Hiking to Bierstadt Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Updated on May 29, 2020
Chad Claeyssen profile image

Chad enjoys getting outdoors and loves to share his tips and experiences to help others find great places to hike and camp.

Bierstadt Lake in the rain
Bierstadt Lake in the rain

The day that I decided to hike to Bierstadt Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, there was a chance of rain and thunderstorms in the forecast. I was looking for a relatively short hike, just in case of a downpour, as well as one I hadn't done before. Bierstadt Lake, at 2.8 miles round-trip, fit the bill.

The Bierstadt Lake trailhead is located along the Bear Lake Road in "Rocky" at 8,850 feet above sea level. During the Summer, the parking area can get full, so using the free shuttle is a good idea. Even with the rainy, chilly weather the day I hiked the trail, the parking lot was crowded and I took the last parking space.

Bierstadt Lake Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park
Bierstadt Lake Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park

It's a good idea to take a look at the trailhead sign and become familiar with the trail system before heading up the path. I like to take a picture of the trail map with my phone. That way I have it to refer back to if the need arises. Most trails in Rocky Mountain National Park are clearly marked and easy to understand. The Bierstadt Lake Trail, on the other hand, can be a little confusing. The good part. If you take a wrong turn, you're likely to just find yourself at the wrong parking area....like I did. My 2.8 mile round-trip walk turned into a seven mile hike in the sleet and rain.

The trail up to the lake follows many switchbacks as it climbs up about 600 feet. The lack of dense trees along the first section of the trail make for great views. There are sweeping vistas of the Continental Divide, Bear Lake Road, and Sprague Lake below.

Sprague Lake from the trail to Bierstadt Lake
Sprague Lake from the trail to Bierstadt Lake

As the Bierstadt Lake Trail reaches a plateau it enters a pine forest. After a short walk, a sign points hikers left or right on the trail that goes around Bierstadt Lake. This trail circles the lake, but not close to the lake shore. A half mile or so down the loop path, another trail sign directs visitors to a spot where you can actually see the lake. When you do, it's well worth the hike. When I got to the lake it started to rain. I didn't mind. I stood by the lake, snapped a few pictures, and took in the view and calm atmosphere.

Foot bridge over a stream on the way to Bierstadt Lake
Foot bridge over a stream on the way to Bierstadt Lake

To head back to the trail, turn right, and continue around the lake until you complete the circle. Alternately, you could turn left and retrace your path. Then follow the same trail down the hill that you hiked up. I didn't do that. Instead of following the circle around, obviously not paying much attention, I took a wrong turn. I unknowingly headed towards the wrong parking area. I realized this about half way down and cut across the woods to the Bierstadt Lake trailhead. That added a few miles to my hike that day. A few rainy, sleety, chilly miles.

The Bierstadt Lake hike is an easy one to combine with other hikes along Bear Lake Road, if you're looking for something a little longer or more challenging. My hike to Bierstadt Lake was enough for the day. I headed down to Estes Park for some much needed hot coffee in a dry place.

Have you ever hiked in the rain? Was it a fun experience or something you'd never want to do again?

A fire and coffee in Estes Park
A fire and coffee in Estes Park
A deer near Bierstadt Lake
A deer near Bierstadt Lake


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    • Chad Claeyssen profile imageAUTHOR

      Chad Claeyssen 

      6 weeks ago from Colorado

      Thanks Liz. I agree with you. I'd rather hike in the rain than extreme heat.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      6 weeks ago from UK

      This is a well-illustrated account of your experience. It was a shame about the weather when you went. I think, on balance I would rather have rain than scorching heat when hiking.


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