St. Mary’s Glacier & James Peak

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Trail Stats & Info

RT length 8 miles
Elevation gain 2,909 feet
Difficulty moderate-strenuous
Lowest elevation 10,385 feet
Highest elevation 13,294 feet
Trail type out & back
Trails Illustrated Map™ # 103
Restrooms @ TH? yes
St. Mary's Glacier & James Peak

Directions

From I-70, exit 238 to St. Marys/Alice. Take Fall River Road north for about 8.7 miles through the small town of Alice. There are 2 paid parking lots on the left side of the road. One is before the trailhead and the other is right after passing the trailhead. It is $5 to park at these lots and there are also restrooms available. Street parking is not allowed. The trailhead is marked with a large sign stating “Glacier trail” and starts as a wide, rocky 4WD road.



Photos

Description

James PeakThis hike is a very popular hike all year round. In the summer, this is one of the few areas in Colorado that still has snow, which is why it attracts people who are itching to ski or snowboard before the winter season. In the winter, you’ll see skiers, snowboarders or snowshoers hike up this glacier to get away from the resort crowds or just to do some backcountry skiing. The parking lot and trail up to St. Mary’s Lake can be busy, especially during the summer weekends. We hiked this trail during very inclement weather, which was nice since there were very little people hiking. However, it made our hike a bit more difficult and long. The hike up to the lake is very accessible, but just remember to stay to the left when you come up to 2 forks on the trail. At the lake, you’ll cross a metal bridge and shortly thereafter the trail will split into two. You can go down towards the lake or stay to the right which heads towards the glacier. Depending when you hike, the glacier can be easy or difficult. We were lucky that the snow was pretty hard-packed, which made it easier to walk on. In addition, we used our Kahtoola MicroSpikes to help with traction on the glacier. Since, it was still spring when we hiked this trail, the glacier was probably longer than it normally is during the summer. After reaching the top of the glacier, we hopped onto the adjacent trail which runs towards the left of the glacier. This trail lead us to a 4WD road which is where we lost the trail for a short distance. On our map, the trail is supposed to continue on, crossing the 4WD road. After a few hundred yards we did find a trail by a wooden post which we followed up to the left of James Peak. There was still quite a lot of snow on the mountain, so we were on and off the trail for ahwhile and had to mainly rely on large cairns to guide us up the peak. Closer to the summit of James Peak, the trail is much clearer and was easy to follow even in the snow. As we neared the summit, a huge snow storm hit and we had no visibility.

It was so windy at the summit that all we did was take a few quick photos (video above) and immediately headed back down. There are several wind walls at the summit if you need to hunker down on a windy day. Unfortunately, we did not get to see any views at the summit as visibility was zero! Maybe on another day when the weather is clear and behaving will we hike this again. Coming back down, you can descend the same way or follow the ridge east of the summit. And at the glacier, if you’re up for it, you can try glissading down, just make sure you can self-arrest if need be. Glissading is a much faster way to descend and plus, it’s fun!

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About Jake & Mar

Jake and Maria have spent a good chunk of their time hiking and exploring all that the Colorado wilderness has to offer. Their ambition is to seek out all the hidden treasures of the Rocky Mountains from pristine alpine lakes, to tall dense Aspen forests, to high mountain summits. They both bring their own unique talents and abilities to Findhikingtrails.com, whether it's the organizational skills and consistent ambition to take on new terrain, or the desire to creatively record and document the experience. They are truly passionate about their site and the outdoors. "We thank you for visiting Findhikingtrails.com and wish you safe and fun adventures!"