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Monday, February 15, 2010

CO State Hwy 5 a.k.a. Mount Evans Scenic Byway


Rarely do I find a road that I enjoy riding so much that I turn around immediately and ride it again in the opposite direction, but when you take Colorado State Highway 5 everyone must ride/drive it back.  After reaching the end of CO 5 just short of the peak of Mount Evans at 14,264 ft. above see level there is no where else to go, but back the way you came!
This is a great road with some awesome vistas.  CO 5 holds the famous distinction as being the highest paved road in North America (not to be confused with Trail Ridge Road through Rocky Mountain National Park whick is the highest continuous paved road in North America).  CO 5 also is unique it that it does not through any cities, town, or communities.
CO 5 on the way up
At almost 15 miles CO 5 is a short road, but full of curves, vistas, and opportunities to see wildlife.  CO 5 starts by intersecting CO 102 near Echo Lake Park and ends just shy of the peak on Mount Evans.

After reading about Mount Evans and the road a group of five men and my son (9 years old at the time) decided to ride up before heading south as we made our way back toward Texas on one of our summer trips in June 2006.    We road CO 103 from Idaho Springs to the Echo Lake Lodge where we purchased some snacks and paid the access fee ($3 for motorcycles).
The road had a steady the incline as we road up the mountain towards Summit Lake.   The grade of the road was between 2-6%, but at times it felt like more.  As we continued up the mountain more of the surrounding area became visible.  We could see CO 103 and Echo Lake far below us.

The curves were run and at times a little scary.  The sides of the road away from the mountain has some pretty good drop offs! :)

We stopped at Summit Lake at 13,001 ft.  The lake is filled with rain and/or snow melt.  There were wildflowers growing and snow was still plentiful in the shaded areas.
CO 5 as seen from summit of Mount Evans

Once we reached the parking lot at the top we were amazed at how far we could see.   We hiked up the very short trail from the parking lot to the actual peak.  The 380 degree view was spectacular!  Denver to the east, Longs Peak to the North, and mountains and valley all around.

At the east end of the parking lot were the remains of Summit Lodge, a restaurant and gift shop that was built in the 1940's, but a propane explosion in 1979 destroyed it. (See photo of group on part of the remains at the bottom of the post)  We walk around and through the remains and that is when a mountain goat strolled up and was licking the salt on the side walk.  He was accustomed to people and he tolerated people getting pretty close.  This was my first siting of a mountain goat in the wild.  Of course many people would stand as close as possible and then get their picture taken with the goat.  Including my son.  See photo below.

The Meyer-Womble Observatory is also at the east end of the parking lot.  The observatory is operated by Denver University and is the "highest operating observatory in the West" according to their website.


 As we started down the mountain we got a different perspective of the surroundings.  I always find it easier riding up a mountain than down a mountain.  After we had passed Summit Lake we had to stop in the road as a second mountain goat crossed in front of us and grazed at the side of the road.  We cautiously passed.  (See photo below)

Once at the CO 5 & 103 intersection we visited the Echo Lake Lodge gift shop before heading east on CO 103 - that is another great road to ride.

If you are in the Denver area and can make the time I highly recommend riding up to the top of Mount Evans. You will need to check with the Department of Transportation to make sure the road is open.  The road is closed from late fall to early spring.  Check before heading that way.

3 comments:

  1. Oz - another terrific posting about a great sounding ride. This one has been on my "to do" list for a while and I should get there around September. I am looking forward to it even more now that I have read your post.

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  2. Gary you will love it. The road sometimes gets closed in early September so make sure to check before you go.

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