Huffing and Puffing to Bierstadt Lake

Rocky Mountain National ParkAfter yesterday’s easy hike and experiencing no problems with the altitude, I was ready to tackle a lengthier hike.  The trailhead to Bierstadt Lake wasn’t far from our campground and seemed ‘on paper’ to look very doable.  From the Park and Ride (shuttle) parking lot to the lake was 1.6 miles one way.

Rocky Mountain National ParkFYI….. This eastside area of Rocky Mountain National Park is the most popular with the Bear Lake trailhead that we visited yesterday being the most popular trail in the entire park. 

To alleviate traffic and congestion the park offers free shuttle service from a parking lot not far from our campground to the Bear Lake trailhead with stops in between.

The shuttle is also great to use to be dropped off at a trailhead and then hike back to your vehicle.  Very convenient.

So back to my 1.6 mile hike one-way which will be less than 3 miles round trip.  Piece of cake, right?  Well, what I failed to research was the 566 foot elevation gain that would take us up over 10,000 feet in elevation or the fact that this was the ‘unimproved’ trail …. oops!Rocky Mountain National ParkWe picked up the trail from the shuttle parking lot and immediately started uphill.  It was about 9:00 in the morning on a Sunday and for the time being we seemed to have the trail to ourselves.  Yep, we were liking the solitude and fresh scent of pine.Rocky Mountain National ParkBierstadt LakeAt several points the trail did seem to level off giving us a nice reprieve from the steady climb up as well as a clear wide path, but that was short-lived.

After about 45 minutes of hiking (mostly uphill), we passed another couple coming down the trail warning us that the steepest climb was yet to come.  Oh, joy!

We took a rest before tackling this part of the trail.  Not only was the trail steep, it was like walking up an old river bed with loose rock under foot.  We proceeded slowly.

I’ll admit, we were huffing and puffing on the hike to Bierstadt Lake and numerous rests were necessary to catch our breath.

Rocky Mountain National ParkAnd to think, I thought this was going to be a relatively easy hike and briefed hubby thusly  😉

Once at the top when the lay of the land seemed to finally level off, we had a decision to make; left or right?  We went right and when I saw a path through the tall grass I veered left urgently in search of the lake.  Al tried to stop me to discuss ‘our’ plan, but I was down the path and out of sight long before he could finish his sentence.  My vigilant protector quickly followed.Bierstadt Lake

The trail TO the lake was not marked but somehow I sensed a body of water was “that a way”.Rocky Mountain National Park

Could it get any prettier?  All that huffing and puffing was sooooo worth it.Bierstadt LakeThe air was crisp and clean with the hint of scented pine.  It would be a sin to not sit and savor the surrounding beauty.  Thus, sit we did.  We drank our water, munched on a power bar and just sat in awe taking in the scenery.Bierstadt LakeBierstadt LakeWe were roused out of our meditative state by a rather large, loud group of college kids who looked ill prepared for the hike.

Ah, yes…. the University of Colorado in Boulder would be back in session in less than 2 weeks.

Their presence was our queue to head back down the mountain and exit the trails before the masses took over.

we spot our campsite in the distance

we spot our campsite in the distance

Our hike down obviously went much quicker without the need to stop and catch our breath.  We still found ourselves taking our time on the loose rock and boulder filled trail.  I had more hikes planned and twisting an ankle wasn’t part of that plan.Rocky Mountain National ParkHmm, which trail shall we hike tomorrow?  😉
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50 thoughts on “Huffing and Puffing to Bierstadt Lake

  1. 10,000 feet elevation in 1.6 mile hike, eeekkk … that’s insane! Thanks for taking that hike for us. I probably won’t do it. 😀 Too tired already just reading this. 😀 But it’s true that a hike is always extra rewarding with great views as a price at the end.

  2. Wow! You really got some gorgeous pictures from your hike. Colorado is such a beautiful place. I spent some time in the Canadian Rockies this summer and was blow away by their beauty. It’s been a few years since I’ve been to RMNP though. You pictures are inspiring me to go back 🙂

  3. Oh yes, around 10,000 feet is where I can definitely feel the elevation — that’s how it is in Great Basin NP, too. And hiking is so much more challenging on rocky trails! There’s never a moment when you can take your eyes off the path to look around, unless you come to a full stop. We’re so looking forward to hiking in the Rockies someday soon!

    • I did not know Great Basin NP was that high. The whole time we lived in Las Vegas I kept telling hubby I wanted to go there. With work and kids it never happened but now I’m hoping it will. However, we love Colorado and next summer may already be planned out LOL

    • Yep, that always floors me when I see the young gals hiking in flip flops – no water, no provisions. They don’t have a clue how dangerous the backcountry can be. Fortunately these trails are populated enough to run into helpful old fogey’s willing to assist…. wink 😉 With age comes wisdom!

