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.

NEW TO 14ERS? CHECK OUT MY BEGINNERS GUIDE FOR A SAFE FIRST SUMMIT!

Hiking Mount Bierstadt: Facts 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!

RELATED READ: PREPARING FOR A 14ER CLIMB LIKE AN EAGLE SCOUT

Mt Bierstadt Standard Route Guide

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.

Mt Bierstadt Standard Route Guide

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!

RELATED READ: CLIMBING MT BIERSTADT IN WINTER

Mt Bierstadt Standard Route Guide

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.

Mt Bierstadt Standard Route Guide

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. 

I hope my route guide was helpful and informative for those hiking Mount Biersadt. Looking for more info on this route? Visit 14ers.com or summitpost.com.

RELATED READ: WE SCREWED UP SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO – 10 TIPS FROM 14ER VETERANS

Mt Bierstadt Standard Route Guide

No route guide is complete without a good topographical route map. If you plan on 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.

Mountain Forecast for Mt Bierstadt

You can also use the NOAA website below to view the location-specific forecast for hiking Mount Bierstadt – just scroll further below.

Bringing the right gear you will make your hike safer and more it more likely you reach the summit successfully. Here is what. I recommend bringing with you while hiking Mount Bierstadt.

Hiking Boots: Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid GORE-TEX Boots

Power through uphills and descents in any weather with Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid GORE-TEX men’s hiking boots. They give you the stability and grip you need, plus a higher cut for extra ankle support.

Buy at REI 

Backpack: Osprey Talon 22 Pack

The Osprey Talon 22 is the perfect size for those hiking Mount Bierstadt. With trek pole clasps to secure them to your pack, a pocket for your hydration bladder, and great comfort, you cannot beat this backpack.

Buy at REI →

Trek Poles: REI Co-op Traverse Trekking Poles

Trek poles provide stability while hiking and help you use your upper body strength while moving to give your legs a break. These award-winning poles from REI are lightweight, strong, and adjustable for rugged terrain.

Buy at REI →

Always Pack the Ten Essentials

The ten essentials are the most important pieces of gear you need to survive in an emergency in the backcountry. They empower you to actively respond to a crisis instead of passively waiting for search and rescue to respond. You should tweak the specific equipment you bring on each hike according to conditions, but you should always have something for each of these ten categories.

1. Navigation Gear
I recommend bringing a map and compass. If you want to use GPS, get a dedicated unit. Phone batteries die quickly in the cold on a 14er. This 14er map pack works well for hiking Mount Bierstadt.

2. Headlamp and Batteries
Even if you don’t plan to be out until dark, you can’t plan for everything. If you’re running behind, having the ability to see – and be seen – is everything. I recommend this headlamp from Black Diamond.

3. Emergency Shelter
When bad weather strikes without warning or someone falls and is injured, a shelter to get out of the elements can save your life. This emergency bivy works well for an easier peak like Mount Bierstadt.

4. Extra Water
Bring 2 liters of water per person on your hike – if not more. You also want to bring a purification system to get more if you get stuck outside. That could be purification pills like these, or a lifestraw like this.

5. Extra Food
I recommend packing 1,000-2,000 extra calories while hiking Mount Bierstadt. If you do get stuck out there longer than expected, some extra power gel or energy bars will make a big difference.

6. Knife or Multi-tool
The benefits of having this around in an emergency are self-evident: You can prepare firewood, create a shelter, fix gear, and solve other problems. I recommend a leatherman multitool, which is so much more helpful than just a knife.

7. Sunglasses and Sunscreen
The solar radiation is powerful when you are above the tree line. Bringing strong sunscren (60+ SPF) is recommended to avoid sunburn. Bring a pair of polarized sunglasses to protect your eyes too.

8. Fire-Starting Kit
If you get stuck outdoors in the mountains, the cold is one of the biggest immediate threats to your life. Being able to start a fire can keep you alive through a cold night. Bring a small kit like this that includes matches and tinder for starting an emergency fire.

