If you have ever decided to hike Mount Bierstadt on a summer weekend, you’ve seen it: hundreds of eager hikers marching up the trail in what can only be described as a continuous train of people from trailhead to summit. A combination of proximity to the Denver metropolitan area, ease of trailhead access and a low degree of difficulty makes Beirstadt one of the most popular 14ers in Colorado. Unfortunately, this popularity comes with a price; after years of heavy use, Bierstadt has become subject to massive trail widening and extreme erosion. In an effort to avoid bumping into others or trudging through muddy patches, hikers will romp off-trail and create damage for the surrounding tundra.
This year, we completed the first half of a two-year project to abate the damage sustained on Beirstadt. Leading the project was Eli Allan and Eric Haggstrom, who have both done excellent work in previous seasons. They faced two major challenges with the Bierstadt project:
A) Since Bierstadt is located in the Mount Evans Wilderness, certain tasks were compounded in difficulty in order to comply with Wilderness regulations. Bierstadt has scarce building materials, which meant that CFI’s crews had to make countless trips carrying heavy loads of timber and 75+ pounds of rock several miles from the parking lot to work sites.
B) The Bierstadt trail remained open while CFI crews were conducting maintenance, which meant that -crews had to work around the hundreds of daily visitors. They had to ensure that adequate work could be accomplished while still enabling for hikers to pass through instead of walking off-trail to avoid the crews.
Eli and Eric, with the help of volunteers who contributed 267 days of work, were able to overcome these challenges and manage an extremely successful season of work. Overall, they were able to construct 98 check steps, 151 crib steps, 800 linear feet of barrier wall and 366 square feet of back wall, 550 linear feet of water bars, and 170 linear feet of causeway. The crew also managed to transplant 292 willows, which will re-establish vegetation in a heavily impacted area. Without this work, the trail would continue to widen and erode, tundra would continue to be trampled by hikers, and the precious fragile plants would be unable to grow back. Before long, Bierstadt would no longer be able to sustain the current flora and fauna. Now, we have the chance to help rebuild the alpine ecosystem in spite of heavy disturbance
CFI would like to extend a special thanks to all of those who helped make this project successful
1) Eli and Eric, for successfully leading a vital season of work on Bierstadt
2)Volunteers for Outdoors Colorado, Wildlands Restoration Volunteers, and Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, for providing us with dedicated and hard-working crews.
3) The U.S. Forest Service, The Colorado State Trails Program and the Town of Georgetown for their financial contribution towards the Bierstadt project.
4) Lorretta McEllhiney, Fourteener Peak Manager for the Forest Service, for her guidance and assistance all season.
Great work has been accomplished on Beirstadt this year, but there is still a lot to be done. Next year, we plan to build more structures located higher-up on the trail, where transporting building materials will be an even greater challenge. We will also continue restoration along the entire trail. There will be many opportunities for volunteer projects on Bierstadt next season, so check-in on the website next spring if you are interested in helping out!