Wildflowers and windswept trails, boulders and snowfields – these are the disproportionately big rewards for the easy hike up to St Mary’s Glacier. It’s a quick day escape from Denver, and the modest elevation gains, short distance (half-mile) and summer snow and ice make it ideal even for the littlest hikers. Although the area gets fairly busy on summer weekends, the views on a clear day are remarkable, and a scramble around the lake will bring you to the glacier itself.
If you want to make a day of it, the trail to James Peak (13,294ft) continues up another 3 miles past the base of the glacier to the summit. This gentle mountain on the Continental Divide was named after the botanist Edwin James, who made the first recorded summit of Pikes Peak in 1820 (Pike, of course, never made it to the top). It's a relatively moderate but beautiful climb.
To get here, take I-70 west from Denver, past Idaho Springs to Fall River Rd (exit 238). Turn right on Fall River Rd and continue for 10 miles until you reach the parking areas. There is a parking fee of $5 for these lots (cash only), and it’s best not to park elsewhere; the neighbors don’t tolerate strangers parking on their turf. Get here early to secure a spot.