Central Front Range Colorado
Like most glaciers and snowfields, Saint Marys 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 Marys 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.
St Mary Campground Season Closes Aug 15th
Planning a trip to Glacier NP in mid August and surprised to see St Mary campgrounds season ends Aug 15th?
Anyone know why?? Since that would seem to be part of the busy season??
6 replies to this topic
I have not heard of any reasons why the St. Mary campground would close early this year . They didn’t open last year, though, not sure if that’s a possibility for this year, too.
If you look at the GNP website, it should be open for the summer season from June 1 – Sept 4. Maybe the dates haven’t been updated at recreation.gov yet? You might try emailing the park to ask.
Thanks, I will keep looking for possible updates.
I did call Recreation.gov and
they too saw it’s season showed it ending Aug 15th,
but couldn’t answer why??
I would contact the park, since they are the ones that sets the dates. Recreation.gov just manages the reservations.
Recent years st Marys has closed in august to tent camping due to bear activity where they come into the campground area. Its the time of big feeding for bears prior to hibernation.
This could be about Covid issues again and the terrible inability of the park to reliably staff just about any area. Montana is having a heck of a time filling Summer specific jobs. Hotels, concessions and maybe staff to be onsite and host the campgrounds. This is a crazy time up here. At the same time more people want to get away for park vacations…no one wants to work..not even ranger jobs.
Lots of ifs and no good answers yet.
Glacier National Park
How To Get To St Mary Campground
Approximate driving distance via Going-to-the-Sun Road: St. Mary entrance: 0.9mi
A maximum of two tents per site is permitted.
Sites may not be left unattended for over 24 hours.
Campground speed limits are 10 miles per hour.
The maximum number of people in a campsite: limited to eight people
The number of cars per campsite: two vehicles
Checkout time: 12 noon
Quiet Hours: Quiet hours are from 10:00 pm to 6:00 am.
Between July 1 and Labor Day, camping in Glacier National Park is limited to 14 days, either in a single period or combined separate periods.
Between Labor Day and June 30, camping in Glacier National Park is limited to 30 days, either in a single period or combined separate periods.
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Glacier National Park Tip #: Many Glacier Campground
Half of the campsites at Many Glacier are available for advance reservations through Recreation.gov at least 3 days in advance. The other half are first-come first-serve.
If you like getting off the beaten path and are looking to be closer to some backcountry trails, or are hoping to see a bear, then this is the campground for you.
There are about 600 black and 300 grizzlies in G.N.P and your odds of seeing one are a bit higher on this side.
Trailheads start at a higher elevation than those on the west side of the park, resulting in a shorter ascent to reach scenic vistas.
- Most campsites and driveways are very small and will not accommodate towed units over 21 feet.
- A limited number of sites can accommodate towed units 26 to 30 feet.
- Many campsites will not accommodate camper slide-outs.
Driving Time to Many Glacier from St Marys:
20 miles, 30-40 minutes
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Glacier National Park Tip #: Orient Yourself
The majority of hikes and attractions you will see on your first trip to Glacier N.P. lie in a triangle, with Apgar on the southwest side, St Marys on the east side, and Many Glacier on the north-east end. While there are 13 campgrounds in Glacier, the four most popular are Apgar, Avalanche, St Marys, and Many Glacier.
How To Get The Best Experience When Hiking To St Marys Glacier
First is parking at the St. Marys Glacier Trailhead : There are two parking lots for the trailhead and both require you to pay a $5 fee and display a permit on your windshield. Permits are easily obtained from marked posts in both parking lots, but youll need to bring your own pen to write down your license plate number on the fee envelope. Restrooms in the parking lots are a giant bonus and seemed to be very well-maintained. Do not park along the road as it interferes with access to homes and heavy fines are assessed.
The trail up to St. Marys Glacier is surprisingly short just about three-quarters of a mile to the top of the glacier but the route is extremely rocky, and at times, it could be difficult for smaller children to scramble over larger rocks. The lower portion of the trail is quite dry, but as you ascend to the glacier there is a lot of wet and deep snow to traverse through. Id recommend wearing hiking boots, or at the very least wearing water-resistant/treated shoes with good traction. The winter season at St. Marys would surely demand snowshoes. If you are hiking in the winter, exercise real caution. Because this hike feels short and is accessible from the interstate, its easy to forget that you are in an alpine environment. Be sure to stay the trail because this is an area where avalanches are possible on the neighboring slopes.
