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St. Mary's Glacier

  • Oct 4, 2012 · 8:30 AM
  • This location is shown only to members

St Mary's Glacier Trail is a short (2 miles roundtrip) and easy/moderate hike on a rocky trail with about 500 feet of elevation gain. We will make the hike around 4 miles roundtrip by passing the glacier and hiking on the tundra above the glacier. Located north of Idaho Springs in the Clear Creek Ranger District of the Arapaho National Forest, the glacier - technically a large perennial snowfield - is a popular year-round destination open to hiking, skiing, glissading, climbing and sledding. St Mary's Lake, located just below the glacier, is ringed by bristlecone pine, thick willows, and prolific wildflowers. Though easily reached, exploring the glacier can be dangerous. Extreme caution is a must for any activity - even casual walking - that takes place on the snowfield.

The trail is about a mile and begins on a wide, rocky forest road heading northwest. Keep left of all offshoots (these lead to private homes), and within clearly drawn property lines on each side of the road. The road-trail rises quickly through a high subalpine forest that breaks suddenly across a bridge spanning the outlet of St Mary's Lake. Notable in the area are stands of bristlecone pine, a species specially adapted to high altitudes and extreme weather conditions. This hardy tree has a windswept appearance, and can live for thousands of years.

Follow the northeast shore toward the glacier. It narrows on a clearer path through dense willows and emerges on the north shore just below the snowfield. A few steps off the unofficial but well-worn path leads to the base of St Mary's Glacier. This is also the steepest part of the snowfield where it melts into St Mary's Lake.

The trail continues up the north side of the glacier over churned rocks and soil pushed to its margins by the annual growth and recession of the snow mass. Footing can be tricky, so watch your step. Micro-spikes might come in handy for this part.

The snowfield tapers quickly up a narrow gulch to its top (1.1 miles : 11,236'), where the trail levels abruptly on the edge a huge tundra expanse. In the distance are James Peak and Mount Bancroft.

Directions to the Trail: I-70 to the Fall River Road/St. Mary's Alice Exit 238. Follow CR 275 about 10 miles where parking for a fee ($5) is just past the trailhead on the left. Fill out the form, enclose $5 and drop in the box. Two porta-potties located in the parking lot.

Carpooling: Meet at 7:45am at the Wooly Mammoth PnR, Section CC where we'll form carpools.

Optional lunch after the hike at Tommyknockers in Idaho Springs.

See you there!

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  • Evelyn

    Nice hike and a great group! And good weather, too!

    October 4, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    very fun hike

    October 4, 2012

  • Linda

    Great to venture out and have the Glacier (or what's left of it) to ourselves. Great group of hikers and glad we met up with the other group on the way down.

    October 4, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    Great hike in interesting terrain, and lunch after in Idaho Springs was a blast.

    October 4, 2012

  • Linda

    We're a go for today! Looks like any snow is minimal so far. Dress warmly!

    October 4, 2012

  • Linda

    I'll keep an eye on the weather this week. If it is snowing Thursday morning I'll cancel the hike for everyone's safety.

    October 1, 2012

  • Cynthia

    i'm not scared, i just want to sleep longer. well, i might be a tad scared. got me some new shoes so slower and shorter will be good until i know how they're gonna work. hope to see you speedy peeps somewhere along the way.

    September 21, 2012

  • Terry G.

    The other hike says faster, but that doesn't mean it's a cardio workout. I don't want to scare people. Anybody average or better will be fine. And the group will decide how far we want to go.

    September 21, 2012

  • Linda

    The other hike, "St Mary's Glacier Plus" is now posted. If you want to do that one, please change your RSVP and sign up for the new hike.

    September 21, 2012

  • Linda

    We're going to add a second hike to leave before the original hike soon led by another member.

    September 21, 2012

  • Linda

    Is anyone interested in leading a second group for this hike. Please email me if you are.

    September 20, 2012

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