St Mary’s Climb
There’s just no two ways about it: this is a pure, unadulterated climb. You start in Idaho Springs or at the foot of Fall River Rd and you climb for 10 miles until you reach the top and you turn around and come home. At the top there are no commercial attractions. No convenience stores. No espresso. Nada. But its a good climb, 10 or 12 miles and 2,700 feet, but even those stats don’t tell the whole truth, since like all good climbs St Mary’s starts off gently and builds to a couple of steep crescendos, where the slope jumps up into the high double digits.
Start in Idaho Springs, at the parking lot just beyond the Clear Creek Ranger Station on Chicago Creek Rd, or just off the Interstate in a small lot near exit 238. There’s water and restrooms at the Ranger Station, but they don’t want you to park long term there. Use the lot on the left just up the road to Mt. Evans. If you start in Idaho Springs, you’re required to ride on the Interstate shoulder for 2 miles and some find this objectionable. And don’t get fooled by the sweet looking frontage road on the south side of Clear Creek. The Stanley Rd looks like it should take you up river to Exit 238 but there’s no place to cross back over to the north bank until you get up into the Dumont area. If you’ve time at the end of your ride, however, cross over and ride a short ways up to admire the Stanley Mine, itself.
Fall River Rd is in pretty good shape and the views are fabulous. As you approach the top, you’ll be more or less surrounded by Alice, an unincorporated development of few homes but great hopes with a rich history of mining and skiing. St Mary’s Glacier Resort, whose remnants are still visible to your left as you top out, was an active ski area from the mid-30s to 1986. A recent dream to reopen it as a family-friendly area was dashed in 2010 when the Clear Creek Commissioners voted against it. On a busy weekend, you are likely to come across a number of people hiking into the glacier for some late- or early-season turns. At the end of the road is a small lake (Silver Lake), an even smaller condominium development, scattered houses, and still more tremendous views
to the north and west. It is a good spot for a bar and some water, before heading back down to Idaho Springs. Look to the Squaw Pass Loop description if you need some ideas on where to get a bite to eat in Idaho Springs.
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