about a 25-30 min stop at Ice Lake soaking it all in. We went up to Ice Lake first and then over to Island Lake making the way back down a little more pleasant avoiding incredibly steep loose rock.

We saw a lot of overnight tents through the hike and a couple handfuls at Ice Lake itself. When we got up there just before 10am it was pretty busy and only getting busier by the minute. The hike to Island Lake is about 10 extra minutes and although not as blue still very pretty.

On our way back down we ran into packs and packs of people on their way up which got pretty obnoxious as part of the trail is single track and hard to step off and no one actually has their dogs on leash. So, again, start early and avoid the crowds.

Over 7 miles to first camp site.
Springs not marked

Easily the best hike in all of Colorado - The lakes, the mountain views, the wildflowers. It's just tough enough to be challenging and is beautiful throughout the entire hike. I suggest camping near the trailhead, makes for an easy start and no parking issues (but seriously, if you get to a popular trailhead after 9am and are pissed it's full... you're an idiot). We started around 5am; about an hour in we heard a huge group of coyotes howling off in the distance, presumably about a recent kill, and it was very cool. We didn't see anyone until we were past halfway and started seeing backpackers coming down. When we got to Ice Lake, we were the only ones (on a holiday weekday!) and it was extremely special. Island Lake is definitely worth the additional short trek, but it's not as electric and jaw-dropping as Ice Lake.

hiking
7 days ago

Great easy hike. Bring your swimwear so you can jump in.

Absolutely beautiful! A tremendous amount of work to get to Ice Lake (upper) but 100% worth it!

Beautiful - we crossed the creek and went up He west side to the waterfall - about 9.5 miles round trip from the parking lot. Road to parking is very rough and it is further in than you think.

backpacking
9 days ago

I backpacked from the trailhead to Ice Lake (upper Ice Lake in this app’s description) and set up camp then visited Island Lake with just a day bag, returning to Ice Lake for the night. I then hiked back out via the same route to the trailhead the next morning. Most people on the trail were day hikers but on a Tuesday night in August, four other groups of backpackers stayed the night at Ice Lake. This hike has some of the most beautiful vistas I have seen in Colorado!

The trail starts with a moderately difficult section of well marked trail into the woods. It opens to a beautiful waterfall with a view back into the valley. The next small stretch of wooded area guides you past abandoned mining equipment and to a section of steep, sunny (hot!) meadow. Again, there a great mountain views.

The next big chunk is steep and wooded. This is where I really began to feel the work I was putting in. The switchbacks help but many sections are pretty strenuous, especially with my 30lb overnight pack. By the time we leveled off to the generally flat section I was more than ready for a break.

The view of lower ice lake basin is about 2/3 of the way through the hike both in elevation and distance. We stopped in the trees and took off our packs, sat about twenty minutes to rest and eat. This was necessary for our group with packs but many day hikers just kept moving through.

After Lower Basin Lake (or Lower Ice Lake Basin) there’s a stretch of flat area that is more exposed (total of about a mile of relatively flat hiking) and then you get another creek/waterfall view where the trail crosses the water and gains about 700ft in steep, rocky switchbacks. This stretch was difficult (we hit it in the afternoon heat do to delays getting on the trail in the morning) plus it’s steep and more loose compared to the beautifully padded trail for the first approx three miles. It is also the most incredible views of Lower Ice Lake and the meadow, valley, and mountains surrounding. I loved this stretch of the trail.

Then finally! The top! Ice Lake was both our end point for setting up camp as well as most day hikers’ final destination. The lake is STUNNING. The rock deposits give it the most incredible blue color. It is well worth the climb! There is running water if you bring a filter to purify more drinking water. There is a faint trail around the lake. There are multiple places to sit or set up camp without smashing the wildflowers. You’re above the tree line at this point so you’ve got open views in all directions.

