Mount Bierstadt (14,065ft.) is a 14er mountain located in Colorado’s Front Range, and more specifically within the Mount Evans Wilderness of Pike National Forest. Given its proximity to the Denver metro area and relatively easy accessibility from Guanella Pass, Mount Bierstadt is a massively popular mountain. Indeed, while Mount Bierstadt is the 38th tallest mountain in Colorado, it serves as an excellent introduction to hiking 14ers and is considered one of the easier 14er mountains.
The West Slopes route is the standard route to the summit of Mount Bierstadt and begins at the Guanella Pass Trailhead. The 3.6 mile route (7.2 mile roundtrip) to the peak follows a Class 1 trail, with a bit of Class 2 boulder scrambling near the summit. Starting at approximately 11,660ft. in elevation at the trailhead, the route gains about 2,405ft. to reach the summit. For those feeling ambitious, a popular option is to extend the outing and summit nearby Mount Evans as well.
HIKE REVIEW SERIES: Mount Bierstadt
Mount Bierstadt is named in honor of legendary American painter Albert Bierstadt, who is particularly renowned for his landscape artwork, some of which features beautiful Rocky Mountain scenery. As part of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, Mount Bierstadt resides within the Mount Evans Wilderness and the Pike National Forest. Only a short drive from the old silver mining town of Georgetown, the West Slopes route to Mount Bierstadt’s summit begins at the popular Guanella Pass. Given that Mount Bierstadt is roughly only 50 miles from the Denver metro corridor and sees extensive use in the prime summer months, expect lots of crowds. At 14,065ft., Mount Bierstadt holds the distinction of the 38th tallest mountain in Colorado and is a fantastic option as a beginner 14er hike.
- Summit Elevation: 14,065ft.
- Range: Front
- Sub-Range: Central Front
- Location: Mount Evans Wilderness
- Nearest Town: Georgetown
- Route: West Slopes
- Class: 2
- Type: Out-and-Back
- Trailhead: Guanella Pass
- Trailhead Elevation: 11,660ft.
- Route Length: 7.2 miles
- Elevation Gain: 2,405ft.
The trailhead for the West Slopes route to the summit of Mount Bierstadt is easily accessible and does not require a 4WD vehicle. The route begins at the Guanella Pass Trailhead off of Guanella Pass Road. The trailhead has a large parking area for about 75 vehicles, but given the close proximity to Denver, only very early arrivals are likely to secure a parking spot here. If the trailhead lot is full, park in the upper lot for Square Tops Lakes or along Guanella Pass Road.
The West Slopes route itself is very straightforward. An easy to follow trail begins at the trailhead and leads to just below the Mount Bierstadt summit. The beginning part of the hike starts along footbridges due to it being part of a marshy drainage area. Hike along the Class 1 Mount Bierstadt Trail throughout the ascent until reaching some relatively easy Class 2 scrambling to reach the summit.
- Step 1 - Begin at the Guanella Pass Trailhead, accessed from the main parking lot area off of Guanella Pass Road. From the parking area, start along the Mount Bierstadt Trail and enter the Mount Evans Wilderness.
- Step 2 - The Mount Bierstadt Trail heads straight through a beautiful alpine meadow, with excellent views of Mount Bierstadt and the Sawtooth ridge. Nicely constructed wooden footbridges line much of the initial section of the trail to avoid the marshlands as you hike through the willow carr towards Scott Gomer Creek.
- Step 3 - Pass Deadman’s Lake and reach the crossing of Scott Gomer Creek at about .8 miles into the hike. Cross the creek to continue the ascent through more willow thicket along the Mount Bierstadt Trail.
- Step 4 - As you continue the ascent up a series of switchbacks, turn around to enjoy the view of the alpine meadow you’ve hiked through thus far.
- Step 5 - At about 12,500ft., reach a nice resting area with a large rock pile. Here you’ll have excellent views of the Sawtooth ridge and the southward facing trail heading towards the summit of Mount Bierstadt.
- Step 6 - Round another corner on the well defined trail for about .5 miles before reaching rockier trail.
- Step 7 - The trail begins to become more rocky and snow/ice usually persist into the summer. Proceed with caution along the rocky trail and enjoy the spectacular views along the ascent.
- Step 8 - To reach the summit, proceed through the talus and boulders via some moderate and fun Class 2 scrambling up the summit ridge.
- Step 9 - Reach Mount Bierstadt’s summit at 14,065ft. Given Mount Bierstadt’s popularity, the summit can become very crowded during the summer months. The views to the west towards Guanella Pass are expansive and breathtaking.
