Last time we talked hiking we were sharing the simple hike/walk through Waterton Canyon in the South Denver suburbs. Today I'm back talking about a much different trail to St. Mary's Glacier not far from Idaho Springs, CO. The drive is out of the way and the glacier is even more out of the way. But let me tell you it is definitely worth every second. Google search the drive, they will give you better directions than I could, because I made Mandy drive.
Once you've arrived there are two parking lots near the trail head where you must pay $5 to park (exact change only). Don't try parking somewhere else, you will get a ticket. At the parking lots there are porta potties and trash cans and neither are at the top. Depending on who you ask this is an easy to moderate trail, but for someone who doesn't hike (or isn't used to the altitude) this may be difficult. Know your limits. And don't forget your camera. The hike up is short, only about 3/4 of a mile and is extremely rocky. Good shoes are necessary. On this particular hike I carried Austin in our Kelty. I really wouldn't recommend little kids hiking this without being carried in a pack. I wouldn't have even carried him in my arms. We would say an active 5-6 year old could do it. Actually we haven't been back since the twins were born because there's only two of us and three kids.
The trail besides being rocky also ascends quickly - St. Mary's is at about 10,000 ft. above sea level. This 3/4 of mile is just trees, rocks and a bright blue sky. But don't forget to stop and turn around to look at the view behind you.
Just before you reach the lake and Glacier the forest gives way to a really incredible view.
At the top of the trail a snow fed, freezing, clear lake rests against the breathtaking scenery. Pictures do not do this place any justice. The glacier itself is not so much a glacier anymore, now it's more like a huge pile of snow that is slowly melting.
At the top continue to explore the area. Everything is spectacular. There were a group of guys cliff diving into the water. People sliding down the glacier. And the hike, if you're interested, continues above the glacier. Just be careful because people really have died up here.
Once you're done looking around then do the opposite and sit down. Sit down and take it all in. The view is amazing. There are plenty of places to chill and have a picnic. I guarantee that ham sandwich will taste better with this kind of view.
- Best times to go are late June through early August.
- Surprisingly, you won't be alone. It's a busier trail than we ever expected, there were probably 50 people at the top.
- Bring lots of water for drinking, especially at this higher altitude.
- Don’t forget rain gear or a jacket. Mountain temps and weather changes very quickly.
- Do not be stupid on the glacier.
- Pack your trash back out with you. There are trash cans at the parking lot.
- Respect the area. The area is owned privately and they are allowing us on it. Don't ruin it for everyone else.
And most importantly, you must stop at Beau Jo's in Idaho Springs on the way back down the mountain. It's tradition.
We're hoping to get back to St. Mary's this summer, maybe we'll see you there.