Mount Evans (14,264 ft)
14er Peak Rank #14/53
Mount Evans – featured on 14ers Maps 1 of 16 – is the 14er peak most prominently visible from Denver – and one of only a handful where one can drive (almost) to the summit. There are a variety of routes to the summit of varying difficulty, but expect this to be one of the busiest 14ers in Colorado in the Summer due to the ease of access and proximity to Denver and the Front Range cities.
Mount Evans is the highest mountain in the Chicago Peaks sub-range of the Front Range (near Mount Bierstadt – the other 14er in the Chicago range). The first recorded ascent of this mountain was likely by Albert Bierstadt during his 1863 expedition, who originally named it Mount Rosalie (though a mountain three miles southeast is called Rosalie Peak today). Bierstadt made a number of sketches upon which he later based his famous landscape paintings, an example of which entitled A Storm in the Rocky Mountains, Mt. Rosalie is shown below (now in the Brooklyn Museum in New York).
Mount Rosalie was later renamed to its current name Mount Evans after the second governor of Colorado, John Evans, in 1895. Fast-forward to today and the adventurousness of Bierstadt and his expedition are no longer necessary to visit the alpine summit, as the paved Mount Evans Scenic Byway climbs from its beginning off CO Hwy 103 (Squaw Pass Road) at 11,700′ all the way to the upper lot just below the summit at 14,150′. This road was first constructed as part of the Denver Mountain Parks system between 1923 and 1930, partly as a way of competing for tourism with the famous Pikes Peak near Colorado Springs.
There are a variety of options for those looking to summit Mount Evans. The easiest, of course, is to drive up the Mount Evans Road to upper lot and take the 0.25 mile, 200 ft elevation gain hike to the summit. Somewhat more challenging is a 2.5 mile trail that leads from the Summit Lake parking lot (5.4 miles before the upper lot at 12,850′) gaining 1,414 ft of elevation to the summit.
More challenging still would be the routes from Guanella Pass – either via Mount Bierstadt and Sawtooth Ridge (Class 3, scrambling), about 2.5 miles from the summit of Mount Bierstadt, or via a Class 3 route up along the headwaters of Scott Gomer Creek, bypassing Mount Bierstadt and Sawtooth Ridge to reach Mount Evans 3.6 miles after the turn-off from the Mount Bierstadt Trail (or a total of 4.5 miles from the Guanella Pass trailhead and about 2,630 ft of elevation gain). Another challenging route would start at the Echo Lake Parking lot at the beginning of the Mount Evans Road and travel up the Chicago Lakes Trail #52 to the Lakes and then turn off to a primitive 1 mile route up the ridge to meet Summit Lake trail on the way to the Mount Evans Summit – a one-way total of 7.8 miles and about 3,650 ft of elevation gain.
As always, high alpine environments can be dangerous, and even Mount Evans can turn on you quickly (read the book: Exposed: Tragedy & Triumph in Mountain Climbing by Brad and Melissa McQueen to see how a spring hike on Mount Evans can turn into a survival situation for even experienced hikes). Be prepared, know your limitations, watch the weather, drink plenty of water, and as always don’t forget your 14ers Maps. Mount Evans is one of four fourteeners featured on Outdoor Trail Maps Colorado 14ers Series Map 1 of 16.
Directions to Trailheads:
Mount Evans Road: To access Mount Evans Road and the various trailheads high up on the mountain, take Exit 240 from I-70, and drive 13 miles on CO Hwy 103 (Chicago Creek Road) to Echo Lake Park and the beginning of Mount Evans Scenic Byway. Right after the turn-off is a pay station; there is a fee required to drive up the roads and park at the upper trailheads. Park here for the route via Chicago Lakes or pay the fee and drive up to the Summit Lake trailhead or upper parking lot.
Guanella Pass: From the sorth, take the Georgetown Exit 228 off I-70 through Georgetown to the Guanella Pass Road (county road 381) and drive 10.8 miles from the center of Georgetown to the trailhead parking lots on both sides of the road. From the south, take US 285 to the small town of Grant (between Bailey and Kenosha Pass), turn north on Geneva Rd / Guanella Pass Road and drive 13.1 miles to the trailhead parking lots at Guanella pass on both sides of the road.