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Directions To St Marys Glacier
Trailhead: St Marys Glacier
Getting Here: Take I-70 to exit 238 and follow fall river road about 9 miles to the first parking lot which will be on your left. Once you get to the parking area, you will need to walk up the road about 100 yards past the parking lot and the trail starts on your left. St. Marys Glacier Trailhead can be entered into your favorite navigation app.
Fee: $5, cash only, must be paid at the pay stations near the bathrooms
Parking: Parking for James Peak shares the same lot as extremely popular St Marys Glacier. If you plan on hiking this hike on a weekend, get here early. The lot is massive but will fill up on busy summer weekends. There are two very disgusting porta potties at the TH.
Sanitation And Water Use
Using campground faucets to wash dishes or clothing, to clean fish, to prepare food, or to bathe is prohibited. All wastewater, including water from showers and dishwashing, must be contained and disposed of in utility sinks or at RV dump stations. Do not leave wastewater unattended. Recreational vehicles must use drain hoses at dump stations.Fee showers are available at the Rising Sun and Swiftcurrent Motor Inns and private campgrounds adjacent to the park. Showers are available for registered campers only at the Fish Creek, Apgar, and St. Mary Campgrounds.
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Tips & Resources For Hiking St Marys Glacier Near Idaho Springs Colorado:
- Picnic Area: Pack a picnic! The St. Marys lake is truly a stunning setting for a quick bite.
- Snowboarding Area: Bring in skis/snowboards/sleds and have a blast on the glacier.
- Ask for direction: The trail can pretty confusing of youve not hiked it before, so dont be afraid to ask hikers coming down if youre headed in the right direction.
- Trail Map for St. Marys Glacier near Idaho Springs, Colorado: Trail Map Link
Glacier National Park Tip #: St Marys Campground
St Marys campground is reservable 6 months in advance through this website.
St Marys campground sits on the northeast side of park, past the Going-to-the-Sun Road. While it does provides a shuttle up to Logan Pass, one of the absolute best parts of visiting Glacier National Park is the Going-to-the-Sun Road so youre not going to want to miss out on this scenic highway.
To see the Going-to-the-Sun Road, you can take the shuttle from St Marys to Logan Pass and then change shuttles to ride down to Avalanche and back up in order to see the views.
Driving Times to St Mary from West Glacier:
Via Going-to-the-Sun Road: 50 miles, 2 to 2 1/2 hoursVia US Hwy 2 to Hwy 89: 90 miles, 2 to 2 1/2 hours
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Heart Of Glacier Rv Park & Cabins
One of my favorite campgrounds I’ve ever been to!! Got checked in by a sweet, feisty lady. We were the only tent campers. T9 is the best spot! Very soft grassy square for tents. had picnic table but no fire pit, there is a fire ban anyway. the bathrooms are awesome. 2 stalls and 2 showers in the women’s! $30 when you pay cash. Right outside of the glacier entrance too!
We stayed here 1 night, newly expanded Park, everything worked, site was easy to access with a big rig. Bathrooms and showers, even a laundry, office staff was helpful and welcoming. Very reasonable rates in an area that usually gouges tourists do to remote location, would love to stay here again.
We stayed at the cabins and loved it. Having a full kitchen and washer/dryer was a big plus for our family hiking vacation. The only thing to improve is that our cabin was missing a screen for the window, so we had to sleep with the windows shut to keep the bugs out, and it was warm. The cabins where the rest of our family were staying didn’t have this problem.
Many Glacier Glacier National Park
- Many Glacier. Late May to late September. Extremely popular campground in a spectacular scenic area. Campground fills very early in morning during the summer. Large campground on east side with 110 sites . Water and flush toilets. Take spur road west from US-89, north of St. Mary. Mostly wooded sites. Showers at Swiftcurrent Motor Inn. Activities and programs at nearby Many Glacier Hotel. Area has great day hiking and excellent chances to see wildlife. Access to fee-based concessionaire shuttle bus.
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Our Trip To St Marys Glacier: August 2015
My last visit to St. Marys was last summer during late August with my girlfriend. We arrived to the parking lot around 6AM with the plan to hike the St. Marys Glacier and neighboring James Peak. When we arrived we were 1 of 4 or 5 cars in the parking lot.
