Ice Lakes, Colorado
Credit: Kennan Harvey / Getty Images

Colorado is famed for its sky-scraping mountains, but some of the state's most spectacular vistas are hidden well below the summits. Case in point: Ice Lakes, a high alpine basin just west of the old mining town of Silverton. In summer, the highest lake glows an improbable shade of turquoise that contrasts with the emerald green of its bloom-flecked grassy shores. It's not unusual for the entire tableau to be topped with blue skies and dotted with bighorn sheep. Bonus: The lung-busting 4.5-mile hike to get there rivals the reward. From the trailhead next to the South Mineral Campground, hike through groves of aspens and conifers and up rocky valleys to the lower basin, where a series of waterfalls tumble down the ridges. From there, it's a short huff up some switchbacks to the upper basin, where, in mid-summer, the last of the snowfields surrenders to an encroaching army of wildflowers.

More information: Silverton is a short drive from Telluride, which has a terrifying but practical regional airport.