Island Lake

Rating: 
Round Trip Distance: 1.2 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 12,253 - 12,456 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 1 hr.
Trailhead: Ice Lake
Fee: none
Attractions: Scenic alpine lake




Island Lake is located just north of Ice Lake in the San Juan National Forest near Silverton, Colorado. The lake sits in a basin at the foot of Ulysses S. Grant Peak (13,767). Island Lake is often hiked in combination with Ice Lake and Fuller Lake but due to its unique beauty it is also hiked by itself as a primary destination. Each of the areas three lakes that are so popular with hikers have their own uniqueness that sets them apart from the other. It is definitely not the case that if you have seen one you have seen them all.




There are actually 3 or 4 different routes that will get you to Island Lake. For this post we made our approach from Ice Lake by following a faint trail that branches off from the Ice Lake trail just before the lake and crosses the stream flowing from Ice Lake just before it spills over the cliff to the Lower Ice Lake Basin. There is also a trail that begins just as the Ice Lake trail enters the Lower Ice Lake Basin and another down near the lower end of the trail that begins near a waterfall. Currently none of the various routes have trail signs so you best bet is to bring along a map.


While crossing the stream it is hard not to notice the white rocks in the streambed that remind one of ice cubes. The rocks appear to have a carbonate stain that has left them white.


After crossing the stream the route begins angling up the side of the mountain. The trail is steep but it is also short and has less elevation gain than the Fuller Lake trail.


The use of hands may be necessary where the trail crosses a rocky outcrop.


The trail gets a little narrow while crossing the tailings pile of the old Golden Gate gold mine.


The views looking down at the route the Ice Lake trail takes from the trailhead are amazing. All the way down in the valley County Road 7 can be seen approaching the South Mineral Campground and Ice Lake trailhead.


After gaining several hundred feet of elevation the trail levels off and heads toward the lake at the base of Grants Peak.


Island Lake is one of the most scenic alpine lakes that you will find anywhere. The energetic hiker might enjoy following the trail all the way around the lake.


Up on the side of the mountain to the north a trail can be seen that crosses the ridge and drops down the Lizard Head side of the range and comes out on a road near Ophir.


While hiking back toward Ice Lake there are spectacular views of Upper Ice Lake Basin and its surrounding peaks and ridges. It doesn't get much prettier than this anywhere.


While at Island Lake we spoke with other hikers that had come up one of the other routes. We could have followed one of those routes ourselves to return to the Ice Lake trail at points closer to the trailhead. There were also a few backpackers that had set up camp near Island Lake. That practice can be a dangerous venture during the summer times when thunderstorms are common since there is no protection from lightning. Lightning manages to claim the lives of hikers in Colorado every year. After having hiked to Ice Lake, Fuller Lake and Island Lake it isn't a cut and dry decision picking which lake is the most scenic but Island Lake is definitely a top contender. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.