Mt. Bierstadt Trail on Guanella Pass

Mt. Bierstadt Trail on Guanella Pass

July 1, 2013 |  by

Summit a Fourteener, Mount Bierstadt, or go for an easy hike with your family high in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. In short, you’ve got options on this trail near the top of Guanella Pass. Explore the trail profile below for hiking, camping, and trail map info.

  • Hike Distance: 1 to 7 Miles (RT)
  • Difficulty: Easy to Difficult
  • Duration: 1 to 6 hours
  • Trail Type: Out & Back
  • Elevation Gain: up to 2400′
  • Seasons: Best Late Spring to Fall
  • Dogs: Allowed on Leash (avoid b/c of fragile ecosystem)
    • Denver Drive Time: 90 minutes
    • Directions: Click for Google Map
    • Town Nearest Hike: Georgetown, Colorado
    • Beauty: 14ers, High Country Tundra, Peak Top Views, lakes
    • Activities: Hiking, Camping, Summit Mt. Bierstadt, Picnic
    • Hike Trail Map: Click for Map


You’ve got options with the Mount Bierstadt trail. First, we’ll profile the hike to the summit. Below that, you’ll find some information on how to just explore the area with your family or friends, making this an easy hike high in the Colorado mountains.

Climb Your First Colorado Fourteener
Mt. Bierstadt is popular, not just because it’s so close to Denver, but it’s also one of the easier and more accessible of Colorado’s 54 fourteen thousand foot peaks. The Mount Bierstadt trail can be accessed on the south side of Guanella Pass from the Mt Bierstadt trailhead (click here for map and directions from Denver). It’s important to be aware that the weather can change in an instant in the mountains, and that snow can come in fast even in the late Spring and early Fall. As with any Day Hike, be sure to (at least) pack the 10 Essentials.

The Bierstadt trail is well marked; you’ll follow signs down to a boardwalk, then to Scott Gomer Creek. After crossing the creek, the trail will become more steep, and the steepness will increase as you make your way to the summit. The trail winds gently through the tundra until you are about three miles in when the green and brown gives way to rock. Follow the west ridge up to the summit of Mount Bierstadt. For a detailed trace and profile of the Mt.Bierstadt route, see this Route #1 Bierstadt profile on


Make it an Easy Family Hike
Hiking Colorado’s Bierstadt trail doesn’t mean that you have to summit. In fact, the first mile of trail is really tame. It takes you over a creek, through willows, and by two small high mountain lakes. If you want to gain additional views, you can add another half mile of moderate hiking that will take you above the valley floor.

We took our 4 1/2 year old, 2 year old with us in the Fall and they loved it. Dog’s on the Mount Bierstadt trail must be kept on a leash and need to be kept 100′ from water sources (in short, they aren’t allowed to play in the lakes and streams). In fact, because we’d recommend that you leave Fido at home because of the fragile alpine tundra ecosystem. In August of 2012, Missy, a German Shepherd, was rescued after being stranded on the peak for eight days. You can read more about her ordeal and the rescue in this Denver Post article.
Camping Near the Mt. Bierstadt Trail
There are a lot of campground sites along both sides of Guanella pass that are managed by the forest service (fee required) and dispersed camping is allowed on US Forest and wilderness areas. Below you’ll find a few important links to camping information for the Mt. Bierstadt and Guanella Pass Area.

5 Trail Reviews

  1. “Mt. Bierstadt is popular, not just because it’s so close to Denver, but it’s also one of the easier and more accessible of Colorado’s 58 fourteen thousand foot peaks.”

    By any reasonable objective measure there are 52 14ers, and historically 54 have been recognized (the 52 plus Ellingwood and North Maroon).

    “In August of 2012, Missy, a German Shepherd, was rescued after being stranded on the peak for eight days.”

    No domesticated animals of any kind have any business on wilderness trails, least of all high traffic trails such as Bierstadt. Above about 12,000 feet, the biome shifts to an incredibly fragile alpine tundra that can be damaged for hundreds of years by an non-native animal, and all the animals hardy enough to live in the area suffer greatly for the stress conferred from introduction of a non-native species. Your domesticated animal can’t tell its on a 14er, so please either leave you companion at home or find a non-ecologically destructive avenue in other, safer trails.

    Also keep in mind that at high altitudes you will most likely have greater difficulty controlling your companion animal. I’ve seen many hikers, domesticated, and native animals all harmed when a domesticated animal bolts after a native animal, often harming itself, unnecessarily stressing the native animal, and potentially pulling the hiker into danger. Please be safety conscious at all times while hiking, and don’t expose anyone or anything to unnecessary danger.

  2. Hey Calvin, thanks for the correction on the Fourteeners number. I went in and corrected it. Though we brought our pup with us on a segment of the Bierstadt trail, I’d agree with you, that this trail, and really any trail that in the tundra biome is not the place for domesticated animals. Some folks let their dog loose to swim in one of the high mountain lakes just off the trail and I was cringing. I don’t think most people understand that the oils and shampoos that a dog introduces can be pretty destructive to the fragile ecosystem.

  3. I can’t possibly imagine a leashed dog causing any less impact to the area than the thousands of people who walk on this trail. The tragic story of that dog in the cited article isn’t a normal example of what happens on this trail.

    Plenty of domesticated animals share wilderness trails with people without incident or the “danger” you describe.

    –Regardless of your opinion, This trail officially allows dogs that are leashed. Plenty of people have and will continue to enjoy this trail with their furry friends responsibly.

    If you are bothered by people and dogs, please find another trail than the most trafficked 14er in the state.

  4. We climbed Bierstadt on 9-3-2014. Saw a couple of moose down by the lake near the parking lot, so keep an eye out. My wife could only make it about 20 yards at a time before needing to rest. I don’t think she had any severe case of altitude sickness, but she couldn’t breath because of the thin air. I got her up to almost where the saddle is before she said she would wait for me and let me continue. On the way down I was surprised to find her where I left her, I thought she’d start making her way down but its so pretty up there she wanted to wait for me. The hardest part was the last push up to the summit. It took us at least 8 hours RT, and we were VERY sore. I remember the days when I was in my 20’s and I could have just ran up the hill, but we are both now 55. We only acclimated for a day and a half in Denver and Boulder, and come from a location where our elevation normally is only 900′, but we did alright and we saw about 4 other climbers who gave up. I was surprised by how many other climbers were so friendly and helpful, and I hope that everyone continues this tradition on Mt. Bierstadt.

  5. We got this update from the forest service:

    The hwy dept is finishing the paving on the south side of Guanella Pass by Grant. Road closure times for one more summer 2015. Whiteside camp Ground will be no more.. I would talk to my co-workers on the South Platte Ranger District for current info 303-275-5610

Post a Trail Review