We packed our daypacks and started up the rocky trail towards St. Marys Lake. When we arrived about 30 minutes later, we had the place to ourselves besides the couple of groups which had camped out the night before. We ate our breakfast, took some pictures and enjoyed the peace and serenity. We started up the rocky trail towards St. Marys Glacier . The trail was pretty easy to follow most of the way. We choose to follow the dirt trail on the side of the snow but we could have easily hiked straight up the snowy middle section if we wanted to.
On the way down from James Peak, we decided to take a different trail down to the lake . We saw several groups of people skiing and snowboarding on the snowy section of the glacier. Lugging all of your ski gear up St. Marys Glacier only to ski a small section of trail did not see worth it to me. But hey, to each their own.
St Marys Glacier was a nice quick hike but is extremely popular among visitors of the state. We noticed that the majority of people who hiked up to St. Marys Glacier stopped at the lake. St Marys Glacier is not a personal favorite of mine , but if you are in the area I would recommend stopping here to take in the beauty.
West Glacier And Apgar Campgrounds
Two National Park Service-operated campgrounds flank Lake McDonald with sites under a forest canopy. Rustic and without hookups, they have flush toilets, fire rings with grills, disposal stations, shared hiker-biker sites , amphitheaters for evening naturalist talks, and sites that accommodate large RVs. Due to the lakeside location inside the park, away from highway and railroad noise, they are popular. Midsummer, they fill up by 8am-9am. Bring your own firewood collecting wood is prohibited.
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Glacier National Park Tip #: Go To Logan Pass
Logan Pass is the highest point on the Going-to-the Sun Road at 6,646 feet. Its 32 miles from the west entrance and 18 miles from the east entrance. Finding a parking spot here between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. is very difficult .
Logan Pass is where our favorite hike the Highline Trail begins from. There is another nice, and much shorter/easier hike from here called Hidden Lake Overlook that has gorgeous views and is great for younger kids. Mountain goats and bighorn sheep are often seen from here.
Glacier National Park Tip #: Finding Showers
The only negative in my opinion of camping inside the park is the lack of showers.
There are showers available to the public at Rising Sun and Swiftcurrent Campstores for a fee. Rising Sun is near St Marys and Swiftcurrent and is within walking distance from Many Glacier Campground.
The St. Marys and Fish Creek campgrounds have free token operated showers only for guests staying at those campgrounds .
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Plan Your Glacier Vacation With St Mary Koa As Your Basecamp
Stay here, and you’re just a mile from Glacier Park and the entrance to Going-to-the-Sun Road, the 52-mile highway that climbs across Glacier National Park’s spectacular alpine spine. The view is almost as good from your campsite here at Glacier’s eastern edge, where towering peaks frame the St. Mary River and Lake. Pick up lunch fixings at the KOA grocery store and gift shop, then board a Glacier tour bus at the campground entrance. If you want to give your dog a day off while you explore, your hosts offer pet sitting and kennel boarding. Or relax at the KOA with full espresso bar while you hone your putting skills, play bocce or enjoy the swimming pool and hot tub complex. Rent a kayak and explore the wilds of Lower St. Mary Lake and River. Pizza and food service items available daily from mid-June to September. Pool/Hot tub: June 15 – September 10. Max pull thru: 75 feet. Your hosts: Will & Susan Brooke.
St Mary And Many Glacier Campgrounds
While Many Glacier has only one campground with no hookups, St. Mary has commercial campgrounds with hookups for RVs. If the inside park campgrounds fill up, head to a commercial one in St. Mary rather than up Going-to-the-Sun Road to Rising Sun, which usually fills up first.
St. Mary is convenient for exploring Going-to-the-Sun Road, and it works as a home base for day trips to Waterton, Many Glacier, and Two Medicine. However, if you envision parking the car, setting up a tent for a couple of days, and hiking straight from the campground, then Many Glacier is where you need to be. Cell service is available at St. Mary campgrounds, but not in Many Glacier.
The inside-park campgrounds run by the National Park Service have flush toilets, dump stations, picnic tables, fire rings with grills, and running water. Bring your own firewood collecting it is illegal. Check online for historic fill times and status to know when to arrive for first-come, first-served campsites. For the summer, make reservations starting six months in advance.
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