Saint Mary’s Glacier – Year Round Adventure

Nestled in the Arapaho National Forest, just an hour’s drive from Denver, lies a hidden gem – Saint Mary’s Glacier. With its rugged beauty and stunning photographic opportunities, this glacier has become a must-visit destination for nature lovers and photography enthusiasts alike.

Photography tours in Autumn
Autumn at Saint Mary’s Glacier


Saint Mary’s Glacier is a small cirque glacier, meaning it’s located in a bowl-shaped depression of a mountain. It’s believed to have formed around 7000 years ago during the end of the Pleistocene epoch. In the late 1800s, the glacier was discovered by a group of miners who were searching for gold in the surrounding hills. The miners named it after their patron saint, Saint Mary. The glacier has been a popular destination for hikers and skiers since the early 1900s.

What to See and Do

Saint Mary’s Glacier is a year-round destination. During the summer months, visitors can hike to the top of the glacier and enjoy the stunning views of the surrounding mountains. The hike is relatively easy and takes about an hour to reach the top. Once at the top, visitors can explore the glacier’s surface and take in the breathtaking views. The glacier’s pristine blue ice and the surrounding mountains make for a perfect photographic opportunity.

In the winter, Saint Mary’s Glacier is a popular destination for skiing and snowboarding. The glacier is not a traditional ski resort, but rather a backcountry ski area. Visitors can hike up to the top of the glacier and ski or snowboard back down. It’s important to note that the area is not patrolled, so visitors should have experience in backcountry skiing and avalanche safety.

Photographic Opportunities

Saint Mary’s Glacier offers a lot of great photographic opportunities. The glacier’s crystal clear blue ice and the surrounding mountains offer endless photographic opportunities. The best time to visit for photography is early in the morning or late in the evening when the light is soft and golden. The glacier’s reflection in the small lake at its base is particularly stunning during these times.

For those interested in astrophotography, Saint Mary’s Glacier offers some of the best night sky views in Colorado. The lack of light pollution and the high elevation make for a perfect environment to capture the Milky Way and other celestial objects.

Tips for Visitors

Visitors to Saint Mary’s Glacier should be prepared for the high elevation. The glacier sits at an altitude of over 10,000 feet, so it’s important to acclimate properly before attempting the hike. Visitors should also bring plenty of water and sunscreen, as the sun’s rays can be intense at high elevations.

It’s important to note that the glacier is located on private property, so visitors are asked to respect the area and leave no trace. There is a small fee for parking, and visitors should be prepared to hike up to the glacier’s base from the parking lot. For the more adventurous you can reach Saint Mary’s from the Top down via rugged alpine 4×4 jeep trails. It is recommend you hire a Colorado tour guide if you wish to attempt this.

Saint Mary’s Glacier is a hidden gem in Colorado, offering stunning photographic opportunities and a chance to explore a unique natural wonder. With its rugged beauty and year-round accessibility, it’s no wonder why this glacier has become a must-visit destination for nature lovers and photographers alike. So pack your camera gear, lace up your hiking boots, and head to Saint Mary’s Glacier for a memorable adventure.

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