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U.S. Forest Service

Rocky Mountain Region Viewing Area


Alpine Lake in Ice Lakes Basin Alpine Lake in Ice Lakes Basin.

Rose Paintbrush. Rose Paintbrush.

Parry's primrose. Parry's primrose.

Ice Lakes

Forest: San Juan National Forest

District: Columbine Ranger District

Description: Ice Lakes Basin is at the headwaters of Mineral Creek outside of Silverton, Colorado. Through a stunning array of alpine wildflowers, the Ice Lakes trail winds through old growth forest, sub alpine meadows, and up to alpine tundra. The explosive display captivates many viewers during this short summer spectacle. Come and discover the life cycles and lore of the alpine tundra and the intense beauty of a natural garden that lasts only 40 frost-free days a year. See alpine forget-me-nots, moss campion, sky pilot, fairy primrose, purple fringe, columbine, chiming bells, Neon pink paint brush, spring beauty, and their butterfly pollinators. Other viewing treasures include clear crystal lakes, big horn sheep and awesome Rocky Mountain vistas.

Viewing Information: The viewing area extends from about two miles up the trail to the Ice Lakes. Due to the short growing season at high elevation, the best time to visit this unique roadside area is from mid-June through the end of July. The USDA Forest Service Visitor Center in Durango, Colorado (970) 247-4874, can provide information about drives or hikes in and around the area, and the San Juan/Four Corners Native Plant Society offers free wildflower hikes during the summer.

Safety First: Weather at this altitude is very unpredictable and can change from calm, sunny skies into a snowstorm in a very short period of time. Be sure to bring warm clothing, food and water. Also be aware that even minimal physical exertion can be quite taxing at high elevation. Be aware of your physical condition, drink lots of water and take breaks often. With all of the wildflowers, you will be taking many breaks anyway.

Directions: Drive north from Durango, Colorado towards Silverton on Highway 550. Right before reaching Silverton, continue on Hwy 550 toward Ouray, Colorado. Approximately 2 miles after Silverton will be a left turn toward Mineral Creek Campground. Follow this gravel road approximately 3 miles to the Ice Lakes Trailhead.

Ownership and Management: U.S. Forest Service, San Juan National Forest, Columbine Ranger District, (970) 247-4874.