Mount Evans Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

12.4
FIETS
27.4 mi
DISTANCE
6,744 ft
GAINED
4.5 %
AVG. GRADE

FULL CLIMB STATS

Page Contributor(s): Bruce Hamilton and Stacy Topping, USA Erich Pawelka, Vienna, Austria

INTRO

"The paved road on Mount Evans ends as the highest in the northwestern hemisphere and is one of the most unique rides in the World. One of the most difficult climbs in Colorado, it is not steep but its length and altitude will work on many riders all the way up to its craggy summit. The start is a bit congested and over shallow grade but signs of civilization soon end and the grade gradually increases along a tree lined route within a drainage. Graceful curves and a very steady grade accompany you on this stretch. As you approach Echo Lake the grade eases and then goes flat for a short section as you pass the lake on the right..." (This quote is presented with the approval of John Summerson, from his book, The Complete Guide to Climbing (by Bike), 2nd Edition, pg. 168.)
Climbing Mt. Evans is all about altitude, not gradient.  The grade is almost always in the 4-7% range.  45% of the climb (12.4 miles) is at 0-5% grade and 47% (12.7 miles)  5-10%.  The steepest quarter mile is only 8.4% and the steepest mile 6.6%.  I've ridden Mount Evans four times and do not recall ever seeing a double digit grade on my Garmin.  The average grade is a mild 4.5% (5.8% if several brief descents are removed from the equation).  

See more details and tools regarding this climb's grade via the “Profile Tool” button.
Roadway:  The roadway is in excellent condition although beware of the expansion joints (linear ruts) in the road along much of the upper section of the climb -- they are very uncomfortable.  

Traffic:  Mild and not a problem.  

Parking:  There is ample public parking at the climb start. Map, Street View. 
The only place to get food and liquids is the Echo Lake Lodge at mile 13 (Google Map + Reviews).  As for clothing, check the PJAMM weather tool for Peak Weather and bring warm clothing as indicated by the summit weather forecast.  Remember, you are starting your climb nearly 7,000' above where you start. 
At the top:  Of course check out the views at the parking lot and sun dial area.  Also consider walking a short distance to the Welcome Center near the lot and Meyer Womble Observatory - (Google Map + Reviews;  the observatory is not open, but the hike and views are great).  Also consider hiking to the very summit (4350m/14,271') which is a .3 mile hike gaining 80' (map).  See All Trails Best trails in Mount Evans Wilderness in the area if you are interested in hiking. 

We have always stayed in Idaho Springs (where the climb begins) for our four climbs up Mount Evans. You would not go wrong by staying in Denver (30 miles) or Boulder (44 miles) from start of the climb, as both locations are great places to stage a cycling trip.  See the Denver Climb Page and Boulder Climb Page for more information. 

