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Mestaa’Ėhehe Pass and Road in Colorado

Mestaa’Ėhehe Pass & Road (CO 103): Stunning Scenic Drive Near Denver

Looking for a scenic drive near Denver that isn’t overcrowded with tourists and other travelers? I Check out Mestaa’Ėhehe Pass along Highway 103, which runs from Evergreen up to Echo Mountain and Lake Park before gradually dropping back down to rejoin Interstate 70 near Idaho Springs. This winding highway offers spectacular views of the Continental Divide to the west and the city of Denver on the plains to the east. It’s a great alternative to Trail Ridge Road and Loveland Pass, which are further away and get a lot more visitation in comparison.

In this guide, I share some background information about CO 103, top sights to see along the route, and other attractions to check out in the area. Let’s dig in!





Table of Contents

About Mestaa’Ėhehe Pass (CO Highway 103)

State Highway 103 is rugged mountain road with a lot of history and lore. Originally named Squaw Pass Road, it was renamed Mestaa’Ėhehe Road in 2023 to avoid the derogatory term. Here’s some information about its construction and the weather conditions you can expect when visiting throughout the year.

History

State Highway 103, also known as Mestaa’Ėhehe, was originally constructed in 1923 as part of the Mount Evans road construction project. Originally built as a dirt road, it was eventually fully paved by 1956.

Originally named Squaw Pass Road after a nearby mountain and pass, it was renamed in 2023 to honor Mestaa’Ėhehe, a native woman who lived between 1810 and 1847 and was a noted interpreter and mediator.

From 1960 through 1975, the highway was the main access route to reach the Squaw Pass Ski Area, the closest ski area to Denver. After the Eisenhower Tunnel opened in 1973, ski areas west of the divide became more popular, and the ski area closed in 1975 until it was reopened in 2005 as Echo Mountain.

Today, the route serves many purposes: providing access to local residents and subdivisions, skiers and snowboarders visiting Echo Mountain, tourists on their way to the summit of Mount Blue Sky, and other outdoor enthusiasts seeking stunning views and thrilling adventures.





Weather & Climate

Here are monthly climate averages for State Highway 103 in Colorado, including average high and low temperature, precipitation, and snowfall.

Echo Mountain Climate Averages
MonthAverage High (°F)Average Low (°F)Average Precipitation (inches)Average Snowfall (inches)
January30111.019.0
February33131.018.0
March38191.523.0
April46262.018.0
May56342.28.0
June66411.51.0
July71472.40.0
August69452.20.0
September61381.71.0
October50281.58.0
November37191.218.0
December31131.020.0

Accessibility

The highway is open to all types of vehicles and there are no tolls. However, during the winter months, it is recommended to have 4-wheel drive or chains due to the snowy and icy conditions. Accessibility for individuals with disabilities may be limited in some areas due to the rugged terrain. When in doubt, check the CDOT website for road condition information and updates.

Mestaa'ėhehe Road Route

The route begins in Evergreen at Colorado State Highway 74. This first section is also known as “Mestaa’ėhehe Road” and is not marked by CDOT. It gradually gains elevation as it passes through a valley and climbs along a series of hills and ridges. After crossing Mestaa’ėhehe Pass, the highway follows the ridge until reaching Echo Lake at the foot of Mount Blue Sky.

Once past the lake, the road becomes more windy with sharp turns as it descends rapidly towards Idaho Springs and Interstate 70. With multiple good pull-offs to enjoy the views, it eventually reaches the valley floor and leads back to Idaho Springs along Clear Creek.

The highway can be driven in either direction or driven as a loop by taking I-70 east back to Evergreen after your descent back to Idaho Springs.





Route Map

Explore the scenic Colorado State Highway 103 route with this interactive CalTopo map. Perfect for planning your next adventure in the beautiful Colorado mountains.

Elevation Profile

This shows the change in elevation along the road, along with data about the slope, aspect, tree and land cover along the route.

