I’ve been to Mount Evans before and written about it here. I got a chance to go back this week and my second visit was as good as the first. Maybe even better, since I showed this wonderful place off to Sara, Mike, and Julie.
The highest paved road in North America starts in Idaho Springs, Colorado and winds for 28 miles around tight switchbacks to an altitude of just over 14,100 feet. There’s a small parking lot near the summit, and a short (but vertical) hike to the very top at 14,270 feet. The road is quite narrow in spots, and is exciting or scary depending on your attitude and its altitude / slope. There are many places to pull over that offer outstanding views of the surrounding landscapes and wildlife.
Bristlecone pine: This species of tree is the longest lived single organism on earth
Take I-70 west from Denver and exit at County Road 103. The first half of the drive from there is pretty but not too out of the ordinary. The fee station is around the halfway point, and this is where most of the excitement begins. Pick up a brochure so you’ll have a map and information about the park.
Both times I’ve gone have been in early July so I can’t say much about the rest of the year. Try to visit on a weekday to avoid crowds, and if you can’t go on a weekday – leave early. The only day we could drive up was the 4th, so we left around 7am. When we asked the ranger at the fee station, he said it wasn’t crowded yet but would be, and recommended we go up to the top and stop at places on the way down. If you don’t, you might not get a parking spot – they get very limited at the top as the day goes on. We saw lots of cars headed up as we were leaving.
Wildflowers are abundant in July. Even above 14,000 feet where the terrain seems barren – you can see flowers in between the rocks. July is also a great time to view wildlife. On this trip we saw a Deer, Chipmunks, Elk, Mountain Goats, Marmots, and a Pika.
Baby mountain goat – There were several families of mountain goats near the summit. This little one posed for me so I could frame him against the out of focus mountains in the background. It’s amazing to watch them scramble from rock to rock and never slip.
At the summit, the average summer temperature is ~44 degrees (F) and the average wind is ~30 mph, so we were particularly blessed with a low temp of 55 and very calm winds. The winds were so calm that on the way down we decided to stop and hike to a couple of pools of water, hoping for a photo of the clouds reflecting in the ice melt. It seemed like a really short hike downhill from the road to this pool. When we turned around to go back uphill, the car looked really, really tiny and far, far away.
If you’re ever in the Denver area, you just have to visit Mount Evans. It’s spectacular and very accessible. Flatlanders like me shouldn’t do the trip on their first day at altitude. I’m not in the best of shape and at 14,000 feet I found I was out of breath even after short walks. A few days to acclimate at around 5000 feet may have helped.
Click on any of the photos above to go to Flickr where you can see a larger version. You can see the rest of my Mount Evans photos from this trip here, and you can see photos from my earlier trip here.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
©2011, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved