Mount Evans is a high peak in the Front Range and prominent Fourteener (14er) with a 14,271′ elevation summit. Along with several other peaks of the Front Range, Mount Evans dominates the skyline of a hundred miles of the great plains to the east. In March 2022, Clear Creek county approved a state proposal to rename the mountain from former Territorial Governor John Evans to Mount Blue Sky, a name proposed by Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes.
|Trip Length||Day Trip|
|Activities||Hiking, Car Touring|
|Transport||1.5 Hours by Car from Denver|
|Doggo||On-Leash Requirement, Briefly Off-Leash for Safety|
|Gear||Basic Hiking Kit|
A local friend suggested this outing to me while I was in Denver earlier in the week. The park and scenic byway were on my way out of the state, so I hopped online and snagged an entry ticket to drive the high alpine road to just under the summit. There are a number of points of interest along the 28 mile scenic byway, many of which I would catch on the way back down.
I tried to start the day in Idaho Springs and found a brunch spot with outdoor seating until we could join our scheduled tour of the Argo gold mill and tunnel. I read on the internet that the attraction was dog friendly, but I got what I deserved for trusting people on the internet. The facility would allow carried dogs only, but based on Maggie’s size and the tight passages, they refused us entry but fortunately refunded most of my ticket cost. We were killing time for our afternoon entry above Echo Lake, which I picked late in the day because it may have been possible that a friend would join us for the summit – and cell service cuts off pretty much right after you leave Idaho Springs. But, with no mid-day plans, I sent my MapShare link and drove on up to Echo Lake.
We killed the early afternoon with an easy and gentle recovery hike along a wide, manicured trail around Echo Lake. Fantastic weather with a slight breeze put a smile on the Mud Doggo’s face. Plenty of casual recreation was happening at the facilities around the lake and there were plenty of trails to the local mountain peaks anchored by the pet friendly Echo Lake Lodge. This is a great stop if you’re looking to visit Mt. Evans and it’s right before the welcome station where you need to show your time blocked reservation to continue onward. Best of all, without cell service, you aren’t constantly assaulted by ring tones and notifications, rather, you just hear other people talking to each other without their faces buried in their smartphones.
Having received no update on my satellite communicator, we decided to push on while the weather was still cooperating. The drive up through the tree line is quite beautiful. The road itself is fairly narrow and is damaged in one section close to Summit Lake – so slow down when you get to that section. Most of the time the road is right next to a substantial cliff, so take a deep breath and prepare yourself before you drive up to the summit. I didn’t take a lot of pictures for this reason, but there were plenty of cars pulled off for various climbing spots and other activities on the mountains. You’re so impossibly high up on this road that you can see a hundred miles into the great plains. My phone connected with some impossibly far away cell towers here and there for long enough to buzz having received a couple text messages. I also considered myself very lucky to have encountered the mountain goats that Mt. Evans was so well known for – blocking the road as they moved from scavenging site to scavenging site.
We headed straight for the summit and ignored the other points of interest on the drive up. Over the past week, I’ve learned my lesson twice regarding how rapidly alpine weather changes and I wanted to get the summit in before things started to happen. The short hike up to the summit from the parking lot took less than fifteen minutes although there was some significant elevation gain. The Mud Doggo and I found the tallest boulder at the summit and climbed on top for a selfie of our first 14er. It did feel like we were on top of the world. A week of living and playing at around 9,000′ elevation had prepared us well for the summit and we were no worse for the wear in the noticeably thinner air.
After we climbed down from the summit, I gave Maggie her lead command, where she takes us to what she finds interesting. She took us down around to the side of the mountain where there weren’t any people or interest, but I usually trust the Mud Doggo’s nose. Turns out she was very interested in checking out another group of the mountain goats that were released/placed by the Forest service back in the 1950’s and 60’s that I had neither seen nor heard. We got as close as we could without upsetting the herd and got a couple really good photos, but as you can see in this post’s featured image, eventually they became very concerned by Maggie’s presence. Eventually the oldest male stepped out in front of the herd and started stamping his front paws, which was our invitation to leave.
There were a lot of stops on the way back down the mountain and we took advantage of as many as we had time for. Had short little alpine hike around Summit Lake. The Mt. Goliath natural area was fascinating as it delves into the alpine biome with informative displays of things like thousand year old trees and stands of local flowers. By the time we got back to Idaho Falls it was quite late in the day and I would drive away from Denver with the sun setting behind Mt. Evans behind me – a peak that capped off a great trip around Colorado.
This was a really good day. I guess I can say that you really need to check with the actual facility ahead of time as to whether or not your dog will be ok – but I enjoyed my time on Mt. Evans so much that I find it hard to really say that there was any lesson learned. I didn’t really find any food I was excited to eat – honestly, the best thing I did was stop in a Starbucks in Idaho Falls (yeah, there’s one near the end of town) and picked up a protein box with a piece of raisin bread and a packet of peanut butter with some grapes. Basically the best thing I had all day. The weather held up and didn’t blast me off the mountain with thunder. Maggie really enjoys scrambling on rocks and climbing things. I was pleased as punch and felt really good about my trip. In short, I highly recommend you check this place out. Ahead of me was 25+ hours of driving – 6 hours into it, I decided to go ahead and add the two hours to visit my family a second time and say goodbye to the Mud Puppo (oh, you don’t know what happened to the Mud Puppo? My family adopted him so he gets to have a house full of people including a couple kids that roll through a couple times a week). I think I put 5,000 miles on my car in less than a month.