Mestaa’Ėhehe Pass Elevation Gain

Getting There

From Denver, take I-70 west towards the mountains. Exit at Evergreen Parkway (CO-74) and follow it south for about 3 miles. Turn right onto Mestaa’Ėhehe Road (formerly Squaw Pass Road), which is actually CO-103 and follow it for about 14 miles until you reach the summit of Mestaa’Ėhehe Pass. The road continues another 14 miles until it reaches Idaho Springs and I-70.





Road Photos

Here are photos taken along Mestaa’Ėhehe Road and Colorado State Highway 103, starting in Evergreen and finishing in Idaho Springs.

Safety First:

Driving and hiking through the mountains is hazardous and requires special caution. Here are some safety tips for those visiting Mestaa’Ėhehe Road and CO Highway 103.
  • Be aware of the altitude. The pass reaches over 10,000 feet, so some may experience symptoms of altitude sickness.
  • Watch out for wildlife. Deer, elk, and other animals are commonly seen along the road and can dart out unexpectedly.
  • Check the weather forecast before you go. Conditions can change quickly in the mountains, and snow can fall even in the summer.
  • Tell someone back home where you are going and when you should return so they can alert authorities if you something happens to you.

Read our complete mountain safety guide for more tips and tricks to stay safe while exploring the Colorado rocky mountains.

Top Sights Along Mestaa’Ėhehe Road (CO 103)

Like most mountain passes, there are tons of things to do in the immediate area. Here are some of the top sights to see and places to visit while driving along Mestaa’Ėhehe Road.





1. Historic Arapahoe Springs

Just a few miles into the drive, you’ll find Historic Arapahoe Springs, a fascinating site that was once a popular tourist destination in the early 20th century. As Here, you can explore an old trail that leads to the spring house built in 1937 by the Civilian Conservation Corps. At the time, the cool spring water helped cool early car engines as they strained to climb up Mount Blue Sky Road, while visitors could stretch their legs and also enjoy a cool, crisp refreshment.

2. Echo Mountain Ski Area

Built in 1970, Echo Mountain was one of the first popular ski area near Denver in the era before the Eisenhower Tunnel provided quick and easy access to Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, Aspen, and Vail. While small, the ski area is still a family-favorite close to home that’s especially suited for beginners and those learning how to ski or snowboard. They also offer snow tubing for children and families. Learn More

3. Chief Mountain Trail

Chief Mountain Trail Summit

This popular hiking trail starts from Mestaa’Ėhehe Road and climbs a short distance to the summit of Chief Mountain. This peak rises just above the treeline, providing spectacular views of Denver and the Continental Divide for those who make it all the way to the top. As parking for the trail is very limited, it is recommended that visitors arrive early or come during the week to secure a safe parking spot. Learn More





4. Mestaa’ėhehe Mountain Trail

Another popular trail along the route, it leads to the summit of Mestaa’ėhehe Mountain which gives its name to the pass and road. Renamed in 2021 to replace Squaw Mountain, it means “Owl Woman” and honors a native woman who lived in the early 19th century. The 2-mile trail leads to the summit at an elevation of 11,431 ft. It features a working fire lookout tower and amazing 360-degree views of the mountains and foothills. Learn More

5. Echo Lake Park

Situated at the based of Mount Blue Sky, Echo Lake is one of the jewels of the Denver Park System. The crystal clear water of this stunning alpine lake are framed by the snowcapped peaks and crags of Mount Blue Sky and Mount Spalding. In addition to the lake, perimeter trail, and picnic area, there is a reservation-only campground that operates here just outside the Mount Blue Sky summit road access point. Learn More





6. Ponder Point Picnic Area

This small USFS picnic site is a hidden gem, just past Echo Lake on the way down to Idaho Springs. Situated on a perfect curve along Mestaa’Ėhehe Road, the site has some of the best views of the surrounding pine forests and snowcapped peaks as you descend towards the end of the highway. It is the perfect spot to enjoy lunch or an afternoon snack in a spectacular mountain setting along State Highway 103. Learn More 

7. Mount Blue Sky Scenic Byway

Mestaa’Ėhehe Road was originally constructed as part of the road network leading to the summit of Mount Blue Sky. It is still one of the two main routes taken to reach the entrance station near Echo Lake Part. The rest of the road requires an entrance fee and timed entry reservation to drive all the way to the top. Alternatively, you can drive up to Summit Lake and hike the last few miles to the peak. Learn More





Leave No Trace

As with any outdoor activity, it’s important to practice Leave No Trace principles when visiting Mestaa’Ėhehe Pass and the surrounding areas. This includes staying on designated trails, disposing of waste properly, respecting wildlife, and leaving what you find. Let’s preserve the beauty of this area for future generations to enjoy!

