Colorado’s Mount Bierstadt Should Be Your First 14er Conquest
If you have never hiked to the top of one of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, this should be your first one.
Mt. Bierstadt is most easily accessible from Guanella Pass, about 12 miles above Georgetown, which makes it a very trendy destination for hikers. Although Mt. Bierstadt is an extremely popular hike, I think it's safe to say most Coloradans have never even seen the mountain, let alone hiked to the summit.
As fourteeners go, Mt. Bierstadt is considered an "easy" hike for novice mountain hikers, and it's a recommended hike for those that have never attempted to reach the top of one of these towering Colorado peaks.
"Easy" is a relative term. There is nothing easy about this particular hike, but, I believe that would be true of any of Colorado's 53 14ers What makes it "easy," I suppose, is the fact that there is a well-groomed trail to within 300 feet of the summit. There are no harrowing ledges or exposures to deal with that may provide the possibility of plummeting to your death or serious injury. This hike provides a serious challenge to your legs and muscles. But, it's definitely doable.
Once the trail begins its ascent, it doesn't give you a break. It's up, up, up, and more up. Your legs will burn, your heart will pound. I think there is a reason why the vast majority of the more than 200 hikers we encountered were under the age of 35.
With any mountain climb, the weather is going to be a factor, and you best be prepared. The temperature was 26-degrees when we began at 7:30 in the morning. It was an absolutely wonderful morning in the mountains, but before long we began to encounter some pretty steady winds. This mandated a handful of wardrobe adjustments, from the peeling off or adding of layers, to changes to our ear and head coverings.
People will say it's always harder coming down. That's not true. Going up is always harder, it's just that coming down tends to be a bit painful on the joints, especially if they have been on this earth for 50+ years. I definitely recommend a walking stick, which helps cushion some of those blows coming down. It can also help provide some leverage on the way up, occasionally taking some of the pressure off of your leg muscles and joints.
This sort of hike requires a great deal of patience. Looking ahead to see how far you have to go can be a bit discouraging. It's just one foot in front of the other, pressing on and enjoying the journey.
Reaching the top is definitely exhilarating and gives you a sense of accomplishment, and a view of the Rocky Mountains that most people have never seen. I never had any doubt that I would make it to the top because I'm not a quitter, but it was a good feeling to know that I was up to the 14,065-foot challenge of Colorado's Mt. Bierstadt.
If you have never attempted a 14er, I highly recommend you make Bierstadt your first.
Climbing Colorado's Mt. Bierstadt
Photos: 10 Reminders to Leave No Trace in Colorado