Mt. Evans is located about 60 miles west of Denver, Colorado and at nearly 14,300 feet is the highest paved road in North America. The Mount Evans Byway starts at nearby Echo Lake and climbs 14 miles to the summit. An excellent stop along the way is at the Walter Pesman Alpine Garden, where you can view 1,700-year-old Bristlecone pines – the oldest living things on earth. Meredith and I drove the winding and dangerous road to the summit and were treated with spectacular views at every turn.
Before you get above 12,000 feet the mountain is home to green vegetation and pine trees but as you continue climbing the scenery changes quickly as you get above the tree line. While starker it is still incredibly beautiful in its on way.
These small Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrels, along with Chipmunks, are found everywhere in the lower elevations and are curious and skittish creatures that seem interested in what you are doing. Perhaps they are hoping you will have some food for them.
Driving a car up to the top of the mountain was at times difficult as the winding road, low oxygen, and lack of any guard rails made me pretty nervous. The road was fairly crowded the day we went up and cars shared the road with bikers and a few runners. Biking up this mountain seemed like a real challenge for me but dozens of riders made it to the top.
We stopped on the way to the top at Summit Lake and saw some Rocky Mountain goats from a distance but no big horn sheep which I hear are prevalent in the area. At this altitude, there is much less oxygen and breathing is difficult, but frankly I started noticing a difference in my breathing about the time we climbed above the tree line. I thought we caught a great day as some clouds and fog formed as we neared the summit which made for a surreal setting.
The view from the top is simply incredible. This is one of the grandest panoramas in Colorado and much of state is visible, from the Never Summer Range in the north to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the south. At the mountain’s top, there is a short quarter-mile trail to the 14,264-foot summit where you will also find the Meyer–Womble Observatory which is owned and operated by the University of Denver. If you thought you were getting short of breath on the drive up wait until you climb this short quarter mile trail. It will certainly get your attention but you will be glad you took the extra time. What a spectacular place!