Explore Colorado / Explore The Outdoors

Snowshoe St. Mary’s Glacier

Yes, you can still go snowshoeing in May in Colorado.  One of my favorite spring snowshoe adventures is Saint Mary’s Glacier.  It is about an hour’s drive from Denver.  Technically the glacier is a large perennial snowfield, which means it snow/ice is there year round.  You start at an elevation of 10,428′.  In winter trekking poles are a great idea.  But in late spring and early summer, you can do the trail with just traction devices.  If you don’t want to deal with the snow, it’s also a great summer or fall hike.

If you hike it on a glorious bluebird sky day with light winds you’ve hit the jackpot.  Since the area is notorious for gusty winds, make sure you take layers.  If you are heading up to the top of the glacier, don’t forget the sunscreen.  You will be fully exposed to the sun on the glacier.

It’s not a long trail, but it is a rewarding one.  Be prepared to get winded right off the bat as you hike through the trees.  Starting elevation is 10,428′.

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Round trip to the base of the glacier at St. Mary’s Lake is 1.5 miles.  The lake sits at an elevation of 10,848′.

The lake is ringed by bristlecone pines and thick willows.  If you hike to the top of the glacier, it is about 2.2 miles round trip.  From the lake to the top of the glacier isn’t far mileage wise but it is steep.

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This landscape is windswept.  In fact, the winds can be quite brutal.  Kat and I relished in a perfect day to snowshoe up the glacier.  We got lucky with no clouds in the sky and light winds.  But, I loved the pattern of the windswept snow.  It reminded me of waves in the ocean as the tide rolls in and out.

As Kat and I climbed we laughed as we huffed and puffed climbing above 11,000′.   It was a white abyss fading into the great blue yonder.

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The snowfield tapers up a narrow gulch that levels abruptly into a vast open tundra where elk, bighorn sheep, and mountain goats can be spotted.

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From an elevation of 11,236′, you get great views of James Peak and Mount Bancroft.

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If you take skis or a snowboard, you get the bonus of skiing or riding down a glacier.

Check out my Explore Colorado adventure with my friend Kat as we snowshoed up St. Mary’s Glacier on a glorious bluebird day.

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