Before we get started here, do yourself a favor.
Grab a pencil and paper and write this down:
I can't believe this wonderful place is our neighboring state and we are just now getting around to spending some time together--what terrible neighbors we have been.
We left Mesa Verde (check out part 1 HERE) and headed north--up up up the mountains on a windy road with views of rocky peaks and wild forest. We spent the day around Silverton--we threw our tent up in a meadow and wandered around the wilderness dodging rain and chasing waterfalls.
The next morning we woke up to sunshine, grabbed our packs and headed to the trailhead for Ice Lake. As excited as I was to explore these mountains--I was a little nervous. I had no idea how our day would go--the hike was only 7 miles but we would top out over 12,000ft--I was curious as to how the kids would do at that elevation. (the highest we have ever hiked with them is 10,000ft). We packed extra water and snacks, rain jackets, and agreed to take it slow.
Did I say slow? Not these two. They powered up the mountain like it was no big deal. While my lungs felt heavy and crowded, they jogged and chatted away like we were at sea level. We hiked through the pines for a while--the trail moderately steep with some switchbacks. The forest then faded out to this view.....!!!
We were there July 5th--the wildflowers were just starting to open. Waterfalls poured onto the valley floor from all directions and we passed snow slowly melting on the trail.
During our final climb the kids made mention of there "being no oxygen", but they still managed to pass a few adults who had stopped to, ahem...puke their guts out.
We had hoped to make it up to Island Lake--about a half mile further than Ice Lake, but the thunderclouds were rolling in, so we quickly made our way down the mountain--we got to the car just as the first raindrops started to fall.
On top of the world! 12,300 feet!
Ice Lake Trail Details
Trailhead: out of Silverton. Take County Road 7 (off of 550) and follow it to South Mineral Campground at the end (about 4.5 miles on gravel) There is a parking lot and the trail is well marked--this is really popular hike.
Distance/Elevation: 7 miles round trip to Ice Lake with about 2400 ft of elevation gain.
Bring: extra water and fuel. You burn more at higher elevations and will me more susceptible to altitude sickness if you are dehydrated.....don't get dehydrated!
Also bring: pack a rain jacket--clouds can roll in quickly.
Note: Start early. Thunderstorms happen almost daily in the mountains and you don't want to be caught up there when a storm hits.
Shoes: I wore my Trail Runners (I wasn't sure how rocky the trail would be) but I wish I'd worn my Chacos There was a pretty big stream crossing so I had to take my shoes off (Robby just carried the kids across to save on time). The kids wore their Salomon trail runners --super awesome shoes for little hikers but the laces are ridiculous and jam up too easy. Get the shoes, replace the laces with regular tie-laces.
Lots more handy trail details: HERE
After Party: We grabbed a burger at Maggie's Kitchen in Ouray followed by ice cream at Mouse's Chocolates. (Ouray is the cutest little town and we are already itching to go back).
We loved this part of the country and feel like we only saw a fraction of it's beauty....we hope to get back soon!
Headed out for a hike? Check out my post on Trail Etiquette