Like most glaciers and snowfields, Saint Mary’s Glacier has been shrinking in recent years. However, there is still enough snowpack to attract skiers and snowboarders who hike up the trail and then descend on the glacier, even in the middle of the summer.
There are restrooms at the trailhead, and there is a $5 fee to park there. Parking is limited, but there is usually enough space. The first section of the trail is very rocky almost all the way up to Saint Mary’s Lake, which is half a mile from the trailhead. It is a beautiful lake that is surrounded by very old pine trees. While there is not a developed campground there, camping is allowed. Although close to Denver, skies are sufficiently dark to see the Milky Way and thousands of stars in clear, moonless summer nights.
From there, a pleasant quarter of a mile hike to the base of the glacier offers wonderful views of the lake and passes through willows and beautiful alpine flowers. A section of the trail follows Silver Creek, which feeds the lake from the glacier. Hiking on the snowfields can be very dangerous, but there are trails on both sides of the glacier to get to the top that provide great views into the caves that form under the melting snow. The unmarked trail continues to James Peak and other lakes in the area. There are also trails around the lake from which you can get great views of the lake and glacier.
In addition to being an excellent and short summer hike, the trek to Saint Mary's Glacier and Saint Mary's Lake is also a popular snowshoeing adventure in the winter.
Note that this trail is largely unmarked, so be sure to keep left on the two forks in the trail before Saint Mary's Lake.