- Step 10 - From the summit, you’ll have fantastic views of Mount Evans and Abyss Lake below.
- Step 11 - To the east, you’ll also have great views of Epaulet Mountain and Rosalie Peak.
- Step 12 - After taking in the views from the summit, scramble back down the ridge and head towards the defined trail from where you ascended. The descent will feature great views of the Sawtooth ridge.
- Step 13 - Head back through the willow thicket, crossing Scott Gomer Creek once again, and traverse the footbridges.
- Step 14 - The overall return trip back to the Guanella Pass Trailhead from the Mount Bierstadt summit is 3.6 miles. End back at the trailhead’s main parking area and relish the accomplishment of climbing the 38th tallest peak in Colorado.
From I-70, take exit 228 for Georgetown. Turn left onto 15th St., heading towards the traffic circle with the Circle K gas station on the left and the Georgetown Gateway Visitor Center on the right. Head straight through the traffic circle to stay on 15th St. (2nd exit) and make a right turn onto Rose St. Drive through Georgetown on Rose St. for about .8 miles, then make a left onto Second St., which turns into Guanella Pass Road. Begin a steep drive towards Guanella Pass and in about ten miles, reach the Guanella Pass Trailhead parking area on the left.
Parking for about 75 vehicles is available within the main parking area for the Guanella Pass Trailhead, located off of Guanella Pass Road. Another upper lot for Square Tops Lakes is nearby and can accommodate around 50+ vehicles.
Of course, given Mount Bierstadt’s proximity to the Denver metropolitan area, in addition to it being one of the easier 14ers, parking spaces here are hot commodities. Only the earliest arrivals will likely snag spots in the parking areas. An alternative is to park along Guanella Pass Road; but, even these spots can fill quickly during peak months. As with all 14er hikes, we recommend an early arrival to secure a decent parking spot.
There are a number of nearby campground options within reasonable proximity to the Guanella Pass Trailhead. As with all campgrounds near 14er trailheads, they usually fill quickly, so try to reserve in advance.
- Guanella Pass Campground is very close to the Mount Bierstadt trailhead and is passed along the drive from Georgetown to the parking area. With 18 sites, some of which are reservable in advance, the Guanella Pass Campground is extremely convenient. Campsites are $21.00 per night.
- Clear Lake Campground is a first-come, first-served campground and is not reservable in advance. Located close to Georgetown and passed along the way to Guanella Pass, the campground has 8 campsites and costs $19.00 per night.
- Burning Bear Campground is closer to US Highway 285, near Grant, CO. The campground has 13 campsites and costs $22.00 per night.
- Geneva Park Campground is also closer to US Highway 285, near Grant, CO. This is a much larger campground with 26 campsites, each at $22.00 per night.
Dogs are permitted on leash. Note that the last portion of the hike, which requires a scramble to the summit, could pose challenges for some dogs. Also, during peak hiking months, the trail to Mount Bierstadt’s summit can be extremely crowded. For these reasons, we do not advise bringing your pet. However, if you do opt to bring your pet, please abide by leash regulations.
Always check the weather forecast before venturing into alpine country. Even though Mount Bierstadt is considered one of the easier 14er mountains, thunderstorms and lightning are frequent occurrences here during the summer time. Plan ahead and if the weather does not look ideal, try your 14er summit adventure for another day. Safety first!
RECOMMENDED HIKING APPAREL AND GEAR
In our opinion, the best guidebook for information on Colorado’s 14er mountains is Gerry Roach’s Colorado’s Fourteeners: From Hikes to Climbs. All other guidebooks pale in comparison. Thus, this book will suit you well for hiking Mount Bierstadt, and come in handy for any future 14er adventures.
Although the West Slopes route to Mount Bierstadt is very straightforward, we always recommend carrying a map such as the Mount Evans Wilderness – Colorado Topographic Hiking Map from Outdoor Trail Maps. In addition, we included a couple of our favorite field guides for plant and bird identification. These guides provide useful information that adds to the outdoors experience and help answer questions about animal and flower species.
- Colorado’s Fourteeners: From Hikes to Climbs
- The Complete Guide to Colorado’s Wilderness Areas
- Mount Evans Wilderness – Colorado Topographic Hiking Map
- Rocky Mountain Wildflowers Field Guide
- Sibley Birds West: Field Guide to Birds of Western North America
- American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of Colorado
- Mammals of Colorado Field Guide
- Roadside Geology of Colorado
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