Mount Bierstadt
excerpts from the book
Incredible Backcountry Trails 
by David Day

home page
 Need more information?

Incredible Backcountry Trails
  • access info for 120 trailheads
  • 90 colorful trail maps
  • 305 full color photographs
  • loads of hiking tips
  • book store price:  $22.95
    buy it here for only


    click to order

    Distance: 6.3 miles (round trip)

    Walking time:  4 3/4 hours

    : 2,550 ft. gain/loss
       Guanella Pass Trailhead (start): 11,669 ft.
       Bierstadt Willows: 11,510 ft.
       Mount Bierstadt: 14,060 ft.

    Trail: Generally good except for some minor scrambling near the top.

    Season: Midsummer through mid-fall. The higher parts of the trail are usually covered with snow from November through early July.

    Vicinity: Near Georgetown

    Mount BierstadtMount Bierstadt


    home page

    Links to other sites: 

    Ordering books & Maps/P>

    Comments about this site or our book:


    Mount Bierstadt was named after Albert Bierstadt, a nineteenth-century landscape artist who first visited the American West as a member of a Rocky Mountains Survey Team in 1859. Bierstadt’s resulting works soon catapulted him to fame, and he spent most of the rest of his life painting a series of dramatic landscapes of the West. Today he is recognized as one of the greatest American artists of all time. It is fitting that one of Colorado’s fourteeners should be named after him.

    Serious mountaineers often climb Bierstadt in combination with Mount Evans. The double ascent requires a traverse from Bierstadt to Evans across a formidable looking ridge that includes a step called the Sawtooth. There is a great view of Bierstadt and the Sawtooth from the Guanella Pass Trailhead, but unfortunately Mount Evans is hidden behind the ridge and can’t be seen from that perspective. The traverse between the two peaks doesn’t look any easier when viewed from the top of Bierstadt, but it is actually not as technically difficult as it appears. It is usually rated as a class-3 climb.

    The trail looses 160 feet of elevation in the first 0.8 mile as it descends toward Scott Gomer Creek. This area is a marshland filled with dense thickets of Scouler willows that once presented a serious obstacle to hikers. Many older maps and guidebooks warn that the trail is impassable in spring, and suggest that Mount Bierstadt is best climbed in the winter when the bog is frozen. Fortunately, considerable work has been done on this trail in the last eight years, and there are now boardwalks across the worst parts of the marsh. The Bierstadt Willows are no longer as intimidating as they once were.

    After crossing Scott Gomer Creek the trail continues east for another 1.1 miles, heading for the top of a ridge on the northwest side of the summit. When you reach the crest of this ridge you will be treated to a fine view of the Sawtooth and the rugged basin below it.

    Once the trail reaches the crest of the northwest ridge it turns south and continues to gain altitude as it makes a long sweeping turn to the east. Finally the trail levels out and seems to end at the base of a rocky outcropping 250 feet below the summit. A large stone monument has been erected at this point to make it easier for hikers to pick up the trail again on the return trip.

    There are a few cairns marking the way beyond the stone monument, but you are basically on your own from that point on. The route is not particularly difficult but it does involve some minor scrambling over large boulders. What you see from below is actually a false summit. Bear slightly to the left of the hill as you climb and work your way around its north side, then climb up the last 50 feet to the top of the true summit.

    Mount Evans lies west of Mount Bierstadt above Lake Fork and Abyss Lake. Evans is easily identified because of the observatory that has been built on its summit. It is also interesting to look at the east side of the Sawtooth from Bierstadt. The usual route for the traverse follows the east side of the ridge until it reaches a point just below the Sawtooth. Then it climbs to the opposite side of the ridge and ties into a narrow, exposed ledge near the bottom of the Sawtooth’s west face.


    The book includes more text, more photographs, and trail maps.

    If you are interested in a supplemental map of the Mount Bierstadt
    we recommend:
    Idaho Springs, Georgetown  (Trails Illustrated, map #104)

    Click here for DISCOUNTED MAP ORDERS

    [top of page]

    [table of contents]

    [home page]

    [ordering information] 

    © Rincon Publishing Company, all rights reserved