A vacation to any city in Colorado provides endless options for outdoor fun during a stay. We learned that first-hand last summer when we visited Fort Collins, Colorado. My brother and my sister-in-law relocated there a few years ago and had invited us to visit. We enjoyed our time together so much that we planned to return again this August to explore more of the beautiful state they now call home.
I love traveling with my husband, my daughters, and my extended family. When you travel with a group, you look forward to it because you can engage with each other and be present, without all the distractions of social media or streaming media of any kind. It’s a time when the only thing on the agenda is to reconnect, laugh, and explore (especially when you go for a hike and the internet is unreliable).
A vacation means a change in routine, a chance to get out of familiar surroundings and experience someplace new. It’s a bonding experience, especially when you face a challenge together. Don’t get me wrong, I love relaxing on a beach or by a pool but sometimes my family wants to plan an active get-a-way. One of my favorite sayings is, “Feel the fear and do it anyway!” I often encourage my kids to go outside of their comfort zones and try something they’ve never tried before, and that saying rings true for me too. This trip we decided to plan several day hikes right around the Denver area. The plan was put into motion on our first morning. We started by trekking up to Saint Mary’s Glacier in Arapaho National Forest.
The trip from Denver took about an hour and was a lovely way to escape the summer heat because the snowpack above Saint Mary’s Lake is present all year. The website recommended that hikers take care during the winter months because of the threat of avalanches, but in the summer, it’s rated as a moderate day hike. The trail is 1.5 miles round trip up to the glacier and you can either follow the trail just to the lake or head the rest of the way up to the glacier. The trail is easy to follow at first, but once you get to the lake, the path is not well-marked. If you’re determined to get up to and onto the glacier, you can figure it out, just wear shoes with a good tread and take a few friends along. We discovered that when you take on a trek as a group, you take care of each other and look out for each other to make sure you all accomplish the goal. In a way that makes the triumph of getting to your destination so sweet.
Thank goodness we were prepared. We dressed in layers, brought plenty of water, snacks, and walking sticks. The sticks came in handy as first part of the trail was extremely rocky. It was also hot that day at the base, so we peeled the layers off immediately. We took frequent breaks for water, and while my daughters were adept at climbing the boulders and navigating the rocky terrain, the adults took frequent breaks to catch our collective breath. The elevation was about 12,000 feet to the glacier, and even though the trail was steep at the start, we were determined to reach the top.
When we arrived at Saint Mary’s Lake, we were blown away by the beauty of the surroundings. We could see the Rocky Mountains to the west and the beautiful reflection of the glacier on the water. That view was the payoff for all the hard work. Sure it was a bit daunting to scramble up the arduous incline at first, but how else would you get to see all this gorgeous scenery? We couldn’t wait to reach the glacier and take in the panorama of the area. We trekked up to the snowpack and tossed snowballs at each other, laughing hysterically when the icy crystals hit our bodies. We admired the vibrant deep yellow and purple mountain flowers that sprang up along the tiny, winding creek that led us up to the top. We sat nearby the water and listened to the trickling sound the melting snow made as it dripped off the glacier. We even put our hands in to determine how cold the stream felt. FYI, it’s freezing. We took the time to appreciate the splendor and settle into the experience with no desire to rush back to the trailhead.
After nibbling on our snacks and snapping a few amazing photos, we began the slow decline back down the trail (which was a breeze compared to the incline at the start). We all agreed that our afternoon was one for the memory books and I felt grateful that I was able to share it with my favorite people. The moderate hike also gave us the courage to plan the next day’s adventure, hitting a more challenging trail in Rocky Mountain National Park.