Bierstadt Lake, Bierstadt Lake Trailhead, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Bierstadt Lake - 3.2 miles

Bierstadt Lake Trailhead

Looking west from Bierstadt Lake across the Continental Divide

Looking west from Bierstadt Lake across the Continental Divide

Round-Trip Length: 3.2 miles (includes loop around lake)
Start-End Elevation: 8,862' - 9,416' (9,451' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +554' net elevation gain (+670' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Easy-Moderate
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

Bierstadt Lake - 3.2 Miles Round-Trip

Rocky Mountain National Park's landscape has been shaped by the cyclical growth, recession and reconstitution of glaciers over many millennia. Glacial movement grinds the land beneath it, depositing till on its margins that accumulate on ridges called moraines.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

Bierstadt Lake fills a shallow depression in a lateral moraine north of Bear Lake Road. A moderately steep climb on well-crafted switchbacks pass through open hillsides to a heavily wooded moraine-top and Bierstadt Lake.

A one mile loop continues around the lake with numerous access points and post-card panoramas of the Continental Divide. The Bierstadt Lake Trail is well-suited for families, runners, and winter recreation:

The trail climbs methodically on long-leg switchbacks through open hillsides of sage, grasses, and wildflowers. Aspen line portions of the trail, with much thicker stands on its fringes. Rangy views extend from Longs Peak (south) to Thatchtop Mountain (north) before leveling off in a thick lodgepole forest (.97 miles : 9,451').

Here it drops gently to the Bierstadt Lake Loop Trail junctionon the lake's southwest corner (1.05 miles : 9,438'), which continues for one mile around the lake basin through lodgepole, spruce, and fir. This upper-montane forest is arguably the Park's most biologically diverse, a food-rich ecosystem that attracts deer, elk, bear, fox, snowshoe hare among many others.

Travel around Bierstadt Lake is mild and well-maintained, with numerous marked and unmarked spurs leading to its damp, sedge-lined shore.

The lake's east end provides the most complete look at the Continental Divide, with standouts such as Otis Peak (12,486'), Hallet Peak (12,713'), Flattop Mountain (12,324'), Ptarmigan Point (12,363') and Notchtop Mountain (12,129'). Connections to Bear Lake, Mill Creek Basin, Cub Lake, and Sprague Lake extend travel through the east-central quadrant of the Park.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N40 19.233 W105 37.429 — 0.0 miles : Bierstadt Lake Trailhead
  • N40 19.372 W105 37.416 — .5 miles : Travel up switchbacks
  • N40 19.428 W105 37.578 — .95 miles : Level in lodgepole forest atop moraine
  • N40 19.467 W105 37.613 — 1.05 miles : Bierstadt Loop Trail junction
  • N40 19.541 W105 37.521 — 1.15 miles : Bierstadt Lake
  • N40 19.678 W105 37.460 — 1.6 miles : Split for Sprague Lake
  • N40 19.631 W105 37.708 — 1.8 miles : Split for Mill Creek and Hollowell Park
  • N40 19.567 W105 37.734 — 1.85 miles : Split for Bear Lake
  • N40 19.467 W105 37.613 — 2.15 miles : Bierstadt Loop Trail junction
  • N40 19.233 W105 37.429 — 3.2 miles : Bierstadt Lake Trailhead

Worth Noting

  • Bierstadt Lake was named in honor of Albert Bierstadt, a late 19th century painter who earned fame for his illustrious depictions of the American West. Albert Bierstadt came to Estes Park in 1876 under the commission of the Earl of Dunraven, who displayed Bierstadt's work in Dunraven Castle in South Wales.

  • Those seeking a longer hike should consider continuing on to Mill Creek Basin or Cub Lake (2.15 miles and 3.95 miles from the Bierstadt Lake Loop Trail junction, respectively).

  • Horses are permitted on the Bierstadt Lake Trail, and on the above mentioned trail connections to Mill Creek Basin and Cub Lake.

Camping and Backpacking Information

There are no backcountry campsites at Bierstadt Lake, however there are two close by in the Mill Creek Basin area:

Upper Mill Creek Backcountry Campsite

  • 2.15 miles from the Bierstadt Lake Trailhead (9,200').
  • 2 sites are located in a lodgepole pine stand near Mill Creek and the trail. One site is just off-trail across the access bridge, the other site is located deeper in the woods.

Mill Creek Basin Backcountry Campsite

  • 2.25 miles from the Bierstadt Lake Trailhead (9,000').

  • 2 sites are located in a mixed stand of spruce and aspen at the south end of the basin. The sites are located on the west side of the trail, across and upstream from Mill Creek.

Both sites have access to a privy. Water is available at Mill Creek. Fires are not permitted. A bear-resistant food canister is required.

Fishing Information

  • A valid Colorado fishing license is required for all persons 16 years of age or older to fish in Rocky Mountain National Park. No other permit is necessary; however, special regulations exist. It's your responsibility to know and obey them. Due to the dynamic nature of fisheries management, fishing regulations can change at anytime. Special closures may be put in place above and beyond what is listed here. Contact the park before heading out for current information.
  • Method of Capture: Each person shall use only one hand-held rod or line. A 'second rod stamp' is not honored in park waters. Only artificial lures or flies with one (single, double, or treble) hook with a common shank may be used. "Artificial flies or lures" means devices made entirely of, or a combination of, materials such as wood, plastic, glass, hair, metal, feathers, or fiber, designed to attract fish. This does not include: (a) any hand malleable material designed to attract fish by the sense of taste or smell; (b) any device to which scents or smell attractants have been externally applied; (c) molded plastic devices less than one and one-half inch in length; (d) foods; (e) traditional organic baits such as worms, grubs, crickets, leeches, minnows, and fish eggs; and (f) manufactured baits such as imitation fish eggs, dough baits, or stink baits. Fly fishers may utilize a two hook system, where one hook is used as an attractant.
  • While in possession of any fishing equipment, bait for fishing (insects, fish eggs, minnows, or other organic matter) or worms is prohibited. Children 12 years of age or under, however, may use worms or preserved fish eggs in all park waters open to fishing except those designated as catch-and release areas.
  • No bait or worms are allowed in catch-and-release waters.
  • Use of lead sinkers (or other lead fishing materials) is strongly discouraged.

Rules and Regulations

  • A $20 Day Use Fee is required to enter Rocky Mountain National Park (or $30 for a 7 Day Pass).
  • Dogs are not permitted on hiking trails in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Directions to Trailhead

Bierstadt Lake is accessed from the Bierstadt Lake Trailhead, 6.6 miles from the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station on Bear Lake Road. Turn left onto Bear Lake Road .1 mile past the Beaver Meadows entrance station. The Bierstadt Lake Trailhead is located on the left side of the road and has limited parking.

Contact Information

Rocky Mountain National Park
Visitor Information:

Backcountry Office:

Campground Reservations:

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


"You can also hike down to the trail in the woods from Bear Lake. "
Terry  -  Texas  -  Date Posted: May 9, 2015


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