As the highest paved road in North America, Mount Evans Byway is a rare chance to drive into a different world. There are many highlights along the 28-mile trip to over 14,000 feet, including high alpine lakes and stunning wildlife.
Gems along the byway include the Mount Goliath Nature Area, Summit Lake Park, and the Crest House site at the summit. Echo Lake Park is also worth a visit, which is located at the Welcome Station of the byway up Mt. Evans. The trip begins in Idaho Springs at 7,526 feet and winds up to 14,130 ft.
Summer Scenic Fourteener Drive
This is a short video with a few highlights from the drive.
The Mount Evans Scenic Byway is the highest paved road in Colorado, at 14,130 ft. Colorado’s “New Switzerland” opened in 1930. It was built in response to the Pikes Peak Highway and Denver’s competition for tourists. Pikes Peak Highway is Colorado’s second-highest road reaching 14,115 ft.
The byway begins its second half of the drive by Echo Lake, south of Idaho Springs, at around 10,600′. It then travels 14 miles to the top. Once at the top parking lot, there is a short, but rewarding, hike to the summit at 14,271 ft.
There is a per-vehicle fee for visiting if you’re planning on parking at the top. Otherwise, it’s free to drive the highway but a timed reservation may be required. It’s seasonally open from late May to mid-October.
Activities on Mt. Evans Byway
There are numerous things to do other than drive on the Mt Evans Recreation Area and Scenic Byway:
Biking – Many people bike up the pass or any of the beautiful roads around the area. While it won’t be the steepest ascent, the long and winding road is sure to be a challenge for riders.
Camping – There’s no camping after you start up the byway, but there are several options around the base. Camping is available at Echo Lake and in the surrounding Arapaho National Forest. There are two campgrounds near Mt. Evans and some dispersed camping close to Idaho Springs.
- Echo Lake Campground is beside Echo Lake Lodge, featuring 18 sites: 11 serving RVs and 7 for tents. Reservations can be found on Recreation.gov.
- West Chicago Creek Campground is 9 miles from the lake, near Idaho Springs. There are 16 reservable sites.
- Dispersed camping can be found on Hefferman Gulch Rd and West Chicago Creek Rd, both located north on CO 103 toward Idaho Springs. Each has about a half dozen or so spots.
- Read about the camping near Evergreen and Mount Evans or the camping near Idaho Springs and Mount Evans.
Fishing- Located at the start of the byway, Echo Lake is the closest place to cast a line, before or after the drive. The fishing is so-so, with lots of seaweed. Summit Lake located on the byway has no fish.
Hiking – There are numerous opportunities to hike on the byway, in the nearby Arapaho National Forest and Mt Evans Wilderness.
- Chicago Lakes Trail is a short trail from Summit Lake that leads to a beautiful overlook of the Chicago Creek Valley. From here you can ascent to Mt. Spaulding and Mt. Evans, or continue on the Chicago Lakes Trail to Echo Lake.
- Mt Goliath Nature Area has 2 short trails wind along the hillside.
- Echo Lake Park – Situated before the start of the byway, this picturesque lake features camping, hiking, and picnicking. The fishing is ok, but you might have to fight through loads of seaweed.
- Summit Lake Park – Acquired in 1924, it’s Denver’s only treeless park and the highest city park in the U.S at 12,840′. It was named a National Natural Landmark in 1965. Summit Lake is a naturally formed glacier lake, covering 35 acres.
- Summit – Parking area, restroom, Crest House ruins, Mt Evans Observatory, 360 views’, and a final (short) trek to the summit.
Mount Goliath Natural Area & Dos Chappell Nature Center
Three miles after the Welcome Station, you’ll find the Mount Goliath Natural Area & Dos Chappell Nature Center. Maintained in collaboration by the Denver Botanic Gardens and US Forest Service, this is a great place to stretch your legs and learn something new on your way to the summit.
The interesting stop features the highest cultivated garden in the country, 2 nature trails, and a variety of educational exhibits about life in the harsh alpine environments. There are also several Rocky Mountain bristlecone pine trees ranging from 700 to 1000 years old.
Echo Lake Lodge and Restaurant
Right before the Welcome Station, you’ll find the Echo Lake Lodge and Restaurant, which operated until 2022 serving visitors for over 55 years. The old log cabin was jam-packed with souvenirs and snacks, perfect for refueling or taking a small memento home from your adventure. The family-owned business also served up hearty meals and desserts and provided a resting place for anyone visiting Mt. Evans.
Although the future is uncertain for the lodge itself, it’s still a nice place to stop and have a picnic or ogle at the old building.
Address: Hwy 103 & Mt Evans Rd, Idaho Springs, CO
Season: late May to mid-October
Pets: Yes, on-leash
Fee: Only if you plan to park at the summit
Distance: 28 miles from Idaho Springs (14 miles from Welcome Station)
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