9. First Aid Kit
For hiking Mount Bierstadt you don’t need to go overboard. Some bandages, moleskin, and pain relief medication is more than enough to deal with falls and scrapes, blisters, and altitude sickness. 

10. Extra Layers
Bring one layer beyond what you expect to wear. In summer, that usually means bringing an extra coat or jacket you keep packed away in your bag. If you end up stuck outside overnight with a broken ankle, you will very happy you brought it with. These nanopuff jackets from Patagonia are lightweight but provide a ton of warmth.

Satellite Messenger/SOS Device: Blank

When something goes wrong out on the trail, it is immensely helpful to be able to contact search and rescue teams quickly. Most areas of Mount Bierstadt do not have dependable cell service. A satellite messenger or personal locator beacon allows you to call for help in an emergency in almost any location. They are expensive and require a subscription, but they have saved many lives on peaks like Mount Bierstadt.

I recommend the Garmin InReach Mini 2, with also offers premium GPS mapping in addition to text and SOS features.

Buy at REI →

Camping near Mount Bierstadt:

There are also many dispersed camping opportunities along forest roads near the trailhead ideal for those hiking Mount Bierstadt. Learn more about dispersed camping near 14ers here.

Lodging near Mount Bierstadt:

There are many cabins available via Airbnb and other services in Silver Plume and Georgetown, perfect for those hiking Mount Bierstadt.

The Mount Bierstadt area continues to become more popular in Colorado, with increasing impact on its slopes each year. Be sure to follow Leave No Trace outdoor ethics while hiking Mount Bierstadt. This includes:

  • Plan ahead, review the route and pick a weekday or day in September to hike.
  • Stay on the trail, and keep dogs leashed on and off-trail to reduce trampling of alpine grass.
  • Leave your Bluetooth speaker at home and let nature’s sound reign.
  • Urinate off trail, and pack out your waste – a cathole won’t work at high altitude.
  • Give wildlife a wide berth – 100 meters if possible. If they approach, back up to keep space.
  • Take nothing but pictures, and leave nothing but footprints.

Safe travels, and good luck hiking Mount Bierstadt!

Mount Bierstadt is named after Albert Bierstadt, a famous landscape painter after he climbed it in 1863, the first recorded ascent. However, it is likely native Americans have been ascending and hiking Mount Bierstadt for hundreds, if not thousands of years.

Mount Bierstadt is one of the busiest fourteeners in Colorado, with thousands hiking Mount Bierstadt every summer. This popularity, due to the peak’s proximity to Denver, accessible trailhead, and easy route, is increasing each year. The 14er is typically climbed in summer via the West Slopes, a class 2 route. It can also be climbed from Mount Evans via class 3 routes along its east ridge or the Sawtooth. 

During winter months, the Guanella Pass area closes, adding around 1 mile to the climb up Mount Bierstadt. Even with this extra distance, hiking Mount Bierstadt remains one of the best winter 14er adventures for beginners. Be sure you plan ahead and bring the right gear if attempting a winter ascent. With nearly empty trails during winter months, this may be the best time of year for hiking Mount Bierstadt, if you’re prepared.

With use continuing to grow in the area, the Forest Service is considering new use restrictions or policies. Help manage the impact in the short term by hiking Mount Bierstadt on non-peak visit days, and by following Leave No Trace ethics when you visit.

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.

  1. Research your route and bring a compass & topographic map.
  2. Check the weather forecast and stay home during inclement weather.
  3. Bring the Ten Essentials and the knowledge/skill to use them.
  4. Leave your plans with someone back home along with a detailed itinerary.
  5. Start early, and end early: Be back at tree line by noon to avoid lightning.
  6. Bring a buddy on your first ascent, preferably someone experienced.

NEW TO 14ERS? CHECK OUT MY BEGINNERS GUIDE FOR A SAFE FIRST SUMMIT!

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.

Alex Derr, Creator of The Next Summit

Alex is an Eagle Scout, climber, and environmental policy expert located in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. Follow him on Linkedin or Twitter or click here to contact him.

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