Trail Length: 2.0 miles (roundtrip)
Trailhead Elevation: 10,428’
Elevation Change: +570, net elevation gain
Trailhead Location: From I-70, exit #238 for St Mary’s – Alice – Fall River Road. From the exit ramp, turn north on CR 275 and drive 9.2 miles to the St Mary’s Glacier Trailhead on the left (west) side of the road. Roadside parking is restricted (see rules and regulations above). The trail begins on a wide, rocky forest road marked by a large white sign clearly visible from the road.
We decided we wanted to get into the mountains last Sunday but nothing too far or too long of a hike. Looking over the possibilities, we decided on St. Mary’s Lake/Glacier. We hadn’t been up there in a few years. It’s close to home and a very short hike to a high alpine lake and glacier with wildflowers in bloom so we thought it would be a good choice for a quick drive into the mountains.
We headed up and parked in the private parking lot ($5.00 parking for the day), and headed up the trail around 11:50am. The sign at the start of the trailhead.
St. Mary’s Glacier is technically not a glacier but a semi-permanent snowfield. We headed on up the trail. There were still a few patches of snow on the trail and in the trees.
In only about a half a mile you come to the northeast shore of the lake with a view of the glacier ahead.
You will often find skiers or snowboarders on the snowfield year round. Just as we arrived at the lake, there was a skier coming down the snowfield.
We enjoyed the views from here and also the bristlecone pine which ring the lake.
We continued up the trail along the northeast shore of the lake, heading towards the glacier itself. We climbed up along the glacier where there were an abundance of wildflowers.
Looking back down the valley at the lake.
Here’s a shot looking up the snowfield.
I was going to continue further up the snowfield but without trekking poles or an ice axe, I decided against it. If you start to slide down without an ice axe for self-arrest, you could get seriously injured.
As I turned to head back down, it started to snow a little.
Another shot of the lake as we came down from the snowfield.
Heading back down the trail to the car.
Near the parking lot were some old cabin ruins. Gold was found here in the 1880’s in the valley below St. Mary’s glacier. About $50,000 was taken out of the mines in the first few months and by 1889, the town and mines closed.
It started to sprinkle just as we were heading out of the parking lot so we had good timing to avoid the rain.