Hike 14er Mount Bierstadt
Colorado › Mount Bierstadt
Added by Amy Kesic
Mount Bierstadt is a great 14'er to get you started on. Enjoy amazing views of wildflowers and other Front Range 14'ers.
If you’re ready to lose your 14er virginity, Mount Bierstadt holds a reputation for a great “starter” 14er. Of course, experienced climbers will enjoy this (relatively speaking) easy mountain as well. Besides the joy of the hike itself, Bierstadt is a stunning wildflower hike in July and August. Thanks to an expansive valley floor, views of the surrounding peaks (including other Front Range 14ers Torreys Peak, Grays Peak, Mt. Evans) and lush valley are a constant source of eye candy as well.
Part of Bierstadt’s popularity derives from its easy access from Denver. The trailhead is about 1 hour, 15 minutes from Denver on all paved roads.
This Class 2 mountain tops out at 14,060 feet. The trailhead sits at 11,600 feet and dips down before going up, for an elevation gain of about 2850 feet. The hike is 7 miles round-trip.
The hike starts out easy, dipping down from the parking lot into the wet, marshy valley floor. Here you’ll pass a small, crystalline lake, and a little further on, a creek. In flower season, you’ll also enjoy quite a few flowers near the trailhead.
On the upslope, you’ll pass through a shrubby area (there are few, if any, trees in the area) where you may catch sight of little critters and songbirds. Peer into the shrubbery—you may find a hidden columbine or two!
Once you pass the shrubs, you are above the tree line…and this is the most beautiful part of the hike! In flower season, the mountainside is carpeted with a variety of wildflowers. The higher you get, the more of the surrounding peaks you can see. Torreys Peak (14,267 feet) is the most prominently visible mountain.
Nearing the top, the terrain becomes trickier to navigate. It’s both steeper and stonier with frequent switchbacks, and most hikers take the opportunity for a respite on the rock outcroppings. As you near the summit, Bierstadt earns its Class 2 rating by becoming a series of rocks and boulders to navigate. Wearing a pair of gloves will keep your hands from getting skinned up by the rough rock. Enjoy the view of neighboring 14er, Mount Evans, and the Front Range from the summit!
Good news: it’s all downhill from here. On your way down, take your time to enjoy the scenery. I found that as the day progressed, more wildflowers showed themselves, making the views even better going down than going up.
Mount Evans lies to the east via The Sawtooth. This is a Class 3 scramble and should only be attempted by experienced climbers. The Sawtooth is NOT dog or child friendly.
- No 14er is “easy,” though some are easier than others. Proper physical conditioning, gear, food and water are critical to your enjoyment and success. Do your research and be prepared.
- This is a popular trail; if you are looking for solitude, this may not be the hike for you! However, if you arrive early (by 7:00 am), you will avoid most of the crowding.
- Afternoon thunderstorms are common in Colorado and this hike is exposed. To avoid being caught in a dangerous weather situation, plan to finish your hike by early afternoon.
- Hiking on the weekend? Plan for delays on westbound I-70 due to construction at Idaho Springs and heavy traffic.
NOTE: Guanella Pass is closed in winter.
From I-70, take Exit 228 (Georgetown). Turn left on 15th St; at the roundabout, take the first exit onto Argentine St. Follow the signs for Guanella Pass. (Left onto 6th St; Right onto Rose St; Left onto 2nd St; continue onto Guanella Pass Rd.) Continue for 6.9 miles to Guanella Pass Summit. Park in the parking area on your left.
- Plenty of food and water
- Light jacket
- Lip balm
- Hat with visor or brim
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Try to avoid the crowds
Hiking Bierstadt is an accessible and beautiful 14er on a nice day. Be sure to get an early start to avoid any afternoon thunderstorms. Also shoot for a weekday, where the crowds will be more reasonable. On a a weekend the trail can see up to 1000 visitors, which can diminish the experience. Keep your eyes out for marmots and pikas near the top!
Great Hike, Too Many People
This was my first 14er, and a good work out it was. Had excellent views and mainly had the trail to myself on the ascent. Got to the trail head around 0445 Sunday morning. Already saw headlamps making their way up to the summit. Started hiking just after 0500 and made the summit around 0800. Had a few minutes to relax with a few folks at the summit just before a slew of people started making their way up as well. Got crowded quickly. There was a fair amount of trash on the summit and along the trail, mainly water bottles and food wrappers, which I picked up. However, the dirty toilet paper and bags of dog crap weren't coming with me. If you feel the need to push your dog through any hike, pleas take its waste with you or just leave it there sans bag. I'd rather see a pile pop that a bag of poo just left there. There also seems to be a lack of trail etiquette, if you need to take a rest, the rocks in the middle of the trail are not the place.
Great First 14er
I loved this hike! The views were amazing in all directions and the weather was so nice at the top that we were able to hang out there for a while. I would get there as early as you can to beat the crowds, even on a weekday the overflow cars went up the road about a quarter of a mile!
Being one of the closer and easier 14ers to Denver, be prepared to fight the crowds on the trail. Be sure to arrive early and plan on submitting before noon. Don't take chances with the weather, if things are looking bad then turn around and get below treeline as soon as possible. And as always, bring plenty of water and sunscreen!
Added by Amy Kesic
A mom who decided to get fit a few years ago, I took up running and hiking to keep myself moving. Since moving to the Front Range foothills a year ago, I've spent my free time discovering all the trails I possibly can. I'm in love with Colorado and the Rocky Mountains; I also like to take pictures, and I share my adventures here on The Outbound and on Instagram at @run2themountains.Follow
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