Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Ice Lake Basin

Upper and Lower Ice Lake Basin Hike
~7 miles
~2200 ft elevation gain
~4.5 hours hiking

Ice Lakes Basin is a popular hike off of Mineral Creek Rd. just north of Silverton, and with good reason: for an easy to moderate effort, one can be surrounded by absolutely sublime beauty.

A couple miles north of Silverton, take the Mineral Creek Rd. (towards the campground) for about 5 miles. This dirt road is passable for passenger cars. Being the 4th of July, we saw plenty of other people camping along the road or near the river, so roadside car camping or short backpacking can lead to good campsites.

After about 5 miles, park on the right, at the TH. The trail climbs steadily and switchbacks through the trees. As you hear a rush of water approaching, you will be below a sizeable waterfall. A social trail leads straight up, but the main trail crosses the stream, switchbacks on the left side, and ultimately pops out at the top of the waterfall.

Now your hike weaves in and out of the forest, and you begin to have views of the surrounding mountains and any wildflowers. Here, at the beginning of July, wildflowers were just starting to show themselves, but it was a mere preview of what the end of July would look like.

Soon, the views open up to lower Ice Lake Basin itself. The lake here is clouded with life, and reflects dark green, but the real story is the basin itself: wildflowers, streams, mountains in every direction, and weeping walls of rock. Stand here, spin around, and pretend you're in any movie that's panning the most beautiful landscape you've ever seen, or just sit and contemplate your good fortune. If you're tired, you could end your hike in this gorgeous area, and it would be a nice place for a picnic.

If you choose to go to the upper basin, it's only around a mile further. Making your way through the basin, there are some short shoe-wetting rivulets to hope across.

As you climb above the lower basin, you get another vantage point of the land you just crossed.

At the far edge, you'll see a trail heading up to the left. The trail does steepen a bit here, I believe it's another 600-700 feet of climbing. A couple ridges tease you before you finally crest the top. The upper basin is spectacular, and has a different feel than the lower basin: rather than the verdant, vibrant hues of plant life below, this basin celebrates rock and mineral, and this lake is sparkling, clear, and blue. Be careful of the steep dropoffs from shore.

We spent a memorable morning here, but saw more than a few backpackers who spent the evening in the lower basin. Lucky! This is truly a magical place.

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