If you haven’t driven up the highest paved road in North America yet, then you need to stop reading this, book your flight and rental car and go right now! I’m kidding, definitely read this first before doing all that. The highest paved road in North America achieves a final elevation of 14,260 ft and can be accessed by a 14 mile, super narrow, winding road. When we lived in Colorado and were still debating on whether or not we wanted to try climbing a 14er (see this post), we thought it might be a good idea to experience being on top of a peak at 14,000 ft. After doing some research we realized we could take the Mount Evans Scenic Byway!
“Go where you feel most alive.” – Unknown
We checked their website for any news on the road as far as closures and prices the night before we went. The drive up to Mount Evans starts in Idaho Springs and takes you up 103 heading to Echo Lake. Once you get to Echo Lake, depending on the time of year, you should start seeing cars and people out walking. There’s a lodge on the lake that has a bunch of unique Mount Evans souvenirs. After paying the small entrance fee, you start the drive up this road surrounded by green. It’s amazing to roll down your windows and go slow. We saw so many people on bicycles going up to the summit so it’s critical to keep your eyes on the road.
“How wild it was, to let it be.” – Cheryl Strayed
I honestly was not ready for this drive and was blown away once we got to the parts with no guard rails. It’s such a surreal feeling driving that close to the edge of the mountain. There’s a few pull offs heading up, so if you need to take a break it’s available. I would recommend driving slow and drinking plenty of water on the way up. The scenery will quickly start to change after getting past the tree-line. You will be able to see for miles on a clear day! The road did start to get rougher once we got closer to the summit. Our old tired Mazda eventually made it to the top and we were able to find parking. On a busy day you might have to park on the road.
“I go to seek a great perhaps” – John Green
The first thing we did was head to the actual summit of Mount Evans. The trail leading from the parking lot isn’t very long and should only take 10 minutes, but the altitude definitely makes it a workout! When we reached the top we were lucky enough to find a summit sign left by others on that day! When we were up on the summit it was pretty crowded and it was very windy. It’s also a lot colder at 14,000 ft, so make sure you bring a jacket! We were able to get so many cool pictures on the top of Mount Evans without having to spend hours climbing it. After taking pictures and getting light headed from the altitude, we hiked down and explore the old Crest House ruins. On our way back down the mountain we stopped at Summit Lake and saw some big horn sheep!
“Although I deeply love oceans, deserts, and other wild landscapes, it is only mountains that beckon me with that sort of painful magnetic pull to walk deeper and deeper into their beauty.” – Victoria Erikson
We drove up the highest paved road in North America and stood on our first fourteener in one day. It was one of the scariest drives I’ve done and was worth it. It’s always high on my recommendation list for people traveling to the Rocky Mountains! Would you do this? Or have you done it? Share with us in the comments!