With only 16 named glaciers remaining in Colorado, any one of them makes for an excellent destination for hiking. Andrews Glacier is certainly no different, and sitting at nearly 12,000 feet, it provides excellent views through some of the best hiking in the heart of Rocky Mountain National Park. The glacier sits below Andrews Pass in a cirque just below the 12,486-foot Otis Peak. This trail shares much of the nearby Sky Pond Trail, but it diverts for the last mile up a much less-traveled, more rugged and more pristine gorge.
The hike can begin either at Bear Lake Trailhead or Glacier Gorge Trailhead. Follow signs to Andrews Glacier or Sky Pond. Climbing in the beginning will be fairly gradual, which works as a lovely way to ease into what will end up being a fairly strenuous day hike. At mile 0.7 you will come across Alberta Falls, which cascades down Glacier Creek to your left. A mostly sunny and sparsely-forested trail will continue to take you higher until you reach a large trail intersection. Heading left takes you to Glacier Gorge, heading right leads to Lake Haiyaha, and continuing straight leads toward Sky Pond or Andrews Glacier.
Keep straight and a few switchbacks will mark the start of some steeper climbing toward The Loch. Great views from The Loch share a glimpse of the wonderful mountains that you will get closer to as you continue to hike. A mostly flat hike around the right of The Loch will be a welcome break to rest before pressing onward on the much steeper final mile to Andrews Glacier. About a third of a mile after leaving the lake you will come to a less obvious trail intersection, so keep an eye out for a small bridge with a trail off to the right. Almost everyone else will keep straight at this intersection to Sky Pond, but you will keep right and enjoy a much less busy communion with nature on your way up to one of Colorado’s few remaining active glaciers.
This is where the hike starts to get steep. After a short distance, you’ll see a sign for Andrews Creek Campground, one of the only areas to camp in this part of the park. Keep left and continue climbing until you get closer to the treeline. From here, the amazing gorge will become more apparent and splits into two sections. Keep to the right as you climb and watch for cairns and signs of a trail. The path becomes very difficult to follow at this point as a series of several social trails can all be taken from here. Pick the one that most suits you, but keep to the right as you climb. On your left across the gorge will be wonderful views of The Sharktooth, a dramatic peak in the distance. The trail will continue to get steeper and steeper through a boulder field, and at times it may feel more like Class II scrambling than hiking.
Eventually the trail becomes more obvious because it steeply climbs to Andrews Tarn, across from which you will finally get to your destination with great views of the glacier. From here you can take a well-deserved rest and follow the way you came back to your car. For a more ambitious day, you can add on Sky Pond on the way back for more stunning alpine scenery.