St. Mary’s Glacier: A Disastrously Fun Day

Every year, our family has climbed St. Mary’s Glacier, one of the top tourist destinations in Clear Creek County. Well, with the exception of last year when I got really sick on the day we were supposed to climb it. And then there was the time Jamie drove over Hadley’s foot at the trailhead so that didn’t exactly work out, either.

So, it’s a family tradition barring whatever disaster comes our way.

This year, we were delighted when our friends, the Carrolls, decided to join us. With six kids, they are a mobile party wherever they go so we knew we’d have a blast! The drive from Idaho Springs to the trailhead is full of hairpin turns and, after a steep, rocky 3/4-mile hike to the base of the glacier, we were at about 10,500 feet.

Jamie and I hiked ahead with the quicker kids and reached the lake at the base of the glacier in record time.

We threw rocks and scaled logs while we waited for the rest of the group but they didn’t come. After a half-hour, I started to hike back down but they were nowhere to be seen so I called them. Their daughter Maeve was struggling with car and altitude sickness so they were turning around and would wait for us in the car. The rest of us hiked to the base of the glacier where we played and played and played.

The quickies

We were delighted to see Maeve toward us a half-hour later, fully recovered after leaving a piece of her misery on the trail (I’ll leave that one to your imagination). In fact, it was a near-perfect afternoon and we practically skipped down to the car.

One of our other traditions is to stop for some epic mountain pies at nearby Beau Jo’s pizza in Idaho Springs. As we were waiting for our lunch, we received a text from Eva:

“Hey, our car won’t start. Are you still at Beau Jo’s?”

Just as we were getting ready to go back up the mountain to retrieve them, I got another text assuring me their car had started and they were on their way.

It was one of my family’s smoothest trips to St. Mary’s Glacier but our friends weren’t so lucky.  Turns out, disaster is contagious.

Just a forewarning for anyone who wants to come play with us anytime soon.


Getting There: Take I-70 West from Denver, past Idaho Springs’ three exits. Take the next exit marked “Fall River Road.” Just past the bottom of the ramp, take a right (north) on Fall River Road. Follow this road up approximately 9 miles to one of two parking areas for the clearly marked trailhead to St. Mary’s Glacier. Parking is $5.

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