The Bierstadt Lake Download

Highlights: Peeks of peaks, view of Sprague Lake & Continental Divide, beautiful glacial lake, some wildlife.

Travel Time (from Urban Centers to Park/Trailhead): Slightly under two hours from Denver.

Nearby Supplies and Gas: Estes Park (10 miles northeast).

Difficulty: There is some moderate climbing, via long switchbacks, and all is at the beginning.

Distance: 3.4 miles.

Entrance Fees: $30 (7 days) or $20 (1 day) for vehicle, $20 for motorcycles, $15 (7 days) or $10 (1 day) for individuals, plus various annual passes.

Top Elevation: 9,466 feet.

Elevation Gain: 675 feet.

Trailhead Waypoint: 440.320856, -105.623837

Getting There: Drive 3.8 miles west on US-36W from Estes Park. Turn left on Bear Lake Road and drive 6.8 miles west. Turn into a well-marked lot with toilet facilities at trailhead.

Because I’m a landscape photographer, the painter Albert Bierstadt has been a great inspiration, just as he was to many Americans in the late 1800s. It was his work, among others, that unveiled the wonders of the mostly unexplored West to the rest of the country.

Given that, how could I not do this hike?

This is the route taken from the Bierstadt Lake Trailhead off Bear Lake Road. You also can hike to Bierstadt from Bear Lake. Check with rangers on whether you need traction for any remnant snow. I did this in May of 2016 and it was quite muddy around the lake.

The trail switches pretty steadily for about 500 feet of elevation gain. If you’re new to altitude it can be rough, but that gives you opportunities to stop and behold the peaks above and the gorge below. Sprague Lake can be spied to the southwest.

The lake is ringed by forest. Hike around to the east end, by a bridge over a stream, for views of the Continental Divide, reflecting in the glacier lake. You won’t be disappointed.