Bierstadt Lake, Colorado
Location: Bear Lake area of Rocky Mt National Park
Maps: USGS 1:24,000-scale Longs Peak and McHenrys Peak or Trails Illustrated 1:59,000-scale Rocky Mt National Park (#200)
Trail: Several options exist. Primary access is from Bierstadt Trailhead which leads up a fairly steep slope to the lake in 1.2 miles. From the lake, take the flat, 1-mile loop around the lake before heading back down. Allow 2 hours round-trip.
Trailhead: NAD83 zone 13 447000e 4463526n  Elevation: 8865'
Access: From Interstate 25, take Highway 34 through Loveland and Estes Park to the Beaver Meadows entrance. Just beyond the entrance gate, turn south on Bear Lake Rd and drive 6.5 miles to the Bierstadt Lake trailhead, or in summer, take a free shuttle from the shuttle lot 5 miles up Bear Lake Rd. 
Fees (2008): $20 7-day park pass; $35 annual park pass; $80 annual Federal public lands pass
Dogs: not allowed on trails
Webcam: Estes Park, 6 miles to the northeast
Weather:  Current and recent conditions     Local Forecast

March 12, 2007
On a beautiful and sunny Monday morning, Andra and I ate lunch at the quiet and largely-deserted picnic ground at Sprague Lake where we were watched closely by a blue jay. Just up the road, we started hiking up the Bierstadt Lake trail at around noon, enjoying the sudden solitude a Monday morning brings after a busy weekend. We were the only car in the lot, and the only hikers on the trail as far as I could tell. The snow was very deep in places, but the sun was shining warmly, and we were soon sweating in the sun, down to our shortsleeves. Some of the trail was clear of ice, and only muddy, but most of the trail was still ice-packed where the snow had been trampled to solid ice over the last winter. Ironically, all the surrounding snow was gone, and only the trail remained icy. We walked carefully, but occasionally a foot would plunge through the rotten snow a couple of feet, and come up with snow in the sock. For the first 30 minutes, the trail switchbacked up a south-facing slope with a few aspen, but with plenty of open area for enjoying the snow-laden mountains just to the west. We stopped in the shade of the few ponderosa pines to cool off. I even got a sunburn (thatís when you know winter is finally over). The trail entered the spruce forest at the top of the hill, and flattened out as it intersected the loop trail around Bierstadt Lake. We took the left fork of a snow-packed trail through the trees but saw no lake. I kept my eye out for it, and it was only when we were more than halfway around the lake that a sidetrail opened up to the lake. We followed it for 50 meters or so and it emptied out on the shore of frozen, snow-covered Bierstadt Lake. To the south, the rugged mountains rose up into the blue sky. The first people we saw the entire hike, a group of 4 older folks, were lunching on the lakeshore. The snow was brilliant white, and was painful to look at or near for long. A couple of Clarks nutcrackers immediately came over to see if we had food, and they remained with us the entire time we were at the lake. We sat and enjoyed the extremely warm air and bright sunlight for about 30 minutes before continuing on the loop around the lake. The trail was not well traveled for the remainder of the loop, and at some point we found ourselves back on the lake itself for a brief time. The nutcrackers noted us and came to check us out again. We followed footprints in the snow right back to where we had started the loop, and then retraced our steps back downhill, completing the hike in about 2 hours.

Bierstadt Lake Trail with Glacier Gorge beyond
Bierstadt Lake Trail
Trail around Bierstadt Lake
Bierstadt Lake, frozen and covered in snow
Otis and Hallet Peaks beyond Bierstadt Lake

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See more photos of Rocky Mt National Park at Landscape Imagery
Page created 3-19-07
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