Ever considered climbing one of Colorado’s famous mountains over fourteen thousand feet? If so, then Mt. Bierstadt, which stands at 14,060 feet, is a fun climb with great views, and is only a few hours from Denver.
To get to the trailhead, drive west from Denver on I-70 to the Georgetown exit. Drive into the town of Georgetown, then follow the signs for the road to Guanella Pass. The road has a lot of potholes that can catch an unsuspecting driver, so driving slowly is a good idea. There is also construction closer to the pass, which has restricted driving to one lane. Once above tree-line, there is a large parking lot on the north side of the road with toilets maintained by the U.S. Forest Service.
Hitting the Trail
The trailhead for the Mt. Bierstadt Trail is located south across the road, with a clear view of Bierstadt and the sawtooth ridge that connects to Mt. Evans. A trail sign marks the beginning of the route, and contains blank permits for users to complete. No fee is required, and the Forest Service uses the information to track visitor use. After less than a mile on the trail, climbers encounter a marshy area called The Willows. There are footbridges that have been constructed over the marsh. The trail continues uphill towards the mountain, branching at a “Y” just below a rock outcrop. Take the left fork in the trail, and continue up to the summit ridge.
The Final Push
The summit ridge begins with a steep climb up a rocky area that becomes a boulder field. This is a place where trekking poles and a good sense of balance can be helpful to negotiate this area. There may still be snow on the ground, even in July. If one doesn’t feel comfortable walking on snow, then it is possible to hike around it.
Once on the summit, take some time to take photos of the surrounding mountains, including Mt. Evans. There is a plastic tube with paper for people to write a message, as well as a USGS medallion marking the summit. On a nice weekend in the summer or early fall there will be many people on the summit, as well as making the trek from below.
It’s Not Over Yet
Getting to the summit of any mountain is only half of the climb, one still has to make it back to the parking lot. When planning the hike, make sure to have enough time to get down before afternoon thunderstorms, which can catch unwary climbers above treeline. Also, pack several quarts of water, snacks, a rain jacket, and wear sturdy shoes.