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Bierstadt Lake Trail Hiking Guide

Bierstadt Lake Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park: Hiking Guide

Bierstadt Lake Trail is a moderately trafficked loop trail located near Estes Park, Colorado in the Rocky Mountain National Park. It offers a number of activity options and is best used from May until October. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and bird watching. Dogs are not allowed on this trail.

Bierstadt Lake Trail Details:

Bierstadt Lake Trail Guide

Use the information below to plan your visit to Bierstadt Lake! If you’ve been there, did you enjoy it? What would you have done differently? Share your thoughts in a comment!

Trail Description

The trail begins at the trailhead next to the trail sign. It starts to follow a series of switchbacks along the Bierstadt Moraine, gradually gaining elevation.

As you get higher and higher, the views of Longs Peak to the south, the continental divide to the west, and Sprague Lake to the east become more spectacular. There are multiple opportunities for scenic photography at the ends of each switchback.

After 3/4 of a mile, you reach the top of the Bierstadt moraine hike through a flat section of forests, losing 50-60 feet.

At the first trail junction, you can choose to take a right or continue straight (it connects as a loop).

Hike another .2 miles and reach another junction, following the sign to continue along the trail around the lake. Take a sharp right to follow a short segment of the trail that leads directly to the lake shore.

Continue to follow the signs at each trail junction to follow the trail around the lake, until you come to the first junction you originally came to.

Take a left, following the sign back to the Bierstadt Lake Trailhead, going back the same way you came via the switchbacks.

Looking for a longer hike? You can link this hike with any of the hiking trails from Bear Lake, or return to the Park and Ride lot further down along Bear Lake Road.

Trail Map

Use this map of the Bierstad Lake Trail to plan your hike.

Trail Photos

Here are some photos from hiking to Bierstadt Lake from Feb 24, 2024.

Trailhead

The Bierstadt Lake Trailhead is located in Rocky Mountain National Park along Bear Lake Road.

Directions

From Estes Park, CO, head south on US-36 E for about 3.4 miles and enter the national park, then turn left onto Bear Lake Road. Continue on Bear Lake Road for approximately 8.1 miles. Bierstadt Lake Trailhead will be on your right.

Access

The trailhead is accessible all year-round. Most vehicles can reach the trailhead without any problems.

Rocky Mountain National Park requires a park pass to enter. During summer months, a timed entry reservation may be required. The Bear Lake Road corridor is extremely busy during weekends and summer months and requires a special timed entry reservation to access between May and September.

Learn More about Timed Entry at RMNP.

Amenities

There is a bathroom at the trailhead open year-round. There is no drinking water at the trailhead, so plan accordingly.

During the summer season, there is a shuttle service that stops at the trailhead, providing service to the Bear Lake trailhead and the Park and Ride lot further down the road. The trailhead parking lot fills during the weekend all year-round. Arrive early to secure parking.

Weather

Here is a weather forecast from the National Weather Service for the Bierstadt Lake Trailhead.

Leave No Trace

With more than 4.5 million visitors each year, it is incredibly important to take care during your visit to help preserve the Bierstadt Lake Trail. Here are some tips and best practices to ensure you Leave No Trace during your hike.

  1. Plan ahead and prepare: Conduct research about the trail, the weather, and any regulations before starting your hike.
  2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces: Stay on the trail, do not cut switchbacks and use established campsites.
  3. Dispose of waste properly: Carry all trash, leftover food, and litter out with you.
  4. Leave what you find: Do not disturb wildlife or plants, or remove rocks and other natural objects.
  5. Minimize campfire impact: Campfires are not allowed in RMNP unless you are in a designated campsite.
  6. Respect wildlife: Observe wildlife from a distance and do not feed animals. Dogs are not allowed on the Bierstadt Lake Trail.
  7. Be considerate of other visitors: Keep noise levels down and yield to other hikers when appropriate.

Safety Tips

The Rocky Mountains are dangerous: Hikers are injured or killed each year while visiting the National Park. Here are some tips to stay safe while hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park.

  1. Check the weather forecast: The weather can change rapidly in the mountains so always check the forecast before you head out and be prepared for all conditions.
  2. Carry essential gear: This includes a map, compass, first-aid kit, multi-tool, headlamp, matches or lighter, and emergency shelter.
  3. Stay on the trail: To protect the environment and for your own safety, always stay on the designated trail.
  4. Stay hydrated and eat regularly: Mountain air is dry and can dehydrate you quickly, and the physical exertion will require you to refuel with food and water.
  5. Dress in layers: Temperatures can fluctuate greatly in the mountains, so dressing in layers allows you to adjust as needed.
  6. Tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back: If you get lost or injured, someone knowing your plan can save your life.
  7. Be aware of altitude sickness: Symptoms can include headaches, fatigue, stomach illness, dizziness, and sleep disturbance. If you feel sick, descend to a lower altitude as quickly as possible.


Learn more about mountain safety by reading the comprehensive outdoor safety guide here.

FAQ

Here are some common questions and answers related to the hike. If your question is not addressed, leave a comment and I will get back to you with an answer and more information as soon as possible.

Q: How long is the hike to Bierstadt Lake?

A: The hike to Bierstadt Lake can vary in length depending on the starting point, but the most direct route is approximately 3.2 miles round trip from the Bierstadt Lake Trailhead. It takes 1-3 hours to complete, depending on your speed and level of fitness.

A: Bierstadt Lake is named after Albert Bierstadt, a renowned German-American painter known for his dramatic landscapes of the American West, including scenes of the Rocky Mountains. He is also the namesake of nearby fourteener, Mount Bierstadt.

A: Bierstadt Moraine is a lateral moraine, formed by the accumulation of debris and rocks on the sides of a glacier. As the glacier moved through the area, it left behind these deposits, shaping the landscape around Bierstadt Lake.

A: The best time of year to hike the Bierstadt Lake Trail is from late spring to early fall, typically from June to September. This period offers the most accessible trail conditions, wildflowers, and wildlife viewing opportunities. Winter hiking is possible but requires preparation for snow and ice.

A: Yes, you can hike in Rocky Mountain National Park without a reservation for the park itself, but timed entry reservations are required for certain areas and times of the year, especially during peak visitor seasons, to manage crowds and protect the park’s resources. Always check the park’s official website for the latest requirements before your visit.

A: Bear Lake Road is approximately 9.5 miles long, stretching from the junction near the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station to the Bear Lake Trailhead, one of the most popular access points in Rocky Mountain National Park.

A: Bear Lake Road is special for its scenic beauty, providing access to a variety of hiking trails, viewpoints, and natural landmarks. It offers stunning views of the park’s mountain landscapes and access to several high-altitude lakes, including Bear Lake, making it a crucial route for visitors exploring the park.

A: Other trails near Bierstadt Lake include the Flattop Mountain Trail, which offers access to Hallett Peak and the Continental Divide; the Emerald Lake Trail, leading hikers to Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, and Emerald Lake; and the Alberta Falls Trail, a shorter hike to one of the park’s most popular waterfalls. These trails provide a range of hiking experiences and scenic views within a relatively close proximity to Bierstadt Lake.

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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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