  4. Great Job Ingrid! By just looking at the trail, I was already huffing, thanks for doing it for me today, for one day I will be huffing and puffing as well. Altitude hiking i know is a different ball game.
    You look great on orange surrounded by the beautiful scenery.

    • Yes, there were definitely parts of the trail that looked like a rock slide or old river bed which did present some challenges. Younger? Not by much 😉

  5. It was on one of those hikes in loose gravel and rocks that I slipped and fell. My head was lodged between two rocks and no one was around. It took a ton of twisting my body to find a position that I could begin to get out of that rock and a hard place. Does that discourage me from hiking the mountains? Heck no! In the end, it was a terribly funny story that I lived to tell.

    • Wow…. indeed a tale to be told. Sounds like it ended not too seriously. Hubby and I reminded ourselves several times that day that we weren’t in a race and to just take our time; after all, we live on ‘RV time’.

  6. The huffing and puffing was definitely worth it. What spectacular views! I wouldn’t like the looks of that rocky trail however. We had a similar experience the other day with a rocky uphill trail, but a bison was ahead of us and was not going anywhere. We had to, as gently as possible, urge him to keep moving and get off our trail.

  7. Oh, Ingrid, I can feel your pain! Why is everything beautiful so high!! While we are only 7400′ but it is still challenging to climb straight up so quickly. But honestly, I would rather climb up than down. I feel I have so much more control going up with a rock covered route. And my knees like up much better. I know…John thinks I am crazy, also!!

    What a gorgeous lake! Glad you had some time of quiet to yourself:)

    • So totally agree – going down is rough on the knees and I’m always concerned the rock will start sliding along with me and then if Al’s behind me, he too starts to slide and I become a bowling pin. That might make a fun tale but not a fun injury. I’ve come to realize, there isn’t a bad view in RMNP and I know the same holds true in Glacier 🙂

    • Somehow I found the challenge of this hike to be exhilarating and acted as a catalyst for more hiking. Ah, surrounded by such beauty, how could it not 🙂

  8. It’s definitely OK to take breaks and catch your breath on a steep hike such as this one. I’m sure it was a fantastic feeling when you made it to your prize-the gorgeous lake!
    This reminds me of the three times we hiked the Castle Dome trail at Castle Crags State Park in California. On my third attempt I finally made it to the top and what a view I had 🙂
    I find it hard to believe you can beat the scenery of this hike and I’m looking forward to your next post.
    Thanks for letting us all come along on your adventures.

    • That sounds like an amazing hike and it’s always fun to accomplish something so challenging. No matter where we went in RMNP we found the scenery breathtaking and are already looking forward to a return visit. Thanks for commenting 🙂

    • Yes, it was most definitely worth it. Gosh, imagine if I did that hike 5 times a week for a month…. maybe I’d finally loose the weight I’ve been struggling with – that or keel over LOL

      • It could go either way – losing weight would be the better option though – lol! I live at close to 5000 feet elevation, but you get up past 8,000 and boy the lungs and body get a workout. Driving the truck with the trailer on behind is rough over 8000 feet elevation – think about 9300-9500 feet elevation the truck and trailer have been at. Happy Weekend – Enjoy 🙂

  9. When we were in Tuscon and hiked Sabino Canyon, they had a trolley that took people to different trailheads. Wonderful idea.

    Gorgeous hike. People who do not hike do not understand that a 3-mile hike isn’t as straight as the crow flies….hehe

    • You are so right Marsha. One would think a 3 mile hike should be a piece of cake. After all I used to do 4 miles on a treadmill in less than an hour. But going uphill at high altitude is a whole different game. The trolley/shuttle thing makes for some fun hiking 🙂

  10. Absolutely worth it…I have a time with altitude and would have definitely had to stop and catch good breaths…Also, we both need better shoes..our running/walking shoes don’t cut it on that creek bed trail!

    • This was not a trail for tennies. Our sturdy hiking shoes definitely made a huge difference and I’d say they were a must. Trust me, there were plenty of stops to catch our breath that day.

  11. Absolutely wonderful photos as always!
    I’m a South-Paw, and I’m sure there is some science about it, but I always go left when offered a choice. I noticed at Great America that the rides were less crowded on the left side in the AM. Or maybe I should have been a Nascar driver! Ha.

    • Yes, that last uphill was a bit of a shocker. Not only uphill but big steps were necessary navigating the boulders. It was a good workout with fabulous views 🙂

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