ROUTE MAP

MEMBER RATING

Difficulty: Extreme
3.3
Road
3.7
Traffic
4.7
Scenery

CURRENT WEATHER

NEARBY CLIMBS (0) RADIAL PROXIMITY

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MEMBER REVIEWS & COMMENTS

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Mar 26, 2021
difficulty: Strenuous
scenery: 5
traffic: 5
road: 3
Mar 26, 2021
scenery: 5
traffic: 5
road: 3
I biked this last summer when it was closed to cars (all summer!) Was very glad to have zero traffic. The road close to the summit is pretty jarring. Large seams in the road make the descent a little scary at times. But besides that the conditions are pretty good. There are always mountain goats at the summit and a nice area to snack and rest before descending. I started in Idaho Springs, which makes the round trip 55 miles with about 7,000 feet of climbing.
Mar 9, 2021
difficulty: Extreme
scenery: 4
traffic: 3
road: 3
Mar 9, 2021
scenery: 4
traffic: 3
road: 3
The first half from Idaho springs is pristine road but heavier traffic. In Sept of 2020, the road was closed to traffic from echo lake to the summit. So zero concern of vehicles. However, the road from echo lake to the summit is deteriorating pretty rapidly. Very rough descent. A must do climb simply to say you’ve done the highest rd in N.A. - MUCH easier climb than Pikes Peak.
Mar 3, 2021
difficulty: Extreme
scenery: 5
traffic: 3
road: 4
Mar 3, 2021
scenery: 5
traffic: 3
road: 4
In my few short years on the bike, this has been my favorite ride to date. The highest paved road in North America at over 14,000ft is breathtaking. One, because of the altitude, and two because of the amazing views. We were lucky to get a clear day in July with cool sights like 7+ feet snow drift and numerous mountain goats. I enjoyed this one more than it's fellow Colorado 14'er, Pikes Peak, as the grade was less extreme and less traffic. Traffic the first half from Idaho Springs was moderate, but once turning at Echo Lake it was less. The few cars that did head that way were even cheering us on along the way. Be sure to take some time at the top to soak in the views. Be careful the first 5 or so miles of the descent as the road was quite bumpy when I did this ride in 2019. This is a must do!
ROUTE MAP
PROFILE TOOL

Climb Profile Not Found
CLIMB SUMMARY

Cycling Mt. Evans, Colorado - view from lookout point at top of climb, three big horn sheep standing on low rock retaining wall overlooking mountainside, blue sky and white clouds in distance

Cycling Mt. Evans, Colorado: The highest paved road in North America

Ride 27 miles gaining 6,740’ to 14,130’ at 4.5% average grade.

Cycling Mt. Evans - Garmin headset with road, bike and deer 

Last hairpin to the top.

Cyclist and Mountain Goat at Summit of Mount Evans, Colorado 

You cannot cycle any higher than this in North America.

There are not many rides you will do where you can say, "This is the highest . . ." but this is one of  them.  Mt Evans, Colorado -- the highest paved road (therefore the highest paved climb by bike) in North America!  For all that strive to climb the hardest, the longest, the steepest, the highest, this is a must-do!  

Last five miles to the top.

Mile markers correlate to the start of Mt Evans Road at mile 13 of the full climb.

You  will encounter unique wildlife as you climb this mountain, including Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep,  mountain goats, deer, and marmots.  The marmots in particular seem very curious and you likely will encounter them staring at you along the side of the road towards the very top of the climb.  

Mt Evans Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep 

Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, deer, marmot, mountain goat.     

                               

Our climb begins in Idaho Springs, Colorado with a four mile warm up at 3.1%.  Colorado is a mecca for climbing, particularly high altitude climbing, and routes across the Continental Divide.  We travel along Colorado State Highway 103 for the first 12.9 miles before making our only traffic turn on the route onto Mt. Evans Highway.  

START TO ECHO LAKE

Ride 12.9 miles, gaining 3,090’ to elevation 10,632, at 4.5% average grade.

Cycling Mt. Evans, Colorado - map of climb and climb gradient graph

Cycling Mt. Evans, Colorado - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, bike parked against retaining wall along signs for I70 East and I70 West, road signs for Mt. Evans

The climb begins in Idaho Springs, Colorado.

Just off I70 on Highway 103 (Mt. Evans Scenic Byway).

Cycling Mt. Evans, Colorado - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, road sign for City of Idaho Springs parking, photos of public parking lots

There is public parking on the left at the beginning of the ride . . .

. . . but . . .

. . . you gotta finish in 12 hours . . .

Cycling Mt. Evans, Colorado - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, aerial view of two cyclists riding along road shoulder for Scenic Byway, blue road sign for Scenic Byway with blue PJAMM Cycling jersey hanging below it

Climb start.

Cycling Mt. Evans, Colorado - photo collage, climb map and gradient, bike parked in grass along road side, sign for Idaho Springs Cemetery, white covered wagon along side of road

First couple of miles.

These 12.9 miles are the least scenic of the trip, but the last half of this segment is through heavier forest with much less traffic than at the start and is very pleasant.

