3-4 miles roundtrip, depending on which trail you choose Elevation gain:
325 feet-1,000 feet, depending on which trail you choose Location:
Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park, Bear Lake area (directions and trail map below) Trailhead:
Shuttle parking lot has bathrooms, trash cans and bus drivers with maps Dogs:
No dogs are allowed on the trails in RMNP Entrance Fee:
$20 per car, $80 for a year long to pass to all the National Parks Hiking partner:
There's a 14er in Colorado named Bierstadt and there's a lake in Rocky Mountain National Park with the same name. Bierstadt Lake may not be as famous as the other Bierstadt, but it has some great views from its shoreline.
There are three ways to get to Bierstadt Lake, all of them fairly short, but all of them involve some elevation gain and loss. While the distance on this hike may seem short, you are going to work a bit to enjoy the lake.
Years ago, I hiked this lake with some friends. We took what I thought was the typical way to the lake. We started at the Bierstadt Lake trailhead and hiked up the trail to the lake. After sitting on the small sandy area on the north side of the lake and taking a few pictures, we headed right back down the same trail. That hike is about 3 miles roundtrip, elevation gain/loss approx. 556 feet. That hike is pretty nice in the fall when the aspens are turning.
I wanted something different this time.
Looking at the topographical and trail maps, I noticed there were trails to Bierstadt Lake from both Bear Lake and the Bear Lake shuttle parking lot. A bus driver in the parking lot suggested starting at Bear Lake (9,475 feet), because even though you have to hike up at the beginning of this trail, the rest of the way is downhill. We chose that route. Trail to Bierstadt Lake
We rode the shuttle bus
to the Bear Lake trailhead. Bear Lake is a treat. It's just a beautiful place. If you have the time and energy, take the Bear Lake Natural Trail around the lake. The loop is a half mile and includes views of Hallett Peak and Longs Peak. Most of the path is wheelchair accessible -- there is one section with stairs.
We took a picture of Bear Lake and went to our trail. Several trails start here, so make sure you follow the signs for Bierstadt Lake. You actually start out on the Flattop Mountain Trail for about 0.4 of a mile. Take a deep breath, this trail starts climbing right away. You'll climb 300+ feet, then the trail levels out and even starts dropping as you make your way to Bierstadt lake.
The trail is rocky, but the trees keep it partially shaded, at least in the morning. I was surprised at just how many families we saw along this trail. I didn't think it would be quite so popular.
About 1.6 miles from Bear Lake we came to a sign that seemed to confuse everyone. It said Bierstadt Lake 0.4 miles, Bierstadt Lake 0.3 miles and Bierstadt Lake trailhead 1.3 miles.
Here's the scoop, there is a trail around the lake. Note I said "around" the lake. The trail is not "next" to the lake. So you really can go either way and get to the lake, but the trail is not along the shoreline. The first group of hikers at the sign looked tired, so I suggested they take the shorter route, the 0.3 mile trail. I wanted to sit on the north side of the lake, so we continued on 0.4 mile trail. A few steps later, I ran into another hiker who was confused about which way to go. I sent her to that same 0.3 trail.
Make sure you watch the signs. You want to go to the lake, not on the loop around the lake. View of Long's Peak from Bierstadt Lake
After our 0.4 of a mile, there was a sign pointing which way to the lake. There was another sign with arrows that said "lake loop." We went to the lake. Fortunately, we ended up right where I wanted to be. From the north side of the lake, you get a view of the water and Long's Peak. You turn west and you get a great view of the Continental Divide.
This is a lovely lake for a picnic lunch. Just find a secluded spot and enjoy the views. You may also debate which way you want to hike out.
From Bierstadt Lake, you can hike down about 556 feet to the Bierstadt Lake trailhead and catch the shuttle bus back to the parking lot. This is a very pretty hike and the way the bus driver suggested.
Since I had done that trail before, we took the trail directly to the shuttle bus parking lot. It's slightly longer, but I thought it would be nice to do something different.
I should warn you, the bus driver told us not to go this way because he said it's rocky, it's all trees and it has little view. He was right. This trail also drops 700 feet from the lake, so it's quite steep. I was actually shocked at how many people we saw hiking UP this trail from the shuttle lot. Hiking from the shuttle lot to Bierstadt Lake, to Bear Lake means climbing 1,000 feet. No, thank you. Bear Lake at Rocky Mountain National Park
My advice? Take the bus driver's advice. Take the shuttle to Bear Lake, hike to Bierstadt Lake, then take the trail down to the Bierstadt Lake trailhead. Total distance: about 3.5 miles. Elevation gain: about 335 feet, elevation loss 556 feet.
Bierstadt Lake is a good choice when you want a shorter hike, it has beautiful views and it's a pretty blue lake. Even though it's not one of the most popular lakes in the area, don't expect peace and quiet. We saw a lot of people. And bring bug spray. We each brought home a bite or two as a souvenir we didn't want.
From Estes Park, head to the Beaver Meadows Entrance on U.S. 36. After you enter, drive about a 1/4 mile to Bear Lake Road and turn left. Follow the Bear Lake road to the shuttle parking lot. You can park at the Bierstadt Lake trailhead when there is no shuttle service, but you'll have to hike up and back down to the same parking lot. (trail map below)
I'm working on my annual list of my favorite hikes in Colorado. I'd love to hear yours. Just e-mail me, firstname.lastname@example.org
. I also welcome your questions and comments.
Previous hiking reports:(lower elevation hikes have a star)
, Mallory Cave*
, Marshall Mesa
,Heil Valley Ranch*
, South Boulder Peak*
, The Boulder Flatirons*
, Walker Ranch*
, Bear Peak*
, Rabbit Mountain*
, Bald Mountain*
, Betasso Preserve*
, Wonderland Lake*
, Chimney Gulch*
, Apex Park*
, Elk Meadow*
, Chicago Lakes
, Chief Mountain
Rocky Mountain National Park:
, Twin Sisters
, Chasm Lake
, Lulu City & Little Yellowstone
, The Loch, Andrew's Glacier
, Sandbeach Lake
Indian Peaks/James Peak Wilderness:
King, Bob & Betty Lakes
, Forest Lakes
, Arapaho Lakes
, Mitchell & Blue Lakes
, James Peak Area
, Heart Lake
, Devil's Backbone*
, Lake Agnes
Summit & Eagle Counties:
, Missouri Lakes
, Mohawk Lakes & Continental Falls
St Louis Lake
, Waterfall At Snow Mountain Ranch
, Granby Ranch
Exploring Fulford Cave
, Our Favorite Hikes
, Our Favorite Bike Rides
Map courtesy of Trails Illustrated
Copyright Copyright 2009 by TheDenverChannel.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be
published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.