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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