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Mt. Evans

Mount Evans is just outside Idaho Springs, Colorado (near Denver) and is a easier drive from Denver than Pike's Peak. 

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Mt. Evans Scenic ByWay

National Forest Service
 
 

Mt. Evans is within the Clear Creek Ranger District of the US Forest Service, which includes the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee National Grassland.

It's also higher in elevation that Pike's Peak and has the plus of being paved all the way to the top, in fact at 14,264 feet it is the highest paved road in America. It doesn't offer a railroad like Pike's Peak or any other modern amenities like a gift shop, restaurant or running water restrooms. What is does offer is a beautiful drive up the mountain and a breathtaking view of the Western United States of America once you get there.  I thought I had somehow been transformed into the Sound of Music as I stood at the summit.

The road to the top of Mt. Evans was the idea of Denver’s Mayor Speer back in the early 1900’s and took some 10 years to complete. Just as the road now is only open for a few months each year to vehicles because of the weather, construction was limited to the summer months.   I can only imagine what a challenge it was to build the road from Echo Lake to the Summit, beginning in 1917. The road was completed in 1927 and then paved in 1930.

In the early days of Mt. Evans (somewhere around 1940) there was a restaurant and gift shop at the top of the mountain, but a propane explosion did away with the Summit Lodge in 1979. The rock remnants of the Summit Lodge are still there today.

The Tucker family first visited Mount Evans one our first trip to Colorado back in 1997 and we have been promoting the place from the day we returned to North Carolina. I knew that when I returned to the Denver area and time permitted that I would make another trip to the Summit. This opportunity presented itself when I returned to Denver on July 14, 1999. Rick Hauser, a colleague at Sports Marketing, and I were on this trip together and we both wanted to return to Mt. Evans. Rick is a very accomplished nature photographer and wanted to make some slides of this beautiful site. He was especially interested in the Bristlecone Pines in the Mount Goliath Natural area which is at about 12,000 feet. These pines have been living there for some 2,000 years, enduring the harsh winters of Mt. Evans.

Learn more about the Bristlecone Pines.  The pines are also listed in the US Forest Service's Index of Species

Here is a topographical map of the Mount Evans area. Notice the switchback road we took to the top.

Denver University operates an observatory at the top of Mt. Evans. The observatory rests at 14,168 feet and also is the highest observatory in the US

I spoke with a Park Ranger while at the Summit (he was performing the daily maintenance duties on the natural latrine) and he informed me the drive that we had just made up the mountain is only open from Memorial Day to Labor Day each year as the snowfall on top of the mountain will total between 200 and 300 inches in the winter. In fact, he said they got some snow and sleet up there just yesterday (7/14/99). It was probably about 45 degrees with a brisk wind when we were there. You definitely needed a jacket.  In fact, if you decide to make the drive up from Denver or even Idaho Springs, don't be fooled by the warm temperatures below.  Bring along some warm clothing - slacks and a jacket, especially a jacket.

The US Weather Service established a weather station at the Mt Evans Research Station (elevation  10,630 feet - the second highest manned weather observatory in the US) in October 1983 and began recording average temperatures and monthly precipitation.  Keep in mind this station is some 4,000 below the summit, where the weather would be quite different.  Some climatic data from the Mt. Evans Research Station is available from a weather site at the Western Regional Climate Center at the Desert Research Institute.  

The University of Denver Physics and Astronomy Department built the Mt. Evans Meyer-Womble Observatory at the summit, which is claims as the highest operating observatory in the West at 14,148 ft elevation (Longitude 105d38m24s West, Latitude 39d35m12s North).

Climatic and precipitation  information is available through Colorado State’s Climate Data access point. The Mt. Evans Research Station is 55797.

Winds up to 224mph, snowfall up to 500 inches, and a wind-chill temperature down to 198 below zero have been recorded at the top of Mt. Evans by Ralph Reiner, the caretaker of the Mt. Evans Research Station.

We had visited both Pike's Peak and Mt. Evans as a family in 1997 and when I had the chance to go back to Mt. Evans in 1999 I quickly jumped at the opportunity, armed with my Sony Mavica digital camera. One the thing the kids enjoyed on our previous trip were the ambling Mountain Goats who would come right up to the car. I found the goats to be just as friendly on my second trip up the mountain. The view was breathtaking as well. I am going to post just a few of the shots I made on my trip on July 15, 1999.

The Forest Rangers from Arapaho National Forest keep an eye on Mt. Evans including making sure you don’t feed the friendly mountain goats the extra apple you brought along. I wondered why? They would starve in the winter when snow covers the Tundra and we are not around with our extra apple. Makes sense when you stop and give it some thought.

The entrance fee to Mt. Evans was $6, but the pass was good for three days.

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The remains of Summit Lodge  at the end of the Mt. Evans road.  You can see the A-Roof of the Denver University Observatory in the upper left of this picture.

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This is one of the critters you will see as you drive up Mt. Evans.  He's a Marmot.

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A little better view of Mr. Marmot, but he's on the run!

The mountian goats are my favorite animals on the mountain, so naturally I couldn't resist several mountain goat photos.  We stopped the car and were wandering among these wild creatures.  I think they were hoping for a snack.  Sorry you were disappointed Mr. and Mrs. Mountain Goat.  Wouldn't want you to starve this winter.

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Summit Lake

Summit Lake is at elevation 12,500 and is just before you make the turn to head up the summit.  This is also where the road becomes a little more narrow.  Here are a couple shots looking at the mountians across the lake, including one of the sun burning through the clouds.

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The Bristlecone Pines (Pinus aristata)

Rick wanted to spend some time making some close up of the Bristlecone pines. As you will see from these photos these pines do not grow much in a year's time, having to endure the harsh elements of living at better than 10,000 feet.  It's hard to believe these pines have been on Mount Evans since before the birth of Christ.

I was also intrigued by the way the tree line abruptly ended as we headed up the mountain.  There were tress and then when we crossed the frost line there were no trees.  You would have thought this would have gradually changed.  The Bristlecone Pines are near the frost or tree line.

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A close-up of the Bristlecone Pine.  Notice how short the needles are.

Steven W. Tucker, 1999.  All Rights Reserved