One of the best hikes of the year, Mount Bierstadt is pretty imposing, and also a relatively popular hike. I assume it’s potentially a little easier without snow, but, a rather large late September storm blew threw and dumped between 6 inches and 18 inches of snow from the base to the summit. Starting at an elevation of around 11,900 feet is no joke! And, it’s only up from there. While the hike isn’t terribly long, there are some steeper sections, and a boulder field at the end. Let’s get into the quick beta!
- Mileage: 8 miles
- Elevation gain: 2,765 ft
- Highest Point: 14,065
- Best time to visit: Late May through mid-October
- Total hiking time: 5 hours (through slippery snow – could’ve been shorter)
- Number of Lakes: 1
- Kid friendly: No.
- Dog-friendly: No. There was one dog on the trail.
- Gear I brought: Salomon hiking boots, REI 35-liter backpack with food, Osprey 3-liter hydropack, water filter, first aid kit, compass, map, gloves, extra base layer, extra fleece sweater, hiking poles, camera, extra lens. For a winter ascent, spikes would have been nice.
Start out walking through a beautiful alpine meadow area, following the trail and boardwalks through some streams and passing a lake after about a half mile. There’s a stream crossing at about the mile mark, and shortly after this, the hike proceeds up a series of switchbacks. After about a mile and a half, you’ll reach the end of the major switchbacks, and be able to see most of the trail to the summit, especially if people are ahead of you. This is a steady climb for another 1.5 miles until you reach the pass. It’s steep in some places, but manageable.
From the pass, head left towards the summit, and over a decently-sized boulder field. In my experience, I actually think the snow made it a little easier to navigate since lots of holes were plugged. After just under a half mile, you’ll reach the summit. Fantastic views of the Sawtooth Ridge and Mount Evans can be seen on a clear day, as well as Abyss Lake, Frozen Lake, and plenty of other mountains. Looking west, Squaretop Mountain is in full display.
Need to Know
This hike is not for the faint of heart. I’m in pretty decent shape, and with a cold winter ascent, snow, and elevation, it was definitely challenging. People turned around, and I spoke to one about it – he was having trouble breathing, and besides him not being in the best of shape, he said he underestimated how hard this hike would be. Again, starting your hike at 11,900 feet is no joke!
If attempting in the winter, prepare for winter conditions. There is no cover, and there were some full ripping winds that made the ascent colder than it needed to be. Spikes, crampons and poles aren’t necessary, but will greatly improve your movement on this mountain.
Remember to try and get a dark start on this hike. The trailhead is super popular. Starting in the dark with a headlamp is basically the only way to ensure you’ll find a spot, and maybe have a little bit of time to yourself. However, since it is popular, prepare to see lots of people on the trail.
Ideally, hike this during the midweek. Sometimes, a weekend is the only option available, but it will always be more crowded. Start in the dark before sunrise to beat the heat of the day in the summer – there is no shade during the entire hike. Even in winter, you’ll want to start with a headlamp before the run rises to beat out warming snow and bad conditions on your descent.
Also, remember to bring a beer! If you hike it in winter, it’ll definitely be cold. There were so many comments from people on how they wished they had brought a beer to the top. So, do it! Here’s your reminder!
Take A Hike!
Have a great time on this hike! I was blown away during the descent on this hike. Seeing Colorado exploding with color at the base of the mountains and then covered at the top with snow was a sight to behold. It was so darn cool! Most of the ascent was dark, and when the sun rose, it was pretty foggy. In fact, I barely got to see the mountain until we were back at the parking lot. Definitely a hike I will remember for a long time!
If you’re in the area, try hitting Notch Mountain for unmatched views of the Mount of the Holy Cross. Or, catch up on my full Colorado trip, spending time in the White River National Forest and Beaver Creek Resort.
See you on the next one!
Next blog: More Colorado? Or more Utah? I’ve got great stories from both. A hike up a classic ski resort in Utah, or another ski resort in Colorado. Or fall colors!? Lots to write about!