Colorful Colorado and beyond…
One of my favorite places in the Rocky Mountains to get lost in (not literally) is Mt. Evans. Mostly because I can get my mountain fix quickly as this is just a 30 minute drive from my house. But, also it offers up stunning scenery and wilderness exploration.
Starting from Idaho Springs, off I-70, you head up Mt. Evans Scenic Byway. This tree-lined road winds its way up the mountain with plenty of opportunity to stop for Aspen peeking and climbing around waterfalls.
After playing around the Falls, be sure to dip your toes in the icy waters, you will continue up the 28 mile byway, stopping for scenic vistas and photo ops.
First stop is Echo Lake. If you don’t get there early, you will have a hard time finding a parking space. Hence why there are no photos of it here.
To drive to the summit of Mt. Evans you will need to pay a park fee of $15 per car. As of last weekend, the road was closed at Summit Lake, despite the name is actually not the summit of Mt. Evans. This was fine with us since our destination was Summit Lake, the Bristlecone Pine Loop and Pesman Trail. You can see pictures of our trip last year to the summit here.
The Bristlecone Pines are the oldest living organism on earth. Bristlecone Loop is a nice easy walk, with views of the valley below, beautifully framed by the twisting Bristlecone Pines. Pesman Trail is a different story. This trail is a 1.5 mile moderately difficult hike. Think stair climbing at 11,000 feet with little oxygen to fill your lungs. If you’re up for it, this is what the trail looks like:
High altitude hiking can be dangerous. Afternoon storms can roll in very quickly and leave you trapped on the mountain, or at the very least, soaking wet. Thunder was roaring so we didn’t hike the whole trail because we really wanted to get to Summit Lake before it started storming.
As it turned out, we didn’t beat the rain. Our lakeside picnic lunch turned into an inside the Jeep picnic lunch. It rained for a good 30 minutes. We waited the storm out, then ventured out into the cold, crisp mountain air. Aaahhhh, I love this place.
It warmed up quickly, although the girls wouldn’t have agreed. So we went exploring the lake paths to get the blood pumping.
See the lakes way down below? That is Chicago Lakes. The trail ends at the top of Summit Lake. Chicago Lakes Trail is a 9.8 mile round trip moderate-strenuous hike from Echo Lake.
I suggest driving down Squaw Pass Road towards Bergen Park once you are finished exploring the Mt. Evans area, because you will happen across this meadow below at Beaver Brook Watershed Access Trail.
This trail is unnamed but you will know it when you descend out of the pine-lined road to a long bend in the highway. There is the valley before you start the climb back up the highway. The parking lot can be full during Aspen peeking season; as you can imagine from the Aspen groves pictured above. We take Aspen peeking very seriously here in Colorado. Don’t believe me? Come back in a few weeks to see the photos of Aspen on this trail.
Details: Mt Evans is the highest summit of the Chicago Peaks in the Rocky Mountains. It is at an elevation of 14,271 feet, known as a fouteener. Also, high altitude sickness is real. Drink pretty of water and take your time to acclimate to the altitude.