As ski season winds down in the Colorado Rockies, Saint Mary’s Glacier provides a year round snow destination for hikers and skiers. If you’re looking to get out of the city for a day trip and beat the heat this summer, look no further than Saint Mary’s.
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Saint Mary’s Glacier is positioned about nine miles north of Idaho Springs. Driving west on I-70 out of Denver, travelers can take exit 238. After turning right on Fall River Road off of this exit, proceed 9.2 miles to Saint Mary’s Glacier in the Arapaho National Forest. Please note that the land off of Fall River Road on the way to the glacier is private, so camping and fishing is not permitted at any time during the year.
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The glacier itself is a semi-permanent snowfield that extends off of nearby James Peak and has tendrils that extend all the way to Saint. Mary’s Lake below. Be aware that this snowfield sticks around almost year-round, so be prepared with good traction hiking boots and warm clothing, even during the summer months.
Starting at Saint. Mary’s Lake, there is an excellent 1.5-mile round trip hike that progresses along the north side of the glacier. Depending on time of year, it may be necessary to walk on the glacier itself to reach its upper edge. For those adventurous souls, there is a well-marked route that proceeds to the top of James Peak to the west.
At the one-mile marker of the hike, the trail will level off at an open tundra environment above 11,000 feet. Make sure to keep an eye out for elk, bighorn sheep, and even mountain goats.
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