Hiking Mount Evans | A Great 14er Near Denver
Mt. Evans is one of two 14ers with roads to their summit, however that also means it’s relatively easy to climb by foot. It’s named after the man who ordered the Sand Creek Massacre that killed hundreds of native american men, women and children. Despite the dark history, climbing the peak is a refreshing treat, with many options for advanced routes due to the accessibility of the high country. Taking the road almost to the top and stopping at Summit Lake leaves you in the right place to climb Evans’ West Ridge. Get everything you need for hiking Mount Evans here with my route guide.
Hiking Mount Evans: Fast Facts
Hiking Mount Evans via the West Ridge
The Mt Evans route begins only 2,000 feet below the summit. Leave your car at the Summit Lake trailhead, and head north along the shore until you meet a sign marking a trail up Mt. Spalding. To begin hiking Mount Evans, follow a loose trail up through the rocks to the ridge – don’t take the lower trail along the lake to your left.
Head up to the top of the ridge proper to get to a better trail. Climb until you reach the summit of Mt. Spalding (a good launch spot). The large basin you’re leaving was carved thousands of years ago by glaciers formed at the cliff walls above you. At this point, you head on to the Mt Evans route itself.
From Mt. Spalding, you must head south to the saddle below Mt Evan’s West Ridge and Mt. Spalding. Follow a trail marked with cairns, but don’t worry if you leave the trail at times. Aim for the base of the ridge, just beyond this side (which has cliffs).
Work your way along the Western Ridge, following the cairns to find the path of least resistance. This can be a long, slow section of hiking Mount Evans, with a bit of elevation gain and loss as you scramble up and down. Take your time and move carefully here. A fall is unlikely but wouldn’t be good for you.
With a bit of grit, you will soon come across the parking lot full of confused tourists wondering why you bothered hiking up a mountain with a road? Join the short trail from the summit parking lot to reach the summit before heading back for your descent. For an easier day out, come with two vehicles and leave one parked at the top for an easy drive back down. Enjoy your time, and make sure you head back to the tree line before the afternoon to avoid summer thunderstorms.
This topographical map of the Mt Evans route is a good thing to keep with you on your hike. I recommend downloading it on your phone to bring with you, along with a backup printed out paper copy in case anything happens to your electronics. A map is critically important to keep with you while hiking Mount Evans
The West Ridge route begins at the Summit Lake Trailhead. This road is accessible by 2WD vehicles but closes for the fall through spring. It usually opens around or just after Memorial Day weeekend.
DIRECTIONS TO THE SUMMIT LAKE TRAILHEAD:
The scramble up Mount Evans is class 2, and can involve quite a few rocky sections. I suggest wearing a good pair of hiking boots to provide more protection for your ankles in case you trip and fall while hiking Mount Evans. Here are my top hiking boot recommendations.
You should always bring the ten essentials with you on your trip (see the infographic below). While the chance of an emergency while hiking Mount Evans is small, it is better to be safe than sorry. To carry all your gear, bring a backpack with 20-30 liters capacity. These are several good backpack options that won’t break the bank.
While trekking poles are not a necessity on this mountain, I use them myself as they offer many benefits and make hiking easier. If you want a pair, I share my personal favorites here.
Don’t forget to bring 2 liters of water, and a good bit of snacks and food for the trail. Learn more about packing for a 14er here.
Camping near Mount Evans:
- Echo Lake Campground
- West Chicago Creek Campground
- Cottonwood RV & Mobile Homes
- Denver West / Central City KOA Holiday
There are also many dispersed camping opportunities along forest roads near the trailhead ideal for those climbing Mount Evans. Note that camping is not allowed at the trailhead. Learn more about dispersed camping near 14ers here.
Lodging near Mount Evans:
There are many cabins available via Airbnb and other services in Idaho Springs, Georgetown, and the surrounding area, ideal for those climbing Mount Evans.
Mount Evans is an extremely busy peak due to the road up its summit and its proximity to Denver. It is critically important that you follow Leave No Trace practices while hiking Mount Evans to limit your impact and help protect access to the area. These practices include:
- Plan ahead, review the route and pick a weekday or day in September to hike.
- Stay on the trail, and keep dogs leashed on and off-trail to reduce trampling of alpine grass.
- Leave your Bluetooth speaker at home and let nature’s sound reign.
- Urinate off-trail, and pack out your waste – a cathole won’t work at high altitude.
- Give wildlife a wide berth – 100 meters if possible. If they approach, back up to keep space.
- Take nothing but pictures, and leave nothing but footprints.
Safe travels, and good luck hiking Mount Evans! Learn more about LNT on 14ers here.
Mount Evans is the closest fourteener to Denver and the front range metro area, visible rising over the city skyline miles away. The mountain is named after John Evans, the controversial former Territorial Governor partially responsible for the Sand Creek Massacre. Discussions are ongoing about renaming the mountain to something less offensive to Native American communities.
The road to the peak of Mount Evans was built over a period of years from 1915 through 1930. It was originally part of a scheme by the city of Denver to develop Mount Evans as a National Park. While the mountain was never granted this status, a road was still built to the summit, now the highest paved road in North America. The summit includes the remains of an old gift shop and restaurant which burned down in 1979. The foundation today is a viewing platform for visitors and those hiking Mount Evans.
Mount Evans has been a significant place of research over the past 90 years due to its high altitude and road accessibility. Experiments into cosmic rays were carried out there in the 1930s, and the University of Denver maintains a telescope on the summit today for astrological research. Mount Evans is also the scene for physics research, including a study that verified time dilation, a theory of Albert Einstein.
Hiking Mount Evans is an inherently high-risk activity – do so at your own risk, and use the following best practices to help keep yourself safe.
- Research your route and bring a compass & topographic map.
- Check the weather forecast and stay home during inclement weather.
- Bring the Ten Essentials and the knowledge/skill to use them.
- Leave your plans with someone back home along with a detailed itinerary.
- Start early, and end early: Be back at tree line by noon to avoid lightning.
- Bring a buddy on your first ascent, preferably someone experienced.
Hiking Mount Evans is an inherently high-risk, dangerous activity. There is a significant risk of injury or death, even with proper planning and experience. Those using my guide accept all risks associated with climbing 14ers and do not hold this website or any information they obtain from it liable for any accidents or injuries that occur while engaging in these activities on Colorado’s high peaks. It is each hiker or climber’s responsibility to research their route carefully, bring the ten essentials, and practice other safe practices, though even these precautions do not eliminate risk and danger. Visit these summits at your own risk.