Fall is almost here, and personally I couldn’t be more excited. The long awaited break from the sweltering heat of Denver summer is accompanied by the arrival of major changes headed our way that you simply cannot miss. The best and most beautiful change in my opinion is the turning of the aspen leaves.
Every fall Colorado brings back the gold rush with all the aspens turning from bright green to fiery red and gold. This season is short so timing is tricky, especially if we happen to get snow in September. Which if we are all honest here is definitely going to happen. Early cold and frost can cause the Aspens to only stay golden for a short week or two. Over the upcoming months the change will slowly happen and the colors are simply magnificent, don’t cheat yourself, get outside.
Aspen is not the only location to witness this marvelous change in full force. Yes you can go to the amazing town but if you are on a shorter time line and still want to marvel at the beauty, this phenomenon is closer to home than you probably realized. All you have to do is drive up to Mt. Evans.
Mt. Evans is located just south of Idaho Springs only 30 to 40 minutes west of Denver on I-70. Take the Mt. Evans exit number 103. Once you exit the highway turn left to cross over and head south on CO-103, follow the road just over 13 miles until you reach the Mt. Evans Park area. The first sight will undoubtedly be the drive. Every twist and turn as you climb through the mountains has drop off cliffs that provide nonstop photo shoot opportunities.
There are various picnic areas and scenic overlooks on your way to the top and the entire drive will take you thru three distinct wildlife zones. Starting from an elevation of 8,700 feet at Idaho Springs you will climb up to 14,240 feet at the Summit of Mt. Evans traveling through ancient trees, lakes and forests and finishing in the alpine tundra.
As you drive up the hill side you will find Echo Lake Park. This high alpine lake is nestled at the base of Mt. Evans and is a free attraction before you enter the Mt. Evans National Park Area. Echo Lake is open to fishing, hiking and picnicking. Camping and lodging for Mt. Evans area can be found here at Echo Lake Lodge and surrounding camping spots.
Located on the far side of the lake continuing down CO-103 is the entrance to Mt. Evans National Park. Ranger stations flank the road as you approach the entrance to the park, but here is the best part, it’s free. There is only a fee if you want to drive to the top of Mt. Evans Road and park at the Mt. Evans Nature Area. From this parking area you can summit Mt. Evans with a ¼ mile climb; however this section of the road closes post Labor Day.
There is still away to get to the top of Mt. Evans you just have to hike. Nine miles past the ranger station you will reach Summit Lake. Parking at Summit Lake is free, mention you are headed to Summit Lake at the ranger station and the fee is waived. This tiny lake is the catch for the run-off from Mt. Evans and the surrounding peaks; from here is it a 5 mile round trip trek to the summit. Ascending along the ridge line around the bowl to Mt. Evans the first two miles of the hike are steep and rocky and will take you to the top of Pride rock, formally known as Mt. Spalding. From here you can lift the smallest member of your crew like Simba and either continue towards the summit of Mt. Evans around the saddle or simply head back down.
This trail gives you the opportunity to summit two peaks on your ascent to the top and the views from the hike are breathtaking with lakes and valleys cascading in all directions. This trail is well marked from the parking lot and there are rangers and volunteers eager to answer any of your questions. The entire Mt. Evans hike is above tree line so be sure to pack layers and rain gear as the weather moves in quickly and marmots don’t make efficient umbrellas.
- 40 miles west of Denver
- Summit Lake Parking & Trail-head
- 8,700-14,240 Ft.
- 3,200-4,000 Ft.
- Easy- Moderate
- Hiking, Fishing-Permitted with Valid License, Picnicking, Camping, Photo-OP, Dogs Allowed on Leash, Scenic Drive
- Town of Idaho Springs, Mt. Evans Park, Echo Lake, Summit Lake, Chicago Lakes