Trail Length: 9.52 miles (roundtrip)
Trailhead Elevation: 10,373’
James Peak Summit: 13,152’
Elevation Gain: +2,909’
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.
I hadn’t gotten a summit hike in this year yet. I usually hike one or more 14ers (peaks over 14,000’ high) each summer although the last couple of summers I haven’t had the opportunity to do that. The 14ers I have left to do are quite a distance from the metro area and too far to travel to for a day hike. So, I’ve started to hike at least one 13er each summer. The 13ers are just as beautiful of hikes and the trails are a lot less crowded that the 14er trails.
Last Sunday I decided to hike James Peak. It is close to home and has been on my list for a while to hike. I headed up to the St. Mary’s Glacier trailhead to start the hike. The forecast was for a beautiful day with no chance of rain – a perfect day for a summit!
I headed up the trail to St. Mary’s Lake, only 0.5 miles from the trailhead. I was surprised at how small the “glacier” (it’s actually a permanent snowfield) was! Much had melted over the summer.
Here is shot taken in June of 2014 when we had hiked up here. Quite a difference.
I headed up around the right side of the lake and continued up the drainage where the St. Mary’s Glacier lies.
There were a couple of die-hard skiers skiing down what was left of the snowfield.
After continuing up the narrow gulch, the trail leveled off in a flat open tundra area with a clear view of James Peak ahead.
To the left was a view of Mt. Bancroft (13,250’)
At 2.8 miles the trail merged with the Continental Divide trail. As I proceeded up James Peak’s east face, I had a wonderful view into the Loch Lomond drainage of Loch Lomond, Reynolds Lake, Steuart Lake, and Ohman Lake.
A close-up of Ohman Lake.
Looking up the drainage, a nice shot of Ice Lake at the end of the cirque.
A view to the south of Grays Peak (14,270′) and Torreys Peak (14,267′).
A perennial snowfield on James Peak.
Continuing on up the trail, at 3.8 miles and an elevation of 12,880’, I had a nice view of James Peak Lake, Little Echo Lake and the Mammoth Gulch drainage in the northern valley below.
Views from the summit of James Peak.
A view looking down on Heart Lake from the summit of James Peak.
My summit shot!
It was quite cold and windy at the summit. I spent some time in one of the small rock wind shelters on top eating some lunch and taking in the view before heading back down the trail.
Another stop to look into the Loch Lomond drainage.
I continued back on down to St. Mary’s Lake. Fall is in the air and the aspens are turning.
My route for the day.
A beautiful hike with beautiful weather (although it was a bit hazy with some smoke in the air from the fires out in Washington and California). I’m glad I had the opportunity to get a 13er in before the snow starts flying!