Andrews Tarn and Andrews Glacier, Glacier Gorge Trailhead, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Andrews Tarn and Andrews Glacier - 9.3 miles

Glacier Gorge Trailhead

Andrews Tarn, Andrews Glacier and the Continental Divide

Andrews Tarn, Andrews Glacier and the Continental Divide

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Round-Trip Length: 9.3 miles (add an additional .5 miles roundtrip to base of glacier)
Start-End Elevation: 9,240' - 11,390' (11,390' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +2,150' net elevation gain (+2,405' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate-Strenuous
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

Andrews Tarn and Andrews Glacier - 9.3 Miles Round-Trip

Andrews Tarn lies at the base of Andrews Glacier, one of Rocky Mountain National Park's largest, most active and accessible glaciers. The hike to Andrews Tarn leads past Loch Vale and scales a steep ridge into an adjacent valley capped by Andrews Glacier:

Trail Map | Photo Galleries

The Loch Vale Trail rises over Glacier Creek through young aspen to Alberta Falls (.85 miles : 9,423'). It continues to the North Longs Peak Trail split (1.6 miles : 9,768'), where it banks SW and flattens through a gap between Thatchtop Mountain (12,668') and the Glacier Knobs.

The trail drops to Glacier Junction (2.1 miles : 9,804'), a point marking the convergence of two immense glacial valleys. Follow signs to The Loch. The trail levels over Icy Brook, then steepens away on switchbacks into a thick forest (2.5 miles : 9,985').

The valley opens dramatically upon reaching The Loch (2.95 miles : 10,192'), where the main trail veers right up its north shore.

The trail follows the shore back into the forest (3.3 miles : 10,215'), and the inlet to a pair of footbridges over Andrews Creek at the Sky Pond - Andrews Glacier Trail split (3.65 miles : 10,379').

Though well-marked, the Andrews Glacier Trail is not immediately visible from the signpost itself; to find it, backtrack several steps and look north up a rock slab. The trail picks up just above the rock slab and runs up the west side of Andrews Creek.

The climb intensifies on a rugged, sparingly-defined path obstructed by dead fall and lingering snow. Remain vigilant to the Andrews Creek Campground (3.85 miles : 10,560'), where the trail bends northwest through treeline to a crest overlooking the Andrews Glacier valley.

The trail crosses Andrews Creek (4.0 miles : 10,680') to the valley's north side and begins an arduous trek over scree and talus. Cairns offer guidance, but are fairly anonymous in the rocky landscape. Take your time through this uneven section. The valley narrows as you progress with emerging views of the Sharkstooth and snow fingers within The Gash.

The trail reaches a small glacier in the valley center and crosses back over Andrews Creek to the south side (4.45 miles : 11,137'). This is a critical maneuver, as travel up or north of this glacier requires technical equipment.

Follow cairns over the creek and make one final, steep push to Andrews Tarn (4.65 miles : 11,390'). A social trail wraps the yarn's south side to the base of Andrews Glacier (4.85 miles).

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Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

View Interactive Google Map

  • N40 18.621 W105 38.419 — Glacier Gorge Trailhead
  • N40 18.237 W105 38.289 — .85 miles : Alberta Falls
  • N40 17.982 W105 38.391 — 1.6 miles : North Longs Peak Trail junction
  • N40 17.842 W105 38.757 — 2.1 miles : Glacier Gorge Junction
  • N40 17.664 W105 39.049 — 2.5 miles : Begin final switchbacks to reach The Loch
  • N40 17.639 W105 39.270 — 2.95 miles : The Loch
  • N40 17.278 W105 39.856 — 3.65 miles : Andrews Glacier Trail junction
  • N40 17.393 W105 39.938 — 3.85 miles : Andrews Creek Campground spur
  • N40 17.376 W105 40.221 — 4.05 miles : Cross Andrews Creek #1
  • N40 17.386 W105 40.428 — 4.15 miles : Travel through cairn -marked talus
  • N40 17.355 W105 40.613 — 4.45 miles : Cross Andrews Creek #1
  • N40 17.315 W105 40.700 — 4.65 miles : Andrews Tarn

Worth Noting

  • Arrive early to secure parking, avoid crowds and afternoon thunderstorms. Anticipate steep, rugged trail conditions on the last mile, and plan travel time accordingly. Be mindful of changing weather and aim for treeline before storms develop.

  • Andrews Glacier is also accessible from an unmaintained route along the Continental Divide. From the Bear Lake Trailhead, summit Flattop Mountain and continue south past Otis Peak along the divide. You may descend Andrews Glacier and return to the Glacier Gorge Lake Trailhead via the trail described above. A .5 mile spur connects the Loch Vale Trail with the Bear Lake Trailhead to complete the loop. Only skilled and equipped hikers should attempt this route.

  • The Sharkstooth and The Gash - part of the valley wall separating Andrews Glacier from Sky Pond - are named so for the multiple needle-like rock spires that resemble a row of shark's teeth.

  • Andrews Glacier and Tarn are named after Edwin B. Andrews, a relative of Abner Sprague (an early Park settler and advocate). The two men climbed the glacier in 1897, and Sprague named it for Andrews.

Camping and Backpacking Information

    Andrews Creek Backcountry Campsite
  • There is only one designated site and one privy at the Andrews Creek Campsite. A maximum of two 4-person tents are allowed.

  • The site is located at 10,560' in a spruce-fir stand beside avalanche debris on the east side of Andrews Creek, about .2 miles from the Sky Pond - Andrews Glacier split (3.8 miles from the Glacier Gorge Trailhead).

  • Near the site is a large area of trees downed by an avalanche in the winter of 1985-86. A wood sign indicates the path to the site from the Andrews Glacier Trail; the path is marked by red arrowheads on trees. Pitch tent(s) as close to the indicated site as possible, safely away from standing dead trees.

