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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 hike.

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.

Mount Bierstadt Route Details

TAKE CARE & STAY SAFE!

You are responsible for your own safety in the backcountry.

These peaks can be unpredictable and dangerous. Help is often hours or days away: your safety is primarily your responsibility. Prepare for your trek, understand your limits, be aware of the risks, and equip yourself with the necessary skills and gear. 

Hiking Mount Bierstadt - West Slopes Route

First time planning a 14er hike or climb? Start by reading the route description and reviewing the route map. You should use the weather forecasts to plan, along with my gear recommendations. Check the Trailhead info to ensure you know how to get there and have an appropriate vehicle. Stay nearby at one of the camping or lodging options below to acclimatize before your climb and reduce your risk of altitude sickness. Lastly, refresh your Leave No Trace and mountain safety knowledge to protect the peaks and yourself.

There is additional information about the peak, local regulations, plus additional resources and a frequently asked question section. Have a question? Leave a comment at the bottom of the route guide and we’ll reply ASAP with an answer. Cheers!

Route Description

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.

Route Maps

Route Map

This map shows the route and elevation using topographic contour lines. I recommend saving it on your phone and bringing a backup paper copy.

Elevation Profile

This elevation profile shows the amount of elevation gain and loss as you ascend to and descend from the summit of Mount Bierstadt.

Mt Bierstadt Elevation Profile

Route Photos

These photos show the west slope route for hiking Mount Bierstadt. Click an image to view it full screen. I recommend saving them on your phone so you have them with you in the field.

Current Conditions

Conditions at Mt Bierstadt vary dramatically throughout the year. Use the sources below to check for recent condition updates or post a request for an update from other climbers.

In the world of climbing, current condition information is called “Beta.”

Where to Find Condition Reports (Beta)

Each of these websites allows users to post condition or trip reports with photos and descriptions of what they experienced while hiking Mt Bierstadt. Check them all before you start making posts asking about conditions or you may get scolded on accident.

Where to Ask About Recent Conditions (Beta)

If you cannot find any recent condition or trip reports for Mt Bierstadt using any of the website above, you can try posting on one of the social media groups or forums below to ask if anyone has been near the peak recently and can share some beta.

Weather Forecast

The National Weather Service forecast below for Mt Bierstadt provides everything you need to know to plan ahead for your climb. Additional weather forecast resources include Open Summit and Mountain Forecast.

Guanella Pass Trailhead

The Guanella Pass trailhead is located south of Georgetown, reached via County Route 62. The pass closes each year from late November through late May. Check the current pass status on the Clear Creek County website.

There is a large parking lot and pit toilet at the trailhead. However, parking routinely fills completely during busy summer weekends. Arrive by 5 a.m. if you want to be sure you will secure a spot in July and August.

If you arrive and the lot is full, try parking at the Square Top Mountain Trailhead across the street, which usually remains relatively empty.

Directions to Guanella Pass from I-70:

Starting from I-70 West:

  • Take exit 228 for Georgetown.
  • Turn left onto Argentine Street.
  • Continue straight to stay on Argentine Street.
  • Turn right onto 15th Street.
  • Continue onto Guanella Pass Road.
  • Follow Guanella Pass Road for approximately 11.5 miles until you reach the summit of Guanella Pass.

Directions to Guanella Pass from Highway 285:

Starting from Highway 285 South:

  • Head south on US-285.
  • Take the exit toward Grant.
  • Turn right onto County Road 62/Guanella Pass Road.
  • Stay on Guanella Pass Road for approximately 22 miles until you reach the summit of Guanella Pass.

Travel Safety Information

Please note that Guanella Pass Road is a scenic mountain road that can be narrow and winding in places. The road conditions can vary greatly with the weather, and it is typically closed in winter due to snow.

Always check current road conditions before your trip, especially if you’re traveling in the shoulder seasons. Also, be prepared for potential high-altitude weather conditions and carry appropriate supplies and clothing.

14er Gear List

Climbing any of Colorado’s 14ers requires careful preparation and the right gear to ensure safety and enjoyment. Here’s a comprehensive gear list for hiking Mount Bierstadt:

Essentials:
Optional Gear:
Winter Gear:
Clothing:
Footwear:
Communication:

Where To Stay Nearby

The area near Mt Bierstadt has great options for camping, motels, and airbnbs. Here are some of my recommended places to stay near the Guanella Pass trailhead.

Where to Camp Near Mt Bierstadt:

Finding an available site at a developed campground near Guanella Pass is challenging due to its proximity to Denver. This is especially true on busy summer weekends. I recommend reserving a site in advance to avoid stress and uncertainty.

These are some of the campgrounds closest to Mt Bierstadt. 


There are additional dispersed campsites along the road, with designated signs for parking and setting up a camp, but these are very hard to secure and are first-come, first-serve.

Learn more about dispersed camping near 14ers here.

Hotels and Lodging Near Mt Bierstadt

Mt Bierstadt is very close to Georgetown and Idaho Springs, which are home to many great lodging options for your stay. From small motels and hostels to grand lodges, there is something for every type of traveler.

Here are several specific options I recommend.


