Colorado, United States
Mount Evans is a mountain in the Front Range region of the Rocky Mountains, in Clear Creek County, Colorado. It is one of 54 fourteeners (mountains with peaks over 14,000 feet) in Colorado, and the closest fourteener to Denver. It is often compared to Pikes Peak - another Front Range fourteener - which it exceeds in elevation by 154 ft (50 m).
Mount Evans was originally known as Mount Rosa or Mount Rosalie (named for the wife of Fitz Hugh Ludlow who would later be the wife of Albert Bierstadt, and featured in Bierstadt's painting "Storm in the Rocky Mountains"), and is located in what is known by locals as the Chicago Peaks Range. It is believed to have been climbed first in 1872 by Judge Lunt and a friend, but many accounts point to Albert Bierstadt as the first ascender in 1863. In 1895, Colorado's legislature officially renamed the peak in honor of John Evans, second governor of the Colorado Territory from 1862 to 1865.
The peak is one of the characteristic Front Range peaks, dominating the western skyline of the Great Plains along with Pikes Peak and nearby Mount Bierstadt. In the early days of Colorado tourism, Mount Evans and Denver were often in competition with Pikes Peak and Colorado Springs.
After a toll road was built to the summit of Pikes Peak, Robert Speer, mayor of Denver, asked for funds to build a road to the summit of Mount Evans. Construction began in 1917 and concluded on October 4, 1927. As of 2009, the Mount Evans Scenic Byway, leading to the summit overlook, is the highest paved road in North America.
The byway has made Mount Evans a very accessible peak to all varieties of tourists and mountaineers. The peak is 50 miles west of Denver, as the bird flies, and approximately 62 miles by road. From Denver, one can get to Mount Evans by taking I-70 west to Idaho Springs. From there, one proceeds south on State Highway 103, climbing past Echo Lake Park, then turning right on the Mount Evans Highway (State Highway 5).
From the entrance station on State Highway 5, one can get to the summit by driving the byway or by hiking the trail which runs along nearby. Along the route are several scenic sites and overlooks, including - Echo Lake, the upper Goliath trailhead and scenic overlook, Summit Lake including the Chicago Lakes scenic overlook, and Lincoln Lake - and other nearby peaks - Goliath Peak, Roger Peak, and Mount Warren. From the parking lot at the road's end (14,130 feet / 4,307 m) a short trail leads to the summit. There are also several other trails inside the Mount Evans Wilderness Area, which are accessible from several points along the Byway.
Near the summit stands the University of Denver's Meyer-Womble Observatory. At 14,148 feet (4,312 m) it is the second highest optical telescope in the world. The ruins of the Crest House (1941-1942) sit nearby. Once containing both a restaurant and a gift shop, it burned down on September 1, 1979 and was not rebuilt, but remains as a place of contemplation today. The rock foundation and walls remain as a windbreak for mountain travelers, and the viewing platform is one of Colorado's premier scenic overlooks.
Mt. Evans also hosts the annual Mt. Evans Hill Climb, a 27.4 mile bicycle race with a total of 6,915 feet of climbing.