Denver, Colorado is surrounded by so many incredible mountains, it can be hard to choose which one is best to visit! We’d recommend Mt. Evans, a nearby fourteener which you’ve probably spied from downtown Denver. The peak’s close proximity to the city makes it an ideal spot for a day trip and provides an amazing glimpse of Colorado’s stunning mountainous beauty. Mt. Evans’ summit soars up to 14,271 feet (4,350 meters) and is home to North America’s highest paved auto road, which will take you almost all the way up to the summit. Drivers and hikers are rewarded with an incredible panorama of Front Range, with mountain peaks as far as the eye can see. Visiting Mt. Evans is a worthwhile, albeit challenging, activity. Thus, be sure to peruse this guide to Mt. Evans for all the best tips before you go.
Going to Mt. Evans is not your typical mountain visit. The peak is home to unique features like some of the only alpine-arctic plants outside the arctic circle, pines that are over a thousand years old, and rare wildlife! There are several ways to experience the natural beauty of Mt. Evans, whether your goal is to be educated, exercise, or see the stunning panoramas.
Mt. Evans Scenic Byway
You’ll be achieving a bucket list item by driving on the Mt. Evans Scenic Byway, which is the highest paved auto road in all North America! The drive from Denver is doable for a day trip since the mountain is only 60 miles (96 kilometers) from the city. This is impressive considering the journey brings you almost 9,000 feet (2743 meters) in elevation and through five climate zones! This is a breathtaking way to see Mt. Evans and the surrounding Front Range if you don’t want to hike all the way up.
Mt. Evans Summit Hike
The drive up Mt. Evans Scenic Byway will not bring you to the 14,264-foot (4,347-meter) summit of the mountain. The only way to reach the very top, even if you drive up, is to take a short hike from the parking area to the summit. The hike is only ¼ mile (402 meters) long and can be completed in 15 to 20 minutes. Not only will you get a spectacular view of the surrounding mountain range, but you also might spot wildlife like bighorn sheep and mountain goats roaming around!
Summit Lake Park
Though the peak of Mt. Evans is the main attraction, one of the prettiest spots on the mountain is Summit Lake. Here you will find a small lake which perfectly reflects the surrounding mountains. Summit Lake Park is also home to rare alpine-arctic plants which are only found in the tundra above the arctic circle!
The adventurous may forego driving to the top of Mt. Evans and prefer to hike to the very top! The main trail to the top of the mountains starts at Summit Lake and is 4.5 miles (7.2 km) round trip. However, this isn’t an easy trek–that medium-sized loop includes 2,000 feet (609 meters) of elevation gain up steep trails. To avoid the common midday storms in this part of Colorado, start your hike early and perhaps even catch the sunrise over the mountain range.
Dos Chappell Nature Center
A great way to educate yourself about the natural environment and history of Mt. Evans is to stop by Dos Chappell Nature Center on your way up or down the mountain. This center focuses on the life forms that persist in extreme mountain environments. One such life form is the bristlecone pine, a species which is able to thrive despite the harsh conditions and poor soil of the mountain environment. The center has a display of a bristlecone pine that lived for 1052 years, as well as other exhibits about the history of the mountain’s road construction and tourism.
Safety on the scenic byway
Though the views along the ascent of Mt. Evans via the scenic byway are second to none, this is not your average relaxing afternoon drive. The auto road is steep and at times there are hairpin turns and steep dropoffs with no guard rail. Be cautious and mindful of your speed when driving up and down the mountain.
Whether you are hiking up Mt. Evans or walking around at the summit after driving, keep in mind that the mountain’s high elevation may cause some visitors to feel altitude sickness. Altitude sickness is caused by low levels of oxygen and the symptoms include headaches, vomiting, and dizziness. If you aren’t used to high elevations, take things slowly and be sure to drink lots of water.
The Mt. Evans Scenic Byway is only open from Memorial Day to Labor Day because of snow. The summer months are also when thunderstorms commonly roll into the area around the middle of the day. It’s best to plan your trip up the mountain so you are heading back around noontime. If you get caught in a storm, it’s best to return to your car for safety.
Protect local floral and fauna
Mt. Evans is home to some precious varieties of animals and plants. The best way to protect and preserve the environment is to stay on marked trails. Remember to leave natural items like flowers and branches where you find them and bring all belongings and trash home with you.
How to get there
Mt. Evans is easily accessible by car from Denver and your visit could be a great day trip from the city. Head west out of Denver on I-70 until exit 240 at Idaho Springs. This town sits at the base of the mountain and here you can find a visitor’s center with maps and other information. You can return to Denver by I-70 as well, or take the longer scenic route on Highway 103. This will bring you over Squaw Pass before returning to I-70 back to the city. Keep your eye out for herds of buffalo along the sides of the road!
Mt. Evans information
Address: Clear Creek County, Colorado, United States
Official website: Mt. Evans
Department of tourism: Come to Life Colorado
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