Here are some additional tips:

  • Pack out all trash, leftover food, and litter
  • Stay on designated trails to protect wildlife and their habitats
  • Be respectful of other visitors and keep noise to a minimum

Learn more with our Leave No Trace Tips here.

Leave No Trace

Conclusion: Mestaa’Ėhehe Pass & Road

In conclusion, Colorado State Highway 103 is a stunning scenic drive near Denver that offers a less crowded alternative to other popular routes. With its rich history, breathtaking views, and various attractions along the way, it’s a must-visit for both tourists and locals. Whether you’re looking for outdoor adventure, a relaxing drive, or a historical exploration, Highway 103 has something for everyone.

Looking for more information? Check out our FAQ section and list of additional resources below to continue your research.





FAQ

Leave a question in a comment and we will get you an answer as soon as possible.

Q: What is the new name for Squaw Pass Road?

A: Squaw Pass Road, originally named after a nearby mountain and pass, was officially renamed as Mestaa’Ėhehe Road in 2023 to honor Mestaa’Ėhehe, a native woman who lived between 1810 and 1847 and was a noted interpreter and mediator.

A: Mestaa Ehehe is pronounced as Mes-taa Eh-heh-he. The name has native origins and it’s important to respect its pronunciation.

A: Yes, the Mestaa’Ėhehe Pass road, now known as State Highway 103, is fully paved. The road was originally constructed as a dirt road in 1923 and was eventually fully paved by 1956, making it accessible for all kinds of vehicles. 

A: Absolutely! Mestaa’Ėhehe Pass has a lot to offer. It is a stunning scenic drive near Denver that provides breathtaking views of the Continental Divide to the west and the city of Denver on the plains to the east. The highway serves many purposes, including providing access to local residents, skiers and snowboarders visiting Echo Mountain, and tourists heading to the summit of Mount Blue Sky. It is also a great alternative to Trail Ridge Road and Loveland Pass, which are further away and get a lot more visitation.

A: Yes, Echo Mountain is especially suited for beginners. It was one of the first popular ski areas near Denver and continues to be a family-favorite. The ski area offers a variety of easy slopes for beginners to learn and practice, and also offers snow tubing for children and families.

A: The Mount Blue Sky Scenic Byway starts at the junction of Interstate 70 and State Highway 103 near Idaho Springs. It travels up State Highway 103 until it reaches Echo Lake. The Byway continues beyond Echo Lake for another 14 miles until it reaches the summit of Mount Blue Sky, making it the highest paved road in North America.

A: Yes, there is a perimeter trail around Echo Lake that is perfect for a short, leisurely walk. The trail offers beautiful views of the lake and the surrounding snow-capped mountains and is suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels.

A: No, swimming is not allowed in Echo Lake. The lake is situated at a high altitude and the water temperature is quite cold, making it unsuitable for swimming.

A: The Chief Mountain Trail is a popular hiking trail that starts from Mestaa’Ėhehe Road. It’s a relatively short hike that typically takes about 2-3 hours to complete, depending on your pace and level of fitness.

A: The Chief Mountain Trail is rated as moderate. Although it’s a relatively short hike, it does gain elevation quickly, so some hikers may find it challenging. The trail rises just above the treeline, providing spectacular views of Denver and the Continental Divide for those who make it all the way to the top.





Additional Resources





Alex Derr, Founder of The Next Summit

Alex Derr is an Eagle Scout, climber, and environmental policy expert located in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. Follow him on Linkedin or Twitter or click here to contact him.





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