Glacier, ice cold lake, sunny skies, and people lounging in hammocks. Its like a Colorado beach scene. Some people even jump in the water (although they are shrieking uncomfortably like wild babboons). Others play with their dogs, picnic, listen to reggae and dance around, or simply sit and enjoy the sun and beautiful alpine environment.
This is St. Mary’s Glacier in Idaho Springs, Colorado. As you may have surmised, it is a VERY popular spot. Don’t go here if you are looking for solitude, peace, or quiet (at least on a summer weekend). But there are so many other attractive qualities about this place that make the amount of people who also want to enjoy it with you not a big deal.
Why go to St. Mary’s Glacier?
Proximity! From downtown Denver you can drive an hour and be at this amazing alpine lake/ semi-permanent snowfield. For out-of-towners who often head to Idaho Springs right off the bat this is right there.
Alpine Beauty– Alpine lakes are amazing. And lets be real, in Colorado you are either going to backpack, take a LONG day hike, or endure a crowd of people to see one. This one has a ton of rocky/ dirt beach around it for you to lay a picnic blanket down on too. (This is not really a good thing because it means the vegetation has been trodden on so much that now there is just dirt- you will see the same thing with the maze of social trails leading to the lake.) But either way it
Snow– So you are trying to snowboard or ski every month of the year? Well in Colorado you don’t have to head to South America to do that. At St. Mary’s Glacier there is typically some year round snow. You can hike up a mountain and snowboard your way down! Don’t worry hikers, these snowboarders and skiiers are not shredding the gnar close to where people hike or congregate.
Beach– In Colorado beaches are far and few between and they are nothing like ocean beaches. But they do have their own very special flair. You can still hang out, sun tan, picnic, jam out, or whatever else you do at a beach (putting on massive amounts of sunscreen is still recommended). There’s water and there are places to hang out on the shore!
Hike Distance: RT 1.5 miles
Difficulty: Moderate (but super short!)
Seasons: Summer, Fall, (Winter and Spring are allowed but conditions may be dangerous or at the very least require snowshoes- be prepared and plan ahead)
Parking: Two well labeled lots. Each cost $5/ day. Parking on the road is illegal and the neighborhood will likely have your car towed away. So paying for parking is the only choice.
Some other tidbits to be aware of – this place is mostly privately owned (other than the peak and the glacier itself ) so please be extra respective of their property and the fact that the owners can shut out hikers whenever they like. Since the trails are not really managed, there are a ton of social trails, you will figure out how to get to the lake eventually but the hike there is kind of a rocky mess of trails. Then again, its less than a mile to the lake so its all good!
Now get out there!