It’s a quick little hike up to Island lake although one short stretch is loose and near the edge making it a little intense if you’re scared of heights! Island lake is worth seeing but mostly it’s the view along the hike that makes the journey up worth it, even after a long hike to Ice Lake.

We did not journey to Fuller Lake and no one we talked to along the way mentioned plans to head that direction.

We each drank about 3L of water on the way up and at least one more liter on the way back down. If you’re doing a day hike you may not go through as much water but I’d say most people should carry 3L or bring a purifier to get more water along the way.

This is a beautiful hike and although it is challenging it is more than worth it. The sites are incredible. If you’re in the area and feel up for a good workout, this hike is unmissable. Enjoy!!

Amazing birthday hike. At the beginning parked in parking lot across river so had to wade to get to the trailhead. Not a moderate hike due to technical area thru boulders.. Invigorating swim at the lake!

hiking
10 days ago

A hike to Ice Lake is a great way to spend a day while in the Silverton area. While it attracts many hikers, there is a reason! Go!

Beautiful views!!!

hiking
11 days ago

Good hike. Probably a bit spoiled by other hikes in the area. Not as spectacular as Ice Lakes, for example, but still pretty scenic. Nice waterfalls & lakes.

A beautiful hike with stellar views. The color of the lake is like nothing I’ve ever seen and I’ve been all over the west and Hawaii.. You should be warned that the elevation gain is real, this is not an easy hike. The grade is steep almost the whole way up and doesn’t ever level out. There is an exposed rocky scramble for the last leg leading up to ice lake that took us a long time with lots of breaks. Expect a difficult but rewarding hike!

Beautiful sweeping views. The lake is great for fishing and camping. I might rate this a bit harder than moderate especially if you are carrying an overnight backpack. The first lake looks like an infinity pool from heaven. BE WARNED: the road to the trailhead is very rocky and uneven, not for the faint of heart. 4WD and/or SUV is highly recommended although I saw a few sedans that made it up somehow.

Amazing hike. Worth the early start. Bring good socks and lots of water. Lake can be windy so something to break the wind at the top is recommended. Don’t let the parking deter you. Hiked last Saturday and arrived at 7:45am. Things were getting packed but there were still spots.

hiking
12 days ago

This was the best hike I’ve done to date, and I’ve hiked all over Colorado for over 20 years. We stayed in Ouray and got up early to make the drive and get a get a spot. My 12 and 14 year old girls killed this hike. It’s hard but not too hard. The hardest part is not stopping every 5 feet to take another picture! Anyone who gives this less than 5 stars because they didn’t plan ahead is only thinking of themselves. Treat yourself to the hot springs in Ouray afterwards, you’re gonna need it!

hiking
12 days ago

Heads up, if there are no parking spots, wait for one to open up or find another trail to hike. Do not parking in the meadows across the road from the current parking area. The parking lot is small. Get an early start. Parking tickets are very expensive.

Ice lake was of the prettiest lakes I’ve ever hiked to! Fairly steep incline most of the way up, with some loose rock towards the end. Made the hike up to Island Lake which was also really pretty and definitely worth it, but not as impressive as Ice Lake. Camped at Ice Lake and had great weather! Clocked about 9mi total.

Beautiful view and moderate level of difficulty.

Advanced hiking trail with an incredible view.

hiking
13 days ago

Beautiful all the way through.

hiking
13 days ago

Excellent hike, Upper Ice Lake Basin is just stunning. Wildflowers are past their peak, but still very pretty. Went on to Island Lake, which was worth the extra effort, though not quite as beautiful as Upper Ice Lake.

Hiked out to the bridge over Engine Creek on Cascade Creek East Fork trail. Beautiful hike was a little over 6.2 miles out and back from where I parked Jeep.

This is my second time doing this hike. It’s seriously the most beautiful hike I’ve done in Colorado, and I’ve done a lot. The entire trial is amazing and though it’s steep, it’s not dangerous or difficult as long as you take your time (if you’re not a seasoned hiker).

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