Yesterday I decided to hike to Bierstadt Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. There was a chance of rain and thunderstorms in the forecast, so I was looking for a relatively short hike that I haven’t done yet. Bierstadt Lake, at 2.8 miles round-trip, fit the bill.
The Bierstadt Lake trailhead is located along the Bear Lake Road in “Rocky” at 8,850 ft. above sea level. During the Summer, the parking area can get full, so using the free shuttle is a good idea. Even with the rainy, chilly weather, I took the last parking space.
It’s a good idea to take a look at the trailhead sign and become familiar with the trail system before heading up the path. Most trails in Rocky Mountain National Park are clearly marked and easy to understand. The Bierstadt Lake Trail, on the other hand, can be a little confusing. The good part. If you take a wrong turn, you’re likely to just find yourself at the wrong parking area….like I did. My 2.8 mile round-trip walk turned into a six or seven mile hike in the sleet and rain.
The trail up to the lake follows many switchbacks as it climbs up about 600 feet. The lack of dense trees along this section of the trail make for great views. There are sweeping vistas of the Continental Divide, Bear Lake Road, and Sprague Lake below.
As the Bierstadt Lake Trail reaches the plateau, it levels out and enters a pine forest. After a short walk, a sign points hikers left or right on the trail that goes around Bierstadt Lake. This trail does go around the lake, but not along the shore. A half mile or so down the path, another trail sign directs visitors to a spot where you can actually see the lake. When you do, it’s well worth the hike.
Head back to the trail, turn right, and continue around the lake until you complete the circle (or turn left and retrace your path). Then follow the same trail down the hill that you hiked up. Instead of following the circle around, obviously not paying much attention, I took a left turn somewhere and headed toward the park and ride area along Bear Lake Road. I realized this about half way down and took another trail back to the Bierstadt Lake trailhead and parking area, adding a few miles to my hike. A few rainy, sleety, chilly miles.
The Bierstadt Lake hike is an easy one to combine with other hikes along Bear Lake Road if you’re looking for something a little longer or more challenging. My hike to Bierstadt Lake was enough for the day. I headed down to Estes Park for some much needed hot coffee in a dry place.