Cycling Mt. Evans, Colorado - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, cyclists riding along road lined with thick evergreen trees, road sign for Steep Grade and Sharp curve next 7 miles, view from rear view mirror of car of two cyclists riding single file along road side

Bike climb Mt. Evans  - Arapaho National Forest sign on Hwy 103 while riding by bike to Mount Evans, Rocky Mountains

We ride in Arapaho National Forest most of the climb.

cycling hwy 103 to mt evans - roadway between trees with street sign

Highway 103 -- a pristine roadway for the first half of the climb.

You’ll know you are near the lakes because just before Echo and Summit Lakes there is a brief descent.  

ECHO LAKE

Mile 13.

Cycling to Mt Evans - Mirror Lake with Mount Evans in background

Echo (mirror?) Lake at mile 12.9.

Mt. Evans Summit center photo.

This is close to the half-way mark.

This is a beautiful shallow glacially formed lake.  At the junction of Highway 103 and Mt. Evans Road (mile 12.9) is Echo Lake Park and the 1926 Echo Lake Lodge and Gift Shop where you can get supplies and/or a meal.

Cycling Mt. Evans, Colorado - Echo Lake Lodge, gift shop, and restaurant

Echo Lake Lodge, Gift Shop and Restaurant 

Open seven days a week from 9AM to 6PM.

Climbing Mt. Evans  - Mount Evans Park entrance sign

Enter the Recreation area at mile 12.9 (No charge for bikes as of 2017).

Cycling Mt. Evans, Colorado - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, bike parked next to bushes with welcome sign for Mt. Evans, North America's highest auto road

Cycling Mt. Evans, Colorado - photo collage, PJAMM cycling logo in corner, bike parked next to road sign for Bergen Park, Mt. Evans, bike parked in front of road closure signs

In August 2020, due to the pandemic, the road from Echo Lake to the Summit was closed . . .

. . . for motor vehicles, not bikes. 👍👍

ECHO LAKE TO SUMMIT LAKE

9.2 miles gaining 2,246’ to 12,870’ at 4.4% average grade.

Cycling Mt. Evans, Colorado - climb map and climb gradient

Cycling past road sign on Mt Evans Road Rocky Mountains

From Echo Lake to the summit it is 14.5 miles/3,622’’ gained at 4.5% average grade.

Cycling Mt. Evans, Colorado - bike handlebars and Garmin looking over hillside, above treeline, Garmin reads 11633 feet elevation

View down to Echo Lake from four miles up Mt. Evans Highway.

Cycling Mt. Evans, Colorado - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, views of road signs along climb, climb map and gradient, bike parked along roadway next to rock formation

First few miles after turning onto Mt. Evans Highway.

We go above the tree line around mile 16 and from there to the top are striking, unobstructed views of the Rocky Mountains and several natural and beautiful lakes along the way.

Bicycling Mount Evans - Arapaho Roosevelt National Forest sign 

Just about to go above treeline here at mile 15.9.

Cycling Mt. Evans  - above treeline to Mt Evans in Rocky Mountains Colorado

No need to guess where treeline is!

Cycling Mt. Evans, Colorado - view above treeline looking down over tree covered mountainsides, dense clouds above

Cycling Mt. Evans, Colorado - climb map

The four points plotted above correlate to the next four photos/collages below.

From each of these points you view the first mile up from Summit Lake to the top (elevation 12,839’-13,142’).

Cycling Mt. Evans, Colorado - views of Garmin reading 11,364 feet, bike parked along mountainside, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner

Six miles from the middle of the first segment up to the summit from Summit Lake.

Cycling Mt. Evans, Colorado - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, views of mountainside above treeline, Garmin reading 12,321 feet

. . . 3.7 miles . . .

Cycling Mt. Evans, Colorado - view of bike handlebars and Garmin overlooking mountainside, Garmin reads 12,564 feet

. . . 3 miles . . .

