Mt Evans, Mt Evans Scenic Byway, Summit County - Eagle County - Clear Creek County, Colorado

Mt Evans - 5.8 miles

Mt Evans Scenic Byway

Looking north from Mt Evans (14,264')

Looking north from Mt Evans (14,264')

Round-Trip Length: 5.8 miles
Start-End Elevation: 12,830' - 14,264' (14,264' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +1,434' net elevation gain (+1,906' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate-Strenuous
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

Mt Evans - 5.8 Miles Round-Trip

Mt Evans (14,264') is the 14th highest peak in Colorado, and closest fourteener to the Denver metro area. While the summit is accessible by car, there are also several hiking routes of varying length and difficulty leading to it.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

One route begins at Summit Lake and climbs 1,400' in 2.9 miles to Mt Evans. Visitors will enjoy a relatively moderate trek through open tundra with excellent wildlife viewing throughout.

Surprisingly, hiking routes to Mt Evans are absent from many popular maps. View this map for the route, which scales the Summit Lake cirque to Mt Spalding, then over Lake Abyss to Mt Evans:

The trail skirts Summit Lake to the Chicago Lakes - Mt Evans Trail split (.2 miles) with long views down the glacially carved Chicago Creek Valley.

The Mt Evans Trail banks left and climbs steeply with several short rock scrambles to the top of the Summit Lake cirque basin (1.0 miles : 13,717'). Here travel moderates in open tundra with panoramas that include Grays and Torreys, Mt Bierstadt and the Chicago and Summit Lake basins.

The trail rises to a crest just behind Mt Spalding (1.2 miles : 13,830') and drops to a low point in a broad saddle (1.5 miles : 13,621'). A good line of cairns mark the trail, but blend seamlessly into the landscape. Keep track of your progress, as the faint trail can be difficult to follow.

The trail climbs steeply from the nadir to a crest (2.0 miles : 13,960'), and wraps around the southwest side of Mt Evans with commanding views over the Abyss Lake basin, Mt Bierstadt, and Sawtooth.

The trail crosses 14,000 at 2.1 miles, but undulates ruggedly through large boulders with little net gain over the next half mile.

Travel slows through this uneven section until reaching the Mt Evans Road (2.85 miles : 14,169'), just before which switchbacks break left to the Mt Evans summit (2.9 miles : 14,264').

Views are sensational, but the mountain goats and bighorn sheep that frequent the summit pavilion may be of even greater interest. Enjoy wildlife from a safe distance.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N39 35.965 W105 38.450 — 0.0 miles : Summit Lake Trailhead
  • N39 36.101 W105 38.544 — .2 miles : Chicago Lakes - Mt Evans Trail split
  • N39 36.054 W105 38.801 — .5 miles : Steep, steady climb out of Summit Lake cirque
  • N39 36.059 W105 39.215 — 1.0 miles : Crest over basin and moderate in open tundra
  • N39 35.797 W105 39.453 — 1.5 miles : Low point on saddle; begin steep climb
  • N39 35.472 W105 39.273 — 2.0 miles : Crest hill and wrap to west side of Mt Evans
  • N39 35.413 W105 39.185 — 2.1 miles : Cross 14,000'
  • N39 35.279 W105 38.559 — 2.85 miles : Reach road; turn up switchbacks to summit
  • N39 35.298 W105 38.619 — 2.9 miles : Mt Evans (14,264')

Worth Noting

  • Though it sees heavy use, the Mt Evans Trail is faint and indistinguishable from the landscape in several places. Additionally, travel slows as you pick your way through large talus from 2.1 to 2.8 miles. Allow plenty of time for the hike, and aim for lower ground well before storms develop.

  • Land east of Summit Lake is known as the Summit Lake Flats, and is the only known area of permafrost in the United States outside of Alaska.

  • Summit Lake is known to hold very large rainbow and brown trout.

  • Mt Spalding (13,842') is a short detour from the trail, and relatively easy summit.

  • Mt Evans Road is the highest paved road in North America.

Camping and Backpacking Information

  • Dispersed backcountry camping is permitted in the Pike National Forest, Arapaho National Forest, and Mt Evans Wilderness Area. Camping is not permitted at Summit Lake, or the immediate vicinity. Summit Lake is managed separately by Denver Mountain Park.

  • Camping is prohibited within 100' of any lake, stream, or road. Group size is limited to 15 individuals.

  • Campfires are permitted for dispersed backcountry camping, with potential seasonal and elevation restrictions.

  • If in the Mt Evans Wilderness , one member of each party is required to register at a Mt Evans Wilderness boundary board and carry a copy of the registration with them during their visit. There is no registration fee.

Fishing Information

  • Fishing is permitted in Summit Lake with a valid Colorado state fishing license.

  • A total of four fish may be kept, minimum length 12 inches.

  • Summit Lake is known to hold fish that reach 18-30".

Rules and Regulations

  • There's a $10 fee to park at Summit Lake, Mt Evans Summit, and Mount Goliath Trailhead.

  • Dogs are permitted on the Mt Evans Trail. Dogs must be leashed at all times.

  • Bikes and mechanized vehicles are not permitted on the Mt Evans Trail.

Directions to Trailhead

The Summit Lake Trailhead is located 22.9 miles south of Idaho Springs, CO on the Mt Evans Scenic Byway.

From I-70, exit #240 and head south on HWY 103 (toward Mt Evans). Veer right onto Highway 105 just past Echo Lake and continue to the Summit Lake parking lot. Note there's a fee station just past Echo Lake before you veer right onto 105.

Contact Information

Clear Creek Ranger District
101 Chicago Creek Road
P.O. Box 3307
Idaho Springs, CO 80452

South Platte Ranger District
19316 Goddard Ranch Court
Morrison, CO 80465
303.275.5610 (phone)
303.275.5642 (fax)
Office Hours:
Monday - Friday, 8 am - 4:30 pm (excluding National Holidays)

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