Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Mt. Evan's Scenic Byway

The star of any trip up Mt. Evans. One of the resident Mountain Goats.

Taking the Mt. Evans Scenic Byway, near Idaho Springs, is a jolly, near death experience with stupendous views. It is also a great way to beat the heat and carouse with Big Horn Sheep, Mountain Goats, and Yellow-bellied Marmots. Mt. Evans is 14,264 ft and is one of two 14ers in the state you can drive up. If you don't like heights, however, you may want to snort some Valium before starting out. The road has no guard rails but plenty of breath-stealing drop offs. You will also share it with bicycles and oversized pick-up trucks. There is a fee past Echo Lake unless you have an all Federal Parks Pass.
Image (not my own) of the Mt. Evans Scenic Byway. I have never been able to take my knuckles off the steering wheel to get a picture!

Things to Do:
  • Stop at Echo Lake, which is before the fee station, for a picnic or fishing derby.
  • Hike the Pesman Trail, which leaves from the Mt. Goliath Nature Center. This trail travels across the tundra through a grove of ancient Bristlecone Pines. Bristlecones are the oldest thing on earth, easily reaching 1,700 years. Alpine plants galore dot the trail.
  • Visit the Nature Center itself and see a mock up of an Alpine Spring Beauty with its 10-foot root that enables it to survive on harsh mountain tops. A small terraced alpine garden with helpful placards surrounds the building.
  • Stop at 13,000 ft Summit Lake, a jumping off point for folks heading to the summit the old-fashioned way...via their feet, for an incredible view looking down on Chicago Lakes. A resident heard of Big Horn Sheep often congregate here. Volunteer rangers will also set up interpretive displays.
  • Call on some parking karma and get a coveted slot on the summit itself. On the summit you can explore the ruins of an old hotel, feel the power of mother nature via freezing temps and extreme winds and stroll to the top itself. 
The summit parking lot. The Boulder field is often filled with tourists climbing the 120 ft from the pavement to the summit. Cars can stretch for a good 1/4 mile on both sides down to the left.

This goat was in need of a Hollywood makeover. He/she/it was shedding its winter coat. Not exactly a red carpet moment. Still, it had panache and liked to pose for the 200 lenses flashing all around.

This celeb was already done shedding and looked like it had just returned from a posh salon. Nothing like a new 'do to make you feel like a mountain diva.

Not to be out done, this B-actor was posing for us on the way down. Yellow-bellied Marmots are known for their hedonistic lounging upon warm rocks 

To get to the byway, take I-70 West from Denver to exit 240 (Hwy 103), the second exit at Idaho Springs. Because of snow the road is usually only open from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Even if there is no snow, CDOT will close the road after the Labor Day weekend, so plan accordingly. Come prepared for any of the following: intense sunlight, cold temperatures, snow, hail or rain, high wind, and low oxygen levels. The road can close any day throughout the summer due to winter-like conditions.


Linda said...

That second goat is actually smiling! Have the hordes of tourists not turned the goats into a nuisance like the apes on the Rock of Gibralter? Not the animals' fault, of course. That marmot looks exactly like a has-been actor hamming it up for the camera!

So when it rains, do the hordes of tourists fight to get into the wee shelter, or do they scramble for the comfort of their cars? The latter, I imagine.

PurestGreen said...

Great shots! I love the marmot. For all their Hedonistic lounging, there should be a book called The Tao of the Yellow-bellied Marmot.

MyVintageCameras said...

We also got some great Mt Goat and Marmot shots on Mt Evans last weekend. Donald should post them, but he hasn't yet.

Valerie said...

What a cool opportunity to capture the goat and the marmot! There isn't much variety in the wildlife around me, although I did have a woodchuck in the yard the other day. But i love the goat pictures with the blue sky. Just beautiful!

sylvia murphy said...

Hi Linda,

To answer your question, if it is raining on top of a 14er, I hope no one is around. Rain equals lightening and mountain peaks are a very bad place to be. I would not even drive up if the clouds are building.

The goats are not a nuisance. In fact a ranger was watching me very closely while I was taking pictures to make sure I did not disturb their royal highnesses.

Anonymous said...

We cycled up to Mt. Evans from Idaho Springs yesterday and encountered blowing snow on top and about two dozen of these camera hams just above summit lake. It was the highlight of the road bike ride for our group from Steamboat Springs.

Anonymous said...

The goat in the Olympic NP were a real problem. They are not native and were eating up delicate and rare lichens, vegetation, etc. Their range is more into Canada - Glacial and into Alberta.

Donna Nuce said...

Hi Sylvia! Fabulous photos. Loved the Marmot - one of my favorite high country animals! Have a great day!

sylvia murphy said...

Hi Donna,

I love them too. They are so hedonistic. I just envy that. What are you up to these days?