Boasting the highest paved road in America, Mount Evan's summit stands tall at 14,265 feet. It is one of two summits in Colorado that you can drive to (for a nominal fee). We drove up many switchbacks and passed many mountain goats to reach the parking lot just below the summit. Just a short walk from the highest parking lot, we reached the Mount Evan's summit to pose for a picture. Mount Evans Scenic Byway opens seasonally and climbs 7000 feet over a distance of 28 miles.
Near the peak of 14K+ Mount Evans, Colorado
On our way up, we spotted Summit Lake. So on our way down we stopped at Summit Lake parking lot and spotted a trail going downhill. Incidentally there was a trail going uphill too towards Mount Evans summit. The downhill trail was an easier sell on the kid unit. So away we went, on a narrow trail on the side of the mountain, some lose rock along the way towards two blue bodies of water, Upper Chicago Lake and Chicago Lake. Soon after, we arrived at the first lake, Upper Chicago Lake. Just yonder, it seemed like the other Chicago lake was not too much further. We hopped some rocks across a creek which turned into a waterfall and got to a cliff edge for a better view of the other Chicago Lake. There was a cliff between the two Chicago Lakes that was not so evident from our view above. We took that as our cue to turn around towards Summit Lake, in addition to the clouds rolling in. Afternoon lightning storms are common here and we preferred not to be out in the open to pose as targets.
Summit Lake, Mount Evans, Colorado
The trail down from Summit Lake to Upper Chicago Lake, Mount Evans, CO - Can you spot the little hikers?
Going up was more challenging on some of the stronger hikers in my family. Altitude sickness is a great equalizer. Whereas I am (sadly) one of the weaker links in my family now, at high altitude, I have become one of the stronger ones. 1200 feet of elevation gain seemed harder at 12,000 feet but we managed our car back safely to the Chicago Lake Lookout, then to our car at the Summit Lake parking lot.
Between the two Chicago Lakes, overlooking the lower Chicago Lake, Mount Evans, CO
We toiled with the idea of hiking up from Echo Lakes to Summit Lake, an almost 3000 ft elevation gain and 6 to 7 miles each way, but car trouble earlier in the day put a dent on that plan. Looking back now, that elevation gain would have been very challenging to our sea level bodies still acclimating to high altitudes.
Earlier in the day, we spent some time walking around Echo Lake at the bottom. It was an alright hike, but if you are pressed for time, this might be the hike to miss.
For my part, I was happy with how our day unfolded and the short hike we managed to sneak in before thunder started roaring. We even spotted several mountain goat families going about their day.
Can you spot the mountain goat? Near the shores of Summit Lake looking over Chicago Lakes, CO
The drive on Mount Evans Scenic Byway, required reservations (more info in Practical Information section). Mount Evans Scenic Byway, like many high altitude roads, is very curvy as the road snakes its way up the mountain, with some parts narrow and bumpy. The road takes you through some beautiful alpine landscape.
|Features:||Drive up the highest paved road in America, to the top of 14K summit of Mount Evans, feel free to enjoy some short hikes at the Mount Evans summit and Summit Lake|
|Our Hike:||descend from Summit Lake to Upper Chicago Lake, then ascend to Summit Lake, 1200 ft gain, 3 miles rt, Summit lake elevation 12,840 ft, altitude sickness slowed us down|
|Fee:||$10/3days/vehicle + $2 reservation fee (National Parks Interagency Pass Holders only pay $2 reservation fee), Advanced Reservations required|
|Website:||For updated information, visit Mount Evans Scenic Byway|