Hike Through an Autumn Rainbow at San Juan National Forest’s Island Lake

Hike Through an Autumn Rainbow at San Juan National Forest’s Island Lake

“This spot has the postcard grandeur of the Alps,” says photographer Kennan Harvey. And that’s about where the similarities end, because unlike the Alps, we guarantee you won’t be shoulder to shoulder with other visitors. Alas, no mid-hike espresso either, unless you pack it in: Island Lake is 4.2 miles from the nearest trailhead. Check conditions (snowfields may persist through June) and head out via the Ice Lake Trail into its namesake basin, which fills with an array of wildflowers every summer, before climbing to the bright blue lake itself—equally colorful Island Lake is just .7 miles past the upper Ice Lake.

If you do it as an overnight (recommended), set up camp near Upper Ice Lake in a cirque below five Thirteeners near mile 3.5, then continue .7 mile north to Island Lake in the morning. Cast for small cutthroat, see if you can withstand the frigid water long enough to swim 100 yards to the island, or just sit and take it all in.

“This is American wilderness. It’s endless,” Harvey says.

Read more...