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  • Craig Cooper Photography

Bierstadt Lake: Charming Winter Scenery Amidst the Rocky Mountains of Colorado

First called "Hanging Lake" by Native Americans, Bierstadt Lake lies laterally atop Bierstadt Moraine and is an alpine lake that is notable as one of the most popular destinations in Rocky Mountain National Park due to the expanding views of the Continental Divide that the shores of the lake provide.

Bierstadt Lake Trail Stats:
  • Roundtrip Distance: 2.5-3 miles

  • Total Elevation Gain: 675 feet

  • Trail Location: Bierstadt Lake Trailhead

  • Trailhead Elevation: 8840 feet

  • Highest Elevation: 9466 feet

Recommended Items for Winter Hiking:
  • Crampons or snowshoes, as needed

  • Hiking poles with snow baskets, as needed

  • Insulated waterproof hiking boots

  • Base-layer clothing such as long sleeve shirts

  • Mid-layer clothing such as a fleece jacket or pullover

  • Puffy insulated jackets or waterproof/windproof jackets with attached hoods

  • Waterproof gloves or mitts

  • Waterproof/windproof pants with full-length zippers along the side

  • Sunglasses and sunscreen

  • Map

  • Compass

  • Whistle

  • Headlamp with extra lithium batteries if hiking during dark hours

  • Personal first aid kit

  • Fire starting materials

  • Gear repair supplies

  • High energy snacks

The hike to Bierstadt Lake is a quintessential Colorado hike in the heart of the Rocky Mountain National Park near Estes Park, featuring stunning views of the Continental Divide and some of the park's most iconic peaks.

The hike begins at the Bierstadt Lake Trailhead located on Bear Lake Road, an extremely popular area of the Rocky Mountain National Park, especially during peak season in the summer months. The trailhead is located approximately 7 miles from the park entrance and is easily accessible by car, but I highly recommend arriving early during peak season due to limited parking at the trailhead parking lot. Shuttle service is also offered to the trailhead during peak season.

The trail at the trailhead began with a steady climb through a dense alpine forest lined with pine and aspen trees, before we reached the first of a series of sometimes complicated switchbacks as the trail ascended up the side of the mountain.

At this point, the forest cleared and views of the surrounding mountains expanded. The trail steadily climbed for about a mile, with an elevation gain of 600 feet before we finally reached the top of the moraine.

The Bierstadt Moraine is a collection of rock, gravel and soil left over by Bartholf Glacier that fundamentally assisted in forming the landscape of the area during the ice age.

Bierstadt Lake Trailhead.

The trail begins with a steady climb from the trailhead.

The trail soon leaves the forest and offers panoramic views of the Continental Divide.

The trail continues to a series of switchbacks.

Ice and snow cover areas of the trail during the winter months.

The trail offers stunning views in every direction.

We took some time to snap photos with the unique Rocky Mountain landscape in the distance.

Upon reaching the top of the moraine, we arrived to the Bierstadt Lake Loop Trail junction and began to enter into a serene alpine forest once again. The trail split to the right to head towards a viewpoint of the lake, but we decided to continue on a loop trail around the lake that leads to an access point with better views of the surrounding mountains. The loop trail is an approximately 0.8 mile trip and definitely worth it if you have the extra time, and is also quipped with yellow tags on the trees along the trail marking the route.

Once we reached the access point to Bierstadt Lake from the loop trail, we took some time to enjoy the frozen alpine landscape and have lunch.

During the summer months hikers can enjoy a very tranquil Bierstadt Lake, with reflections of the Rocky Mountains in the beautiful alpine water. During the winter months the lake freezes and provides a winter landscape worth admiring.

After reaching the top of Bierstadt Moraine, the trail transitions to a loop trail around the lake through a beautiful alpine forest.

The loop trail is marked with yellow tags, making it very simple to follow the route.

The loop trail eventually leads to an access point to Bierstadt Lake.

Bierstadt Lake offers a very serene landscape, with pine trees surrounding the lake.

Exploring the frozen lake.

After spending some time at the lake, we headed back to the trailhead by continuing our hike along the loop trail before ultimately reaching the junction atop Bierstadt Moraine.

It is important to be careful during the trek down the side of the mountain if there is ice or snow present on the trail. We encountered numerous locations where it would be easy to lose footing along the switchbacks while descending, even when using essential winter hiking equipment.

Ultimately, the hike to Bierstadt Lake was an excellent day hike, providing stunning views of Rocky Mountain National Park in every direction and offers a pleasant hiking experience during any season of the year.

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