Use the map widget below to find a place to stay near Mt Bierstadt using the Booking.com platform.
 
If you book a room, you’ll support The Next Summit at no additional cost to you and a win-win for the mountains.

Leave No Trace

When setting out to hike Mount Bierstadt, integrating Leave No Trace (LNT) principles is crucial for preserving the delicate alpine environment of this Colorado 14er.

The following section offers guidance on how to minimize your impact while enjoying the great outdoors:

Plan Ahead and Prepare

  • Understand the regulations and special concerns for the area you’ll visit.
  • Check the weather forecast, and be aware of the terrain challenges you might face on Mt Bierstadt.
  • Preparation reduces the likelihood of resource damage and contributes to your safety.

Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

  • Stay on established trails and avoid cutting switchbacks, which can lead to erosion.
  • In the alpine tundra, plants take years to grow and mere seconds to be destroyed by trampling.
  • If camping is part of your trip, use designated campsites at lower elevations to minimize impact.

Dispose of Waste Properly

  • Pack out all your trash, leftover food, and litter.
  • It’s essential to carry a bag for collecting waste.
  • For human waste, dig a cat hole 6-8 inches deep at least 200 feet from water, trails, and camp. Cover and disguise it when finished.
  • Pack out all toilet paper and hygiene products.

Leave What You Find

  • Preserve the past; examine, but do not touch, cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
  • Leave rocks, plants, and other natural objects as you find them.
  • Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species by cleaning gear and boots before and after your hike.

Minimize Campfire Impacts

  • Campfires can cause lasting impacts in the alpine environment.
  • Use a lightweight stove for cooking and a lantern for light.
  • If fires are permitted, use established fire rings, keep fires small, and burn all wood to ash.
  • Put out fires completely and scatter cool ashes.

Respect Wildlife

  • Observe wildlife from a distance and never feed them. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
  • Control pets on a leash at all times, or leave them at home.

Be Courteous to Others Outdoors

  • Respect other trail users and protect the quality of their experience.
  • Use headphones, not bluetooth speakers, and keep your noise down.
  • Give uphill hikers the right of way.
  • Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
  • If stopping, move off the trail to allow others to pass.

Incorporating these LNT principles into your Mt Bierstadt adventure is a commitment to conserving the mountain for future generations to experience and enjoy. By acting as stewards of the land, we can all contribute to the sustainability of the natural beauty that draws us to these heights.

Learn more by reviewing our complete Leave No Trace Guide for 14ers.

Safety Tips

Mt Bierstadt, standing tall at over 14,000 feet, offers a majestic experience but also poses unique challenges. It is one of the most difficult class 2 peaks in the state, and people have been seriously injured or killed there in recent years. Prioritize your safety with these essential tips:

  • Acclimate to Altitude: Spend a day or two at a lower elevation near Mt Bierstadt to get your body used to the altitude. Altitude sickness can be a serious concern and can strike regardless of fitness level.

  • Check the Weather: Mountain weather is notoriously unpredictable. Before you set out, check the local weather forecast and be prepared for sudden changes. Start early to avoid afternoon thunderstorms common in the Rockies.

  • Stay Hydrated: At high altitudes, your body dehydrates faster. Carry plenty of water — a minimum of 2 to 3 liters per person — and drink regularly throughout your hike.

  • Research Your Route: Take time to review trip reports, route descriptions, maps, and photos to help you navigate in the field and know if you are on the right track.

  • Dress Appropriately: Layer your clothing to adapt to the variable conditions. Include a moisture-wicking base layer, an insulating layer, and a waterproof and windproof outer layer. Don’t forget a hat and gloves, even in summer.

  • Stay on the Trail: For your safety and the environment’s protection, stick to designated trails. Shortcuts can lead to erosion and habitat destruction and can also put you at risk of getting lost or injured.

  • Know Your Limits: Mt Bierstadt’s terrain can be challenging, with loose rocks and steep sections. If you’re not an experienced hiker or if you’re feeling unsure, consider hiring a guide or joining a group.

  • Emergency Plan: Have a plan in case of an emergency. Inform someone of your route and expected return time. Carry a whistle, a mirror, and a small first aid kit. A satellite messenger or personal locator beacon (PLB) is advised for remote areas where cell service is not reliable.

  • Bring a Buddy: Never hike alone. Use the buddy system to ensure safety. If one person gets injured or sick, the other can go for help.

  • Share Your Itinerary: Tell someone dependable back home that you are climbing Mt Bierstadt and share as much of your plans and itinerary as possible. Tell them you when you will check-in with them, and who to call if you fail to do so.

Respecting these safety guidelines will help ensure that your climb up Mt Bierstadt is memorable for all the right reasons. Stay alert, stay safe, and enjoy the grandeur of the Rockies. 

Learn more by reviewing our complete mountain safety guide.

Permits, Regulations & Guidelines

There are no permits, passes, or reservations required to climb Mt Bierstadt at this time.

Please follow Leave No Trace practices and recreate responsibly to preserve free and open access to this Colorado fourteener.

