This moderate to difficult Snowshoe adventure (depending on snow depth) is a really fun jaunt just 10 minutes south of the town of Ouray Colorado and close to an hour drive south from Montrose Colorado.
From Ouray, head up Red Mountain Pass via Highway 550 toward Silverton. After you pass through the first tunnel and the waterfall overlook, look out toward the left for the giant Engineer Pass trail signs (about 3 miles or so past the first tunnel). The giant signs above the pull-out on the left are hard to miss.
The trail ascends moderately the entire way. Look for really cool mini-ice-falls as you ascend up the canyon. These icicle features are just appetizers for the main course. Keep your eyes pealed for ermines (white mink like creatures with black tipped tails). Also, be on the lookout for rabbit tracks as they are plentiful along the trail. As you finish the final switch backs up the trail, you will make one final climb until the trail narrows parallel with the creek and steep views below. As the trail levels, you’ll come upon a majestic ice melt fall. This is the apex of the climb and the scenery.
From the trail head, the snow shoe hike is about 1.5 – 2 hours round trip and about 1.3 miles up one-way.
Make sure you bring a Thermos of hot coco and snacks and dress with layers as you may get really warm during the assent and sometimes end up in only your base layers.
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Nestled between Ouray and Silverton, Ice Lake is a destination hike with rich rewards. I ventured upon this hike with my husband, Mom and Dad a couple weeks ago. I cannot say enough about the beauty and great place. The round-trip hike took us about 4 hours, but probably could be completed in 3 hours if we were going at a faster pace. The trail is a good combination of flats, switchbacks, and gradients.
A few minutes up the trail we were all surprised to hear the roar of an impressive waterfall. You can actually walk through the waterfall that pours over the trail headed toward clear lake. Ian just about gave me a heart-attack as he got close to the waterfalls steep edge and faked like he was falling off (the little stinker).
The wildflowers were just beginning and are now in full bloom as I type. The Indian paintbrush were out in full color and we saw miniature red Columbines everywhere. The Delphiniums were in abundance, but hadn’t flowered yet. I especially liked the skunk cabbage that graced the meadows with their large light green leaves.
The last push of the hike had quite a bit of elevation gain, but the views of the valley and many waterfalls were absolutely incredible. When we finally arrived at Ice Lake, (which was just above tree line), we were rewarded with the most incredible turquoise colored lake set against the ragged ridge-line of the San Juan Rocky Mountains. We enjoyed lunch lakeside and then quickly headed back down when the thunderclouds started to build.
This destination is now high on my favorite hikes list; get out and enjoy it this summer!