RMNP: Bierstadt Lake

Distance3.44 mi
Elevation Gain627 ft
My Time1 hr 28 min
DifficultyModerate
Closest TownEstes Park
Food NearbyLonigans

Bierstadt Lake Trail

I finally made it to Rocky Mountain National Park to hike! My first adventure was to Bierstadt Lake. Bierstadt lake is a shorter, moderate hike that takes you for a long wooded walk around an alpine lake. I was hoping to take a longer hike but I forgot to close my water tight so it spilled all over my backpack so this short hike was exactly what I needed.

Getting Started

The Bierstadt Lake trailhead is about 7 miles from the Estes Park gate on Bear Lake Road and is before you make the Bear Lake trailhead. While the trail to the lake is relatively short there are plenty of connecting trails if you are looking for a long hike.

The beginning of the hike is through a wooded area just past the parking lot. The trail through the woods lasts for about a third of a mile and was really pretty on this February day.

The trail covered in snow running between tall trees that stretch from the ground to the top of the picture on the Bierstadt Lake trail in Rocky Mountain National Park.

This portion of the trail has a consistent grade of about 10% so something to keep in mind but not as steep as what is to come.

The Hillside

The hillside hike at Bierstadt Lake is a bit of a kiss and a kick. The kick is that it is a few long switchbacks with grades that reach the mid 20% range. The kiss is that you have huge views of the park as you make your way up the trail.

Views of several mountain peaks at Rocky Mountain National Park from the Bierstadt Trail.

This is by far the most challenging part of the hike. The trail is pretty narrow and will require single file hiking. In the winter when I went it was also completely covered in about 3 inches of ice. Due to how steep this section is and the ice, I would highly recommend traction devices.

The hillside takes about seven-tenths of a mile and it took me a long time. Most of that time was looking at the views and catching my breath. The views made it very enjoyable despite the elevation gain. At the one mile mark of the hike you will be on the top of the hill and ready to make the lake.

Bierstadt Lake

When you get to the top of the hill you will come to a junction that mentions you can take either direction to Bierstadt Lake. I decided to head off counter clockwise. The top of the hill was snow covered and flat. Just a wonderful one mile walk through the woods.

The trail to Bierstadt Lake completely covered in snow and surrounded by large pine trees.  The green needles of the pines contrasting against the white snow.

One thing that I learned about the trail to Bierstadt Lake is that it doesn’t actually make it to the lake! There are a couple of smaller cutout trails that lead down to the water (or ice) edge so you will want to look for those.

The best view of the lake is from the north side. That way as you are looking across the water you can see the mountains behind the lake. I made it to the north side and found a cutout that took me to the water and was not dissapointed.

A dirt beach, frozen lake and mountains from Bierstadt Lake

This was a cool place and I spent some time here before completing the loop and heading back.

The Bierstadt Lake trail is a large loop that loops the entire lake and also connects to some other trails that will take you to Bear Lake. This loop around the lake is almost completely flat and a really enjoyable walk.

I did run into another hiker who said that he was really impressed with the lake in the winter. He said that in the summer it isn’t anything special but in the winter he really enjoyed it. It was my first time and I really enjoyed it as well so maybe winters are best at Bierstadt Lake.

Elevation and Distance

If you don’t have the AllTrails app you might want to check it out, I really love mine. It records your progress and is a great way to search for hikes that are nearby and gives you difficulty measurements. According to AllTrails today’s hike was around 3.44 miles and had a total elevation gain of about 627 feet including undulations. That put the high point at around 9,452 feet. I was also moving for a total of 1 hours and 28 minutes.

Effort

All of the effort of this hike is on the first hill. The switchbacks get pretty steep but as you make it to the top of the hill and to the lake it is a nice flat walk. I had some problems with my Fitbit so no step count this time.

Terrain

The trail up the hill to the lake is relatively narrow but a clean dirt with not too many roots or rocks. The trail at the top around the lake is wider and well defined. I did this hike in January and the hill trail was solid ice with a nice snow cover near the lake.

Access

Bierstadt Lake is part of the Rocky Mountain National Park system. There is an entry fee of $25 dollars per car or you can buy an annual pass. More information about the passes can be found here.

The trailhead for Bierstadt Lake is located on Bear Lake Road about 9 miles from the Estes Park gate. There is parking for about 10 cars, some picnic tables and a couple of pit toilets at the trailhead.

Wrap up of Bierstadt Lake

I really enjoyed this hike. I was frustrated because I had a long hike planned but lost all of my water so ended up doing this shorter hike. While it was short, the views are incredible walking up the hillside. It isn’t too challenging so more people should be able to try it than some of the more difficult hikes at RMNP.

Please make sure you are ready for the conditions. I saw several people trying to go up the hillside without traction devices and they were slipping all over the place. That can lead to a miserable day. Overall I am going to rate this as moderate for the hillside but I think it is a place that many people will be able to enjoy.

I have added this hike and all of my hikes to my interactive map page that you can find here. If you have a suggestion or comment you can email me at fatmanlittletrails@gmail.com. You can also follow me on any of the below social media platforms. Happy Hiking!

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