Time is running out to see Colorado’s year-round alpine glaciers before they recede into extinction — which is, in some cases, a couple decades off, according to a study from the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research.
In the Ice Age, glaciers carved much of Colorado’s alpine landscape. Wide mountain valleys — now dotted with towns and zig-zagged by hiking trails — are glacial byproducts of millennia past. But these days, only 14 tiny scraps of moving ice are left.
Many are nestled under peaks where the sun can’t heat them up and melt their surfaces, their shadowy locations also making them hard to reach, said Tad Pfeffer, one of the authors of the glacier study. Late summer is the best time to see the remaining ones before they’re surrounded by snow.
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Arapaho and Arikaree glaciers:
The Arapaho Glacier once fed the city of Boulder’s water needs: In the late 1920s, the city bought it from the federal government to secure its water supply. Although the glacier and surrounding watershed are closed to the public, the trail leads to an overlook with a view of the glacier, watershed and city below.
The Arikaree is likely to melt in fewer than 20 years, Pfeffer said. But before it goes, you can still see it from the Arapaho Glacier Trail. At the glacier overlook, the last little bit of moving ice is nestled just to the north of the Arapaho Glacier, to the right when facing the glaciers from the lookout at treeline.
The Arapaho Glacier Trailhead is located near Rainbow Lakes Campground on County Road 116. It’s a 12-mile round-trip hike to the overlook of the glaciers and gains 2,700 feet in elevation. The hike is rated as moderate by the U.S. Forest Service.
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