Peak(s):  Mt. Bierstadt  -  14,060 feet
Date Posted:  09/09/2008
Modified:  11/06/2009
Date Climbed:   08/24/2008
Author:  CarpeDM
 A willows bypass route from Sawtooth / Mt. Evans  

Not so much a trip report - more of a route description back from the Sawtooth/Evans. I don't remember seeing a description of this route back, but I remember hearing that it existed.

Also, see this trip report by mt_turtle, which inspired me to post this one:

There is a trail along the north side of Scott Gomer creek that leads back to Guanella Pass and bypasses most of the willows. Generally, you find it by an easy bushwhack off the shoulder of Spalding down to the creek, crossing the creek and finding it among some rocks between a pond and a small cliff. Here is a topo representation:

Modified topo

Once across the creek, parallel it downstream until it starts to drop off in a cascade

Come above this pond with a rock outcropping to hiker's right - The trail actually goes through the clearing on the far side of this pond, but is very hard to spot in this photo

The rock outcropping just above and right of the pond - Get to the top of these rocks and you will see the trail coming down from the north and heading southwest to the forest and Guanella Pass

Push back the bushes here (the ground is dry) and an easy scramble over these rocks leads to the trail (blue arrow in the upper left)

Just got on the trail - you can see the trail angle up and left across the clearing

Looking back at the route from just on the trail

Another view looking back at the rock outcropping

This trail takes you pretty much back to the parking lot. But the tough part may be the last couple hundred yards. Once you get so close to the car that you can taste it, the trail seems to peter out in the willows not far from the boardwalks, and it becomes a "pick your own" route for a short but potentially sloppy finish. When I did this in June, the willows section was pretty dry. But in August, it was VERY soggy (and it was raining at the time, too). At the very least, this route bypasses about 90+% of the willows (I've also slogged right through the middle of them - and this is WAY better.)

Hope this helps. I'd appreciate any comments, updates, or improvements to this route. I think I saw someone mention another route that bypasses the willows on the southern side - i.e., closer to being under the Sawtooth. I'd be interested in more info about that.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Good Report!
01/05/2011 17:15
We took this route last year. There are some scattered trip reports on about it, but your description and pictures are much better than what we had to go off of. I still remember looking over towards the willows and saying repeatedly, "I'm glad I'm not over there."


Great alternative to the willows and gully!
09/09/2008 22:29
My wife and I enjoyed this route very much. Thanks for linking our reports together. Hopefully it will help others that are looking to avoid the willows. For me the added distance was well worth it!


Definitely the way to go
09/11/2008 03:22
I was with 53_Peaks last year and this is definitely the way to go. I‘d say we only had to bushwack through about 100 yards of the willows where we met up with the boardwalk just below the parking lot. I didn‘t sink in the mud at all going this way, and it was a great way to come down. We didn‘t even notice the added distance.


Why isn‘t this in the standard route descrip
09/20/2009 21:44
Great alternative - now if we can alter Bill Middlebrook to include it...

Doctor No

Well done!
09/03/2010 00:06
I had the same experience at the end of the trip back to Guanella Pass - the route just seems to die out.

I did a trip report for it (, and based on this, I think it's largely because I did it in August the week after a series of heavy rain days.


This is great
07/11/2014 16:38
Thank you for posting this and for your efforts. +1000 Karma points.


Thanks for the report!
08/18/2014 16:14
Just did Bierstadt Sawtooth and Evens on Saturday. descent through the bypass route. Only last couple hundreds yard of willowwack and soggy steps before reaching the boardwalk! Your post had saved us!


Couldn't find it
09/05/2014 17:54
While we found a faded trail to the northeast of that first big pond near guanella pass trailhead, it petered out and it was difficult to see where to go through all the willows. We gave it a good effort, but eventually turned back cold and soaking wet to go meet up with the route before we made it to the rock scramble. The route #3 does have an actual trail - yes, willows would brush on either side of you, but no need to go full steam through them. If I do this again, I would take the 14er route rather than rolling the dice trying to find this one. Although, to be fair, I think there are plenty of more enjoyable hikes out there.


Sorry gnarus
09/06/2014 02:59
It's been years since I've done this route. I have only used it to return to Guanella - not ascend from there. Given the 2 recent positive comments and some posts in the Forum, it seems this route is getting some attention. So I'm hoping to re-do this route and report soon. Also want to see if I can find a way that is sustainable near the willows so it doesn't get too overrun. Not sure if that is possible so the other route may be better in that regard.

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