St. Mary’s Glacier… 1 of 14 Glaciers in Colorado
When you picture a glacier, where do you picture? Alaska? Antarctica? Greenland?
What if I told you there were glaciers right here in the United States?
There are actually 9 states that currently have glaciers, and there are 14 in Colorado alone.
Its been on my bucket list for awhile to visit glaciers in all 9 U.S. states. When COVID hit, putting a temporarily halt on unnecessary travel… I decided to add another list to my bucket list. I’ve decided I’m going to visit all 14 glaciers in Colorado, since that’s where I’m currently living!
I’m going to start with St. Mary’s Glacier.
I was here a few years ago to hike, explore, and snowboard. It was actually to keep my snowboarding streak alive! (It marked 27 consecutive months)
So when I went (in August and September of 2018) things were slightly different. It was not nearly as crowded and you didn’t have to pay to park!
Since they have done work to the trailhead, including installing a bathroom, there is now a $5 entrance fee. There are 2 parking lots to choose from and you do have to get a permit to display on your windshield!
Please do NOT park alongside the road. It not only interferes with access to the homes around there, but they also give pretty hefty fines.
How to get there:
From I-70 take exit 238, Fall River Rd. You will follow Fall River Rd. for a little over 7 miles. You will then turn onto St. Mary’s Dr., and follow this until you see the parking lots!
The trailhead is approximately 55 minutes from Denver.
- Distance: Approximately 1.5 miles round trip.
- Difficulty: Easy to moderate.
- Duration: Approximately 2 hours round trip.
- Trail type: Out and Back.
- Elevation Gain: Approximately 1200+ feet to base of Glacier.
- Dogs: Allowed, but must be kept on leash.
- Start early! Since it is close to Denver, and of the easier hikes in the area, it does get pretty crowded.
The hike starts by ascending through a beautiful, enchanting forest. It does require walking/ scrambling over some rocks, so prepare for that!
St. Mary’s Lake is about a mile into the hike and is an incredible sight to see. You can see the Glacier reflecting off the glassy, mirrored water surface.
If you walk around the right side of St. Mary’s Lake, you will come to a bridge that crosses over a small stream. Follow this bridge, to pick up the trail to hike up the Glacier.
Even though the trail up to St. Mary’s Glacier is pretty short, it is surprisingly rocky. It can prove to be difficult for some people to scramble over the larger rocks, especially children.
The trail is also not clearly marked the entire time. Please make sure you are following other people or footsteps, to know you are going the right way. In the winter it’s easy to follow the snowy footsteps. In the summer, you will be following a small steam upwards.
Once you reach the Glacier, you will be surrounded by breathtaking panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains. Feel free to explore around up here, playing in the snow and taking pictures!
Depending on the time of year you go will determine how many skiers and snowboarders are there. When I went (in August and September), both times there was only one other group riding! The run itself can be pretty steep and icy, so be careful! There was also a little jump someone had built, which was super fun to keep hitting!
Please keep in mind that conditions aren’t always ideal, and can sometimes be icy. But hey, when you get to ride on real snow in the middle of summer… who can complain?!
After spending a few hours hiking up and riding down, we decided to make the descent back to the trailhead. We stopped at the lake to take some pictures, stretch our legs, and eat some snacks!
St. Mary’s Glacier is definitely a hike I would recommend doing at least once. Whether you want to ski down it, or just experience being at a Glacier, it is an incredible experience!