Rules and Regulations

  • Horses and stock are not permitted beyond Glacier Junction.

Directions to Trailhead

Andrews Tarn and Andrews Glacier are accessed from the Glacier Gorge Trailhead, 8.4 miles from the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station on Bear Lake Road.

Just beyond the Beaver Meadows entrance station, turn left onto Bear Lake Road. The Glacier Gorge Trailhead is located on the left side of the road and has limited parking. Additional parking and alternative access can be found at the Bear Lake Trailhead. This will add an additional 1 mile roundtrip to the hike.

Contact Information

Rocky Mountain National Park
Visitor Information:
970.586.1206

Backcountry Office:
970.586.1242

Campground Reservations:
800.365.2267

Emergency Dispatch:
970.586.1203

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.



Comments

"The trail from Glacier Gorge is well traveled. We found it clear and mostly dry as we started off early, about 8a.m. We did not start to see snow until well after we passed Alberta Falls on the approach to the Loch. Once at the Loch, we found complete snow cover. We were able to follow footprints up until the split to Glass Lake and Sky Pond, but from there the trail disappeared, We used trail tape to mark our way back. Crampons and poles were absolutely necessary,as well as clothing for extreme weather (we got snow/sleet/rain). We never did make it to the tarn as we turned back just short of the final ascent due to the thunder and lightening. You need to be very aware that snow is covering running water. "
Fred and Dee  -  Colorado  -  Date Posted: June 16, 2014
"First off, let me say that I have experience in the Rocky Mountain wilderness (even though I reside in the flatlands of Nebraska) -- I've climbed 40 of Colorado's 14ers; I attempt at least 3-4/yearly if not more. I have to say that the hike to Andrew's Glacier up Flat Top Mountain from Bear Lake is Top 3 of all of my hikes/adventures in the World! Myself and my hiking partner attempted to descend Andrew's Glacier a couple weeks ago (08-Sep-2012). From the top of the glacier we could see 3 very visible, very large crevasses crossing the full expanse of the glacier from east to west. Upon our descent we encountered the first crevasse no more than 20-ft from the top edge of the glacier/scree-field. (Photos from last year indicate that Andrew's has lost nearly 1/3 of its mass.) The first crevasse that we encountered we attempted to cross; but upon testing the stability of snow pack on the other side (by tossing a moderate sized rock on it), the area where we were going to step over to crumbled under the impact of the rock and a school-bus-sized hunk of snow/ice broke off and plummeted into the unknown. We then spent a few minutes collecting ourselves after our hearts just about exploded out of our chests. We dropped a few rocks into the crevasse to see how deep it was and much to our dismay we never heard a resounding noise echo back to us. Just a deep, black void. We decided to turn back and climb back up the scree field at the top edge of the glacier instead of descending and continuing our route back around to Nymph Lake & Alberta Falls. We did meet a man on our bushwack from Otis Peak to Andrew's Glacier who said he had just come up Andrew's Glacier. He wasn't wearing much; just shorts & a t-shirt w/ running shoes and a minimal Camelbak (no pack, no hiking gear, etc.). We're not exactly sure how he did it -- but he did say, "I'm really glad to have my feet on solid ground again." No idea what that meant until after our near-death experience on the glacier. We are returning next weekend to repeat our hike. This time we'll hike to Andrew's Tarn and perhaps attempt an ascent to the top of the glacier... We'll see! My assumption is that the later in the seasons (summer/early fall) that you visit Andrew's, the more prevelant the dangers of crevasses will present themselves ... Of course, this makes sense with heat expanding the ice and causing the huge cracks to open up; plus the severe negative effect of Andrew's Glacier (hence Andrew's Tarn) ... There won't be many more years that you'll have to enjoy this ancient marvel."
Jake Fisher  -  Lincoln, NE  -  Date Posted: September 26, 2012
"Have climbed Andrews glacier twice non-technical. The mid-center of the glacier has an ice hump that you want to avoid. Looking at the glacier, you want to trek along the left, or south I believe, side of the glacier up to the marker post. In general, this side of the glacier is soft enough to gain foothold. There is a trail leading from Otis to Andrews pass (and from Otis to Hallett) that is alternately good & flat, or else a non-descript boulder hop in the general direction of where you want to go. Weather on the glacier is pleasant, but lots of wind chill at the tarn, which disappears below on the scramble down."
scope  -  United States  -  Date Posted: August 15, 2012
"This is a great hike, but the final half-mile across talus and scree can be arduous. There are numerous possible routes across the talus, and a seemingly endless number of 'cairn-like objects' that can easily lead one astray. If you lose the main trail just keep working your way up the valley toward the base of the lower glacier - the trail up the final pitch parallels the south side of the glacier (and is very steep). Once you crest you'll be rewarded with a great view of a vanishing species - the north american glacier."
 -   -  Date Posted: July 22, 2012
"Thanks Dave!"
 -   -  Date Posted: July 10, 2012
"The descent down Andrews Glacier from Otis Peak is possible without technical skills or equipment, but can be dangerous. We can't advise a route, but strongly suggest contacting the Park for the best and latest insight. Cornices and pitch can be challenging, and crevices pose the greatest danger. I've seen people do it, but assume the conditions must be right for a safe descent. The hike to Andrews Glacier is fantastic, and worth the trip whether or not you scale the glacier."
Dave  -   -  Date Posted: July 10, 2012
"Haven't actually hiked this one. Wondering how easy it is, having climbed Otis Peak, to connect with Andrews Glacier Trail. Is it best to descend to to the trail north or south of the glacier and is it terribly treacherous?"
 -   -  Date Posted: July 10, 2012

 

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