Mount Bierstadt and the Sawtooth Ridge as seen from Guanella Pass
Photo by Brent D
Mount Bierstadt is one of Colorado’s most popular, and easiest fourteeners. Along with Mount Evans, Bierstadt is the closest 14'er to Denver. It’s not much more than an hour outside of Denver and the easiest route, the West Slopes, only requires a 3 mile, 2391 foot ascent up a class 1 trail to reach its summit. Because of its easiness and accessibility Mount Bierstadt is popular with novice peakbaggers. If you climb it during the summer months expect to share the summit with lots of other hikers. Climbing on the weekdays or on one of the South side routes will offer some solitude.
Amongst more experienced hikers, Mount Bierstadt is a popular place for conditioning climbs and winter ascents. The year around access from Guanella Pass definately adds to the popularity of this peak in winter.
For those interested in adding some challenge, there are longer, more difficult routes available. One of these is the class 3 Sawtooth ridge which connects Mount Bierstadt with Mount Evans. A long day can made by climbing Mount Bierstadt, Mount Evans, and Mount Spalding.
Like most of the other 14'ers in the area, Mount Bierstadt is believed to have been first climbed by early (mid to late 1800's) miners to the area. There are several small prospect holes high on the slopes that indicate that this may be so.
Bierstadt was first climbed on skis in 1934 and, along with Quandary, is thought to be the first to have been climbed in this manner.
To get to the Guanella Pass Trailhead (easiest route) take I-70 west from Denver to Exit 228 at Georgetown and follow the Guanella Pass Road south for 10 miles to Guanella Pass. Alternatively you may take US 285 to Grant and follow the Guanella Pass Road north for 12 miles to Guanella Pass. This road is dirt, but passable for passenger cars. There are large parking lots on both sides of the road at the apex of the pass and the trailhead is clearly marked.
|Route||Distance To Summit||Beggining Elevation||Elevation Gain|
|Scott Gomer Creek - Eastern Ridge||8.2 Miles||9,691 Feet||4,369 Feet|
|South Ridge||7.0 Miles||9,619 Feet||4,441 Feet|
|West Chicago Creek||7.5 Miles||10,209 Feet||3,851 Feet|
|Western Slope - Guanella Pass||3.0 Miles||11,669 Feet||2,391 Feet|
No fees for parking, but the Forest Service campgrounds are fee areas. No user or summit fees involved. As stated before, Guanella Pass Road is open all winter but the last priority for the snowplows.
Please remember that although there are no regulations for use of this area, that it is a high use area in all seasons. Make as little impact and the area as possible. This means sticking to the established trails, especially in wet areas, and packing out what you pack in.
Climbing Bierstadt on summer weekends can be a crowded experience. Don't expect to have much solitude. Climbig on weekdays and from alternate trailheads can improve your experience.
Mount Bierstadt is also very popular as a winter climb due to the easy access to the Guanella Pass trailhead and the fact that there is minimal avalanche danger on the standard West Slopes route. However, be aware of the snow conditions and use your own judgement and consult the Colorado Avalanche Information Center when planning a winter ascent. This mountain is often times the site of rescues in winter when ill-prepared hikers underestimate the climb.
While the Guanella Pass Road is open in winter it is last priority for the snowplow crew. As with all the high peaks, it's best to get an early start and be off of the summit before noon in the summer storms. There are now bridges for getting through the infamous willows, but in the winter the snow over the willows and bridges can be challenge, even with snowshoes.
Situated in the Arapaho National Forest, there are several Forest Service campgrounds nearby on either side of Guanella Pass and in the Echo Lake area when being combined with the Mt Evans climb. There is a large parking area on both sides of the road at Guanella Pass (the trailhead). In addition there are numerous places to pull off and camp along Guanella Pass, especially on the north side.
National Forest Campgrounds