Colorado Wildflowers and the Ice Lakes Hike

July 29, 2014

I’ve been fortunate this summer. I’ve had the opportunity to spend 6 weeks in the Rocky Mountains photographing Colorado landscapes and wildflowers. One of the great hikes on my bucket list, both for Colorado images and simply for hiking pleasure, is the Ice Lakes hike that originates near Silverton.

For this hike, my wife was able to join me. She’s not a big outdoors person like I am, but she is a Colorado native. She also understands that as a professional photographer, I have to start these treks when it is still dark outside so I can be in a good location at sunrise. But this time I let her sleep a little later in our Ouray hotel room, setting the alarm clock for 3:45am. We were on the trail, which starts 5 miles down South Mineral Road at the South Mineral campground by 4:45am. An hour of walking in the dark slowly gave way to light, and we soon found ourselves within sight of Ice Lake. The meadows to our right were sprinkled with columbine, aspen daisies, and chiming bells. We had already gained ~1600 vertical feet and now continued onto Upper Ice Lake. Here you gain another 700 vertical feet in a little over a half-mile. From Upper Ice Lake we followed a small ridge over to the real jewel, Island Lake. With Grant Peak, Fuller Peak, Vermillion Peak, Golden Horn, and Pilot Knob rising in the distance, the brilliant turquoise waters of Island Lake rest in a beautiful cirque.

This Colorado image features the landscape high atop the Ice Lakes hike - specifically Island Lake.

Island Lake sits atop the beautiful Ice Lakes hike, offering the opportunity for landscape images in the Colorado high country.

We lingered here a while with no one else in sight, enjoying this remote San Juan  Mountains landscape for nearly 45 minutes. I took the opportunity to photograph the lake from several angles, and we enjoyed the wildflowers that clung to the steep slopes leading to the water’s edge. I did not want to leave, but all good things must eventually come to an end, and we grabbed our backpacks and headed back down the mountains. On the way down I we stopped several more tomes to capture the moment with my camera. We also passed more than several folks on their way up, including two young men who said they were planning on swimming in Ice Lake. Brrrrr!

The Ice Lakes hike quickly became one of my favorite Colorado hikes, as well as a top location for summer wildflowers. I look forward to my return in the coming years.

My images are available for licensing or as prints. Please contact me at for more information or visit my website at

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Happy Travels!

~ Rob


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