Hiking Mount Bierstadt: Tips to Summit this Popular 14er
Mt Bierstadt is an extremely popular 14er close to Denver and other Front Range cities. Named after the famous painter Albert Bierstadt, its the Mt Bierstadt route up its West Slopes is an easy Class 2 Scramble. The trailhead is accessible to all vehicles, and can be reached within 90 minutes from Denver, which makes it a very busy peak.
If you want to avoid the biggest crowds, try going on a weekday, or during the fall when there are less people climbing. It’s also a great fourteener for winter ascents if you’re just starting out, as the Mt Bierstadt route is relatively easy, even with snow. Start planning your adventure hiking Mount Bierstadt with my route guide below.
Hiking Mount Bierstadt: Fast Facts
Hiking Mount Bierstadt - West Slopes Route
A word on parking – the Mt Bierstadt route is extremely busy, especially on weekends and summer months. Those hiking Mount Birstadt should aim to arrive before dawn if they want a parking spot at the pass. If the upper trailhead is full, you may need to park at a lower pull-off, adding miles and frustration to your start.
The start of the Mt Bierstadt route leaves the Guanella Trailhead along the well-groomed trail. Looking ahead, if there is enough light, you will be able to see the Sawtooth straight ahead and above of you. You’re hiking Mount Bierstadt, which is the tall peak to the right of this jagged ridge.
You’ll lose several hundred feet of elevation as you approach Scott Gomer Creek. There are great boardwalks to keep you out of mud, and you pass by good areas to see elk and moose by the lake. At the Creek crossing, use the rocks to cross and take your time… Take care as you cross to avoid getting wet shoes – no fun at all!
After the creek crossing, the Mt Bierstadt route gradually picks up elevation as you head towards a small rib – this is your route up to the broad, gentle west slope. The trail here gets more rocky and the elevation gain picks up considerably. Take breaks as necessary to catch your breath and take a drink of water, and admire the view as you climb higher.
Once up on the West Slopes, you begin to take a series of gentle switchbacks up the mountain. Be mindful of the trail – cutting the path leads to long-term damage. Look for the series of large poles installed by the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative along with the large cairns (rock piles) to stay on track. This is a good spot to stop for a break and check the weather before continuing hiking Mount Bierstadt.
This next part of the Mt Bierstadt route can feel monotonous and exhausting as the altitude really begins to sap your strength, but the summit is worth it!
Continue following the trail and cairns, switchbacking slightly and heading across the slopes. Reach the saddle below Mt. Bierstadt, and admire the view down into the gorge below from a distance. In early summer and spring, stay away from the snow cornice that forms along this ridge, as it can fail and take you with it.
After you reach this summit ridge, take a left straight up the hump of boulders lying in front of you. From here, you aren’t hiking Mount Bierstadt, so much as you’re climbing it. There are many different ways to scramble up this final section. You can look for cairns to mark trail segments that are easy, or create or own line for more of a challenge. There may be snow if you are climbing early in the year – avoid it if you can unless you have the right gear to handle it.
Once you reach the summit of Mount Bierstadt, enjoy your accomplishment! From the summit, you have views of Mount Evans across the valley, along with its observatory near the summit. You can see Grays and Torreys Peak to the East, Longs Peak to the North, and Pikes Peak to South. Enjoy a summit beer and a sandwich before taking the same route in reverse to descend. Be sure to be off the summit by noon during the summer to avoid afternoon thunderstorms, these are a serious risk during summer months.
No route guide is complete without a good topographical route map. If hiking Mount Bierstadt, I recommend downloading this map image on your phone to use, along with a backup printed paper version in case anything goes wrong with your electronics. A compass will also help you navigate and find your way.
Any time you plan to climb a 14er, it’s important to check multiple weather forecasts to plan ahead and prepare properly. Check the temperatures, precipitation, wind speed, and watch for major storm systems before or after your climb. Here are several good sources to use for weather checks before hiking Mount Bierstadt.
Hiking & climbing 14ers is an inherently high-risk activity – do so at your own risk, and use the following best practices to help keep yourself safe.
- Research your route and bring a compass & topographic map.
- Check the weather forecast and stay home during inclement weather.
- Bring the Ten Essentials and the knowledge/skill to use them.
- Leave your plans with someone back home along with a detailed itinerary.
- Start early, and end early: Be back at tree line by noon to avoid lightning.
- Bring a buddy on your first ascent, preferably someone experienced.
Hiking Mount Bierstadt and other mountains, scrambling and climbing up Colorado’s high peaks are inherently high-risk, dangerous activities. There is a significant risk of injury or death, even with proper planning and experience. Those using my guide accept all risks associated with climbing 14ers and do not hold this website or any information they obtain from it liable for any accidents or injuries that occur while engaging in these activities on Colorado’s high peaks. It is each hiker or climber’s responsibility to research their route carefully, bring the ten essentials, and practice other safe practices, though even these precautions do not eliminate risk and danger. Visit these summits at your own risk.