Cycling Mt. Evans, Colorado - view of bike handlebars and Garmin on roadside overlooking mountain ranges, Garmin reads 12,882 feet

. . . and 1.2 miles -- just about to the most challenging part of the ride.

This is the highest high-altitude cycling you'll ever get on a road bike in North America, so be prepared.  3% less oxygen for every 1,000' of climbing (42% less oxygen at 14,000' than at sea level).  It is highly recommended that you climb a few of the "lower" peaks in the area before tackling Mt. Evans. I was a bit light headed and wobbly towards the top my first of three trips up Mt. Evans. I had climbed several 8,000' peaks in California the week before the trip, but that didn't sufficiently prepare me for another mile of climbing after 8,000'!    

SUMMIT LAKE

Elevation 13,000’

Cycling Mt. Evans - aerial drone photo of Summit Lake

Summit Lake mile 22.5

To the summit is 5.4 miles, gaining 1,460’ at 4.6% to elevation 14,150’.

Bike climb Mt. Evans - aerial drone photo just before Summit Lake - roadway and mountains

Miles 21-22 just before Summit Lake.

Cycling Mt. Evans, Colorado - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, bike parked in grass along roadside,  heard of mountain goats crossing road next to bike, bike parked along turn in roadway with four bighorn sheep crossing road next to bike

Mountain goats (top) and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep (bottom) in August 2020.   

SUMMIT LAKE TO SUMMIT

5.3 miles gaining 1,376’ to elevation 14,130’ at 4.7% average grade.

Cycling Mt. Evans, Colorado - climb map and climb gradient

Be aware that the top 5.3 miles of  the climb are limited to foot and cycling traffic after Labor Day (as of 2014) and closed to cyclists/hikers whenever weather dictates.  You will have no SAG support after Labor Day from mile  22.1 (Summit Lake Park) to 27.4 (summit).

Cycling Mt. Evans, Colorado - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, aerial views of hairpins at the top of climb

Aerial view of the hairpins at the top of the climb.

Cycling Mt. Evans, Colorado - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, more aerial views of hairpins, between Summit Lake and the climb's finish

Last of ~12 hairpins between Summit Lake and climb finish.

Cycling Mt. Evans, Colorado - photo collage, PJAMM cycling logo in corner, views of Garmin device with readings of 12,000, 13,000 13,500, and 14,000 feet

CLIMB FINISH

14,130’.

Cycling Mt. Evans, Colorado - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, bike parked against low stone retaining wall, three cyclists stand with bikes wearing PJAMM Cycling jerseys, aerial drone view of two cyclists at climb finish, sign warning of Altitude Sickness and Hypothermia

The highest paved road in North America - 14,130’.

Bottom middle photo - ultra cyclist and trekker Penny Fink. 

Penny was 71 when we met her at the top on August 16, 2020.

Cycling Mt. Evans, Colorado - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, bike parked in severely rocky portion of mountainside at climb's finish

Bring something other than cycling shoes if you plan to hike to the peak (14,265’).

When to cycle Mount Evans:  “The Mount Evans Road and Scenic Byway (Colorado Highway 5) is typically open the Friday of Memorial Day weekend through the first weekend in October, depending on weather conditions. The road and access to the top of Mount Evans is closed at Summit Lake the day after Labor Day. For the latest information about the road visit [this website]”  (Forest Service - Mount Evans).

How to Cycle Mount Evans: Train as much as you have ever trained for any climb.  This is an extremely challenging road bike climb due to the altitude we ride to (there is 42% less oxygen at the summit than at sea level). We suggest at least a compact chain ring and 28 to 30t cassette.  The climb begins 2/10's of a mile southwest of the intersection of Highway 40 and Chicago Creek Road in Idaho Springs, Colorado, 55 miles west of Denver International Airport (39.73919, -105.52242 latitude/longitude).

Bob Cook

Photo:  Bicycle Race 

Each July cyclