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We have started something of an annual tradition in our family – to drive up to the top of Mount Evans every summer.
We did this the first year we moved to Colorado and the beauty of the place is so fascinating that every year, when the road to Mount Evans opens (Memorial day to Labor day), we drive it at least once. This year was particularly special as we did it on my birthday and both my uncle and my mother were visiting. We also took R up for the first time. The last time we drove to Mount Evans I was pregnant with R and I sat on the top and watched a beautiful sunset as I thought about how our lives would change, how our little one would shape our adventures and our mindset after he was born.
And things have changed, but it’s so exciting to share the things we loved to do prior to baby with our son now. Sure, there is a lot more to think about and carry, lots more stops to change diapers and feed, but I feel fortunate to be able to share the world with R. This was his first fourteener (a mountain that stands above 14,000ft) and unfortunately we couldn’t reach the top this time. There was a lot of snow still on the ground which had turned to ice and the last hundred feet consists of rock bouldering, so we decided not to risk it with a toddler. There will be many more years to climb it with him.
If you are ever in Colorado during the summer, don’t pass up the opportunity to drive up Mount Evans. The roads are a little scary, but the views are so worth it!
Tips for visiting Mount Evans
[ 1 ] Check the website for road closures. Although Mount Evans usually opens the weekend of Memorial Day, it doesn’t always! It really depends on weather and road conditions.
[ 2 ] Stock up with food and drinks before the drive. There are no shops in Mount Evans and the drive can take several hours so be prepared. If you want to grab a fresh sandwich for a picnic, stop in Idaho Springs. This cute little town has a variety of options. If dining in is more your style, there is a restaurant on Echo Lake as well. The only drawback is that you might need to wait for a table and sometimes, they are not open, so it’s a gamble.
[ 3 ] Drink plenty of water before and during the drive to fight off any altitude sickness. Ideally, you wouldn’t attempt the drive on your first day in Colorado unless you are used to high altitude. Going from 5280ft (Denver) to 14,000ft takes some getting used to and the last thing you want is to get sick and have to drive back down. Altitude sickness is no joke and can feel like you have a hammer in your brain and a huge rock on your chest.
[ 4 ] It costs $15 per car to drive to the top of Mount Evans, regardless how many people are riding along. So if you are in a group, it’s thrifty to ride together. Also, if you have a National Park Pass, you can use it to enter Mount Evans without a charge.
[ 5 ] Take a bathroom break before you begin your drive from Echo Lake. From then on up, there are only vault toilets and no running water. A bottle with tap water to wash your hands and some hand sanitizer is a good idea. It comes in handy if you are driving up with toddlers that like to chew on their hands.
[ 6 ] Stop at Summit Lake and take a stroll. Not only it helps you acclimatize with the altitude, but there is a very short trail that takes you around the lake to an overlook to see the Chicago Lakes. It’s beautiful. Late June and July, you may actually see the hills covered in wildflowers. Lots of people also like to hike around here.
[ 7 ] Keep an eye out for Marmots and mountain goats. They are often seen on top of rocks sunning. And remember to keep wildlife wild by not feeding or approaching them. Specially the goats, they are faster and stronger than you think.
[ 8 ] Park and hike the last 200 ft to the top if possible and spend some time admiring the view. It can be quite cold and windy at the top, we are talking 14,271 ft here, so dress appropriately. Even if it’s 80F in Denver, it can be 30F at the top of Mount Evans.
I hope you enjoy your drive to Mount Evans if you are fortunate enough to visit Colorado during the summer. Let me know in the comments below what is the highest mountain you’ve been on!