Ice Lake Basin

Ice Lake Basin

Sunrise in Ice Lake Basin near Silverton, Colorado
Sunrise in Ice Lake Basin near Silverton, Colorado

We took a much-needed break from the heat of summer and strains of work to backpack in the Ice Lake Basin outside of Silverton, CO. We spent 3 nights exploring this beautiful region of Colorado. Chris’ mom, Tesa, joined us for this adventure!

Silverton

On the road to Clear Lake
On the road to Clear Lake

Our initial plan was to camp at Clear Lake; however non-stop rain put a damper in that plan. Not wanting to carry a wet and heavy tent the next day, we spent a night at the Wyman Hotel & Inn in Silverton. This historic building has been restored into a quaint bed & breakfast which we loved. We spent the afternoon exploring the shops of this cute mountain town. The rain stopped that evening, allowing us to venture up the (slightly sketchy) 4×4 road to Clear Lake. Along the way, we came across a hazardous stretch prompting Tesa to exit the car and serve as a “guide” – which she took to mean screaming and videoing rather than showing Chris where to go. In spite of this assistance, we made it through in one piece and now have a great slow-mo video of our adventure to share.

Ice Lake Basin

Hiking down from Upper Ice Lakes basin
Hiking down from Upper Ice Lakes basin

The hike to Ice Lake is only 7.6 miles round trip; however the 3,000 foot elevation gain makes this short distance quite grueling! We chose to backpack and overnight for 2 nights in order to take in the scenery and for sunrise photography. The campsite we selected was in a group of pine trees in the lower basin. We quickly set up camp, and were grateful we brought the tarp because it was another rainy afternoon. When the clouds cleared that evening we made the final ¾ mile climb to Ice Lake to scope things out for the following day.

The next morning, Chris and I woke up before sunrise and repeated the hike up to Ice Lake. Sunrise that morning was cloudless, but it was beautiful nonetheless. Ice Lake is one of the most stunning sites we’ve seen in Colorado, named after the clear light-blue water (though it is quite frigid, as well!) The wildflowers were still amazing despite being late summer, especially the Indian Paintbrushes which we hit at near-peak. We enjoyed a breakfast on the shoreline while Jethro chased marmots, birds, and the occasional grasshopper to his heart’s content. After breakfast we explored the nearby lakes. Island Lake is beautiful and well-worth the side trip. Fuller Lake offers only a confusing dilapidated structure and the views aren’t anything spectacular. We returned to the campsite after a morning full of exploring. That afternoon we spent lazily at camp – napping, playing cards, and watching Jethro being tormented by squirrels.

Chris did sunrise photography the following morning while the rest of us slept in. We packed up camp and quickly descended the 2.5 miles back to the car to start the 6 hour drive home.

Island Lake Sunrise
Island Lake Sunrise

Pros: beautiful scenery, quick hike in, close to spectacular lakes

Cons: crowded up at the lake, but down in lower basin you can spread out

Tips: there is an awesome campsite on the way up between lower and upper basin, we wish we would have stayed here! Take a left along a path just past the waterfall. Consider camping above treeline at the lakes if weather is good.

ice lake basin, colorado, silverton
Overlooking upper Ice Lake Basin

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