National Forest Regulations

Follow these US Forest Service rules and regulations while hiking Mt Bierstadt or camping in the area:

  • Be aware & follow posted regulations on national forest lands.
  • Keep noise levels down to avoid stressing wildlife and livestock, as well as other visitors.
  • Respect private property.
  • Do not carve, chop, cut or damage any live trees.
  • Camping is limited to 14 days within any continuous 30-day period.
  • Developed campgrounds may not be used when posted closed.
  • No camping is allowed within 100 feet of all lakes, streams and developed trails except for designated campsites
  • Be sure your fire is completely extinguished before leaving. You are responsible for keeping fires under control.
  • Keep dogs and pets under voice control at all times.
  • Using or possessing fireworks on national forest land is prohibited.
  • Travel only on designated off-highway vehicle routes. Travel slowly through water or mud. Do not make new tracks outside of the roadbed. Obey road closures and locked gates.
  • Vehicles must obey posted parking regulations. Unless otherwise posted, one may pull off a road to park.
  • Wilderness areas have specific rules and regulations that must be followed in order to protect these areas from our collective impacts


Check the US Forest Service safety page for other general guidelines.

About 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.

Photos

These are a collection of photos of Mt Bierstadt and the west slopes route from previous trips to the area. You can also find additional pictures in our route description above.

Additional Resources

Looking for more information for planning your visit to Mt Bierstadt? Here are some additional resources and websites with more info to continue your research online:

Mt Bierstadt Websites & Route Guides

News Articles about Mt Bierstadt

Mt Bierstadt Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some of the most common questions we get asked about hiking Mt Bierstadt. 

If you do not see your question addressed below in our FAQs, leave it in a comment at the bottom of the page and we will get an answer to you as soon as possible.

A: Everyone moves at a different pace based on their fitness, acclimation, gear, and experience. On average, people take around 5-7 hours round-trip to climb Mount Bierstadt and get back to the trailhead. If you are climbing in poor conditions or during the spring or fall, it will likely take a little longer.

A: The Mount Bierstadt 14er hike is relatively easy compared to other peaks in the state. However, it still requires you to hike for 7 miles and gain nearly 3,000 feet of elevation in a low-oxygen environment. Most people move much more slowly and get tired much faster than they do normally while hiking. Give yourself plenty of time to reach the summit and try not to overestimate your abilities if it is your first 14er.

A: During the summer the biggest issue is finding a parking spot at the extremely busy Guanella Pass trailhead. I recommend arriving before dawn on weekends – around 5am if possible – if you want to be certain you’ll get a spot. During the week, 6am is usually early enough for good parking. During the spring and fall when there are less visitors, you can stretch it to 7am if you need to.

A: You do not need any reservations or permits to hike Mt Bierstadt. However, the area is very busy and parking is limited. Plan to arrive pre-dawn if you are visiting during the summer on a weekend or you might not be able to find parking to hike Mt Bierstadt. Camping in the area is limited to designated campsites and campgrounds; no dispersed camping is allowed on Guanella Pass.

A: The parking lot at Guanella Pass is pretty barebones. There is a pit bathroom open from late spring through early fall, as well as a sign with information at the trailhead. Other than that, you are on your own.

A: First, get there early. Parking is very limited and fills quickly during the summer, especially on the weekend.

Second, be mindful of the route as you move through the Willlows as it can be easy to lose the trail.

Third, remember to pace yourself – this is not a race. It is better to move slower but more consistently than to move quickly with frequent breaks. Likewise, it is better to take fewer, longer breaks than to take many short breaks.

Lastly, remember to leave no trace while visiting Mount Bierstadt. Keep your dogs leashed and on the trail and clean up after them. Pack out trash, leave what you find, and be respectful to wildlife and other people sharing the trail.

A: There are several motels and hotels available in nearby communities like Georgetown and Silver Plume, Colorado. Here are several options you can consider:

Do you need to book in advance to visit Mt. Bierstadt?

You do not need any bookings, permits, or reservations in advance to visit Mt. Bierstadt. However, the Guanella Pass trailhead has limited parking available, so you should arrive very early during busy summer weekends if you want to secure a spot.

A: You do not need to book any reservations or permits in advance to hike or visit Mt. Bierstadt. However, it is a good idea to arrive very early, around 6 am or earlier, to ensure you find a spot in the busy parking area during the peak summer months. If you want to avoid crowds consider visiting during the week or in the autumn when things cool down a bit.

Notice: The material presented in this route guide may not be comprehensive or precise and should not be solely relied upon when planning your climb. Inadequate experience, physical fitness, supplies, or equipment may result in injury or fatality.

The Next Summit and the author(s) of this hiking guide offer no guarantees, neither explicit nor implied, regarding the accuracy or dependability of the information provided.

By utilizing the information herein, you agree to indemnify and absolve The Next Summit and the hiking guide author(s) from any claims and demands against them, including any legal fees and expenses. 

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Alex Derr, Founder of The Next Summit

Alex Derr 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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In 2018, I watched in disbelief as dozens of people hiked into a storm on Longs Peak, unaware of the extreme danger. Soon after, I started The Next Summit to educate and empower the public to safely and responsibly explore America's mountains.

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