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Island Lake, San Juan Mountains, CO, USA [6048×8064] [OC]

Island Lake: A Hidden Gem in the San Juan Mountains

Tucked away in the rugged San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado, Island Lake is a breathtakingly beautiful alpine lake that offers a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Located at an elevation of 12,400 feet, this pristine lake is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.

Geology and History

Island Lake is situated in the heart of the San Juan Mountains, a region known for its rich geological history and diverse mineral deposits. The lake is nestled in a picturesque valley surrounded by towering peaks, including the 13,000-foot Redcloud Peak and Sunshine Peak. The lake’s basin is a glacial cirque, carved out by ancient glaciers that once covered the region.

The lake’s name is believed to have originated from the fact that it is surrounded by a ring of islands, created by the lake’s distinctive shape and the presence of numerous boulders and rocks. These islands are home to a variety of plant and animal species, including alpine wildflowers, grasses, and wildlife such as deer, elk, and bighorn sheep.

Hiking and Camping

Island Lake is accessible via a moderate 4-mile hike from the Slumgullion Trailhead, which is located off Highway 550, also known as the San Juan Skyway. The trail is well-marked and well-maintained, but it does require a moderate level of physical fitness and hiking experience. The hike takes you through a variety of landscapes, including aspen groves, meadows, and rocky terrain.

Once you reach the lake, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the surrounding peaks and the opportunity to enjoy a variety of outdoor activities, including swimming, fishing, and camping. There are several campsites located around the lake, including a popular backcountry campsite that is accessible via a short hike from the lake’s shoreline.

Wildlife and Plant Life

Island Lake is a haven for wildlife, with a variety of species calling the lake and surrounding mountains home. Visitors to the lake may spot deer, elk, bighorn sheep, and even the occasional bear or mountain lion. The lake’s shoreline is also home to a variety of bird species, including osprey, eagles, and hawks.

The lake’s surrounding mountains are covered in a variety of plant species, including aspen, spruce, and pine trees. The meadows and rocky terrain are home to a variety of alpine wildflowers, including columbines, gentians, and asters.

Photography and Scenic Views

Island Lake is a photographer’s paradise, with its stunning scenery and abundant wildlife making it a popular destination for photographers. The lake’s crystal-clear waters reflect the surrounding peaks, creating a breathtakingly beautiful scene that is sure to inspire any photographer.

The lake’s scenic views are also a major draw, with visitors able to take in the stunning vistas from the lake’s shoreline or from the surrounding peaks. On a clear day, it’s possible to see for miles in every direction, taking in the breathtaking beauty of the San Juan Mountains.


Island Lake is a true gem in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado. Its stunning scenery, abundant wildlife, and variety of outdoor activities make it a must-visit destination for anyone who loves the great outdoors. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker, a nature lover, or simply looking for a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life, Island Lake is sure to inspire and rejuvenate. So pack your bags, grab your hiking boots, and get ready to experience the natural beauty of Island Lake.

Download image Island Lake, San Juan Mountains, CO, USA [6048×8064] [OC]

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