On Sunday we took a drive up through Eldorado Canyon and headed towards Nederland via a way we hadn’t explored yet. Upon reaching Ned, we headed south on the Peak to Peak Highway chomping up some miles of road we’d yet to explore as well. It was much to our surprise when we rounded the bends into the canyon town of Black Hawk. In front of us was a huge building, a hotel in fact, and within a quarter mile it was evident that we’d reached a mini-vegas. Black hawk is a town that seems to have gone through a renaissance where multiple large casino’s have been erected and construction plagues the main road through town as they work on building a wrap around thru-way to stave off congestion. It was quite comical to come across this oasis of lights flickering under a hot June sun.
As we made our way into Idaho Springs we inadvertently hopped onto I-70 West and started seeing signs for “Mt. Evans-Open To Top.” We had no clue what Mt. Evans was or how high the top was but we dared to venture in that direction to find out. We drove once again through canyon after canyon until the car started climbing higher and higher, eventually sneaking us views of the high rocky peaks all around. We drove past the gorgeous Echo Lake recreation area where it seemed like a few hundred folks had parked along side its shores, enjoying the afternoon sun and trying their luck at casting a line into the crystal waters. On the far end of the lake, we made it to a small visitors center with a sign for the Mount Evans Auto Road.
After our “breathtaking” (Literally) break, we drove the rest of the way to the summit. The road got narrower the higher we got, the turns tighter and the air thinner. By the time we reached the summit, we had made it to 14,100′ in elevation. We got out of the car to look around. It was 90 degrees down in Denver, it’s 40 degrees up here. I’m in shorts and a t-shirt, we hadn’t planned on anything today really and this had become a pretty amazing treat. I froze while walking around the parking lot area, the true summit of the peak another 100′ above us. The more telling tale is of being out of breath after walking a mere 50 yards on the summit proper.
We turned the car around and began the long roller coaster ride back down the 15 mile auto road. We slowly, and in third gear, made our way back to the bottom. We stopped for a few more pictures along the way. To snap shots of the car along-side the snowdrifts, the marmots that own the place and of course some worthwhile views. For $10, it doesn’t get much better, especially if you want to get above 14,000′ without walking there. I’m sure we’ll return to the Evans Auto Road once the smoke clears and we find more time.