Mount Evans Scenic Byway
The Mount Evans Scenic Byway begins at the Idaho Springs Visitor Center. Take Exit 241 off Interstate 70 for 1 mile. Stop at the Visitor Center for information, then continue on Miner Street to 13th Avenue which is State Highway 103 and continues on State Highway 5 through a corridor between the Mount Evans Wilderness where it ends near the summit of Mount Evans. The byway is 28 miles (45 km) in length and gains over 7,000 feet (2,100 m) of elevation. Achieving a final elevation of 14,130 feet (4,310 m), this is the highest paved road in North America.
The road was originally planned by the Denver Mountain Parks system to link Summit Lake Park and Echo Lake Park to their lower altitude parks in the foothills. As originally planned, the road ran from Bergen Park near Evergreen to Echo Lake, and then to the summit, while the road from Echo Lake down into Chicago Creek Canyon was a secondary branch. From the start, the road was planned in terms of the scenic vistas along the way. The route was set by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., and for a while, between 1915 and 1920, it was to be the primary access road for a proposed National Park comprising much of what is now the Mount Evans Wilderness Area.
There is a park fee charged if using parking lots and facilities along the upper portion of the byway. Prior to 2012, the Forest Service was charging anyone entering the highway at the entrance to Highway 5. This portion of the byway is often narrow, with sudden dropoffs that have no guardrails. It is typically only accessible from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, although the amount of access and specific dates vary depending on the weather and road conditions.
- J. E. Murphy, A Motor Road on the Skyline of America, Popular Mechanics Vol XXXI,(1919); page 280.
- William Wyckoff, Creating Colorado: The Making of a Western American Landscape, 1860-1940, Yale University, 1999; pages 85-86
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