“An easy intro to Colorado's 14ers on the standard West Slopes route.”
— Tyler Prince
River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife
This is perhaps Colorado's easiest and most accessible 14er, just an hour and change from Denver over Georgetown's Guanella Pass. While absolutely packed on any summer weekend with beginning hikers, experts, and trail-runners alike, Mt. Bierstadt provides some excellent views, including but not limited to one of the Denver skyline on clear days. This is the standard route most commonly used to reach the peak.
Need to Know
Generally, you should expect a 4+ hour trip, and plan accordingly. Bring sun protection, rain gear, and at least 2 liters of water.
Note: Even though land management says dogs are to be leashed, you'll see many dogs and few leashes.
The bottom 60% or so is fairly runnable, after which rocks and steep grades render maintaining any speed extremely difficult. While this is a relatively easy run, it still takes faster runners almost two hours.
Drive (in any functioning automobile, 2WD is fine) up Guanella Pass from Georgetown. There is ample parking (day or night) along the road, and plenty of signs designating the TH. You'll start this run right around tree line.
From the trailhead, follow a clearly designated trail over easy class 1 terrain with minimal vertical. After crossing over some small creeks on well-maintained footbridges, pass through some willows. After about one mile, the grade begins to increase, though the terrain remains at class 1. Approaching the two mile mark, the trail turns to the south and continues to steepen. From here the trail becomes increasingly rough all the way to the summit ridge, but will not surpass class 2. Some log steps and small to medium size rocks along the switchbacks demand at least some vigilance.
Continue upward, turning left onto a bearing E/NE up the summit ridge. This area is prone to typical Front Range weather, so be prepared for some intense winds. The summit comes into sight just a few hundred yards up the ridge. Once visible, it's just an easy 200 ft or so scramble on solid rock to the summit. This should be easy for any semi-fit human, but smaller dogs may require some assistance.
From here, you can return to the Mt. Bierstadt TH or continue to Mt. Evans via a low class 3 traverse known as "the Sawtooth."
Flora & Fauna
Willows at the start of the run retain a lot of moisture... be ready to get wet. The 14ers Initiative does an excellent job of keeping them from getting too unruly, but plants certainly have a tendency to grow back.
Don't feed the marmots - they're feisty little creatures.
History & Background
Mt. Bierstadt is named after first summiter Albert Bierstadt, a German-American painter best known for his dramatic landscapes of the American West. At 14,065 feet, it is the 38th highest peak in Colorado.