Friday, August 31, 2012

Beat the Labor Day Crowds at Mount Evans

Want to do something other than fight the crowds at Denver's Taste of Colorado this Labor Day weekend?  How about a cruise on Mount Evans Scenic Byway? The highest paved road in the U.S., it closes on Labor Day so this is it for the summer!

The road reaches an altitude of 14,130 feet. Flora and fauna abound -- and the drive or bike ride offers views of beautiful alpine lakes, wildflowers, lichens and grasses, along with views of bighorn sheep and mountain goats. From the top you can see Rocky Mountain National Park, Longs Peak, the Sangre de Cristo Range, Pikes Peak and the Continental Divide. Epic.

All 14 miles of the road from the entrance station to the Mountain Evans summit parking lot are paved. From the lot you can walk the last 130 feet to the top, at 14,264 feet. When your friends ask what you did over Labor Day you can nonchalantly tell them you hiked a 14er. Try not to act smug. For those who actually want to do some hiking, try the Echo Lake hike suggested by website Day Hikes Near Denver.

Get an early start on your day and enjoy lunch or a piece of pie at the Echo Lake Lodge always a pleasant destination.. On a budget? Mt. Evans also offers picnic areas near the entrance on Highway 103.

There is a small entrance fee at Mt. Evans that goes toward keeping the road maintained. It is about $10 per car. If you're on a motorcycle, bicycle, or hiking in, the fee is $3.00 per person Check out the fees here.

Also keep in mind that CDOT recently added a new extension to the byway from Echo Lake to Bergen Park via Clear Creek County Road 103 and Jefferson County Road 66. The route takes the visitor from open ponderosa and juniper hills and open meadows, up through deep spruce forests and into the magnificent splendor of the alpine environment. Very nice!

I always think it is a good idea to check the CDOT (Colorado Dept. of Transportation) website before leaving on one of these drives, to make sure my destination is construction-free. And remember, the weather is variable. Bring a jacket, along with your sunscreen.

How to get there: From the Denver area, follow I-70 west to exit 240 at Idaho Springs. As you come off the exit, turn left, (south), on CO Hwy. 103. From there, it's about 14 miles to the fee station. You'll pass Echo Lake, (on your right), and shortly after that is the Echo Lake Lodge; also on your right. Immediately after the Echo Lake Lodge, turn right onto CO Hwy. 5, which is the Mt. Evans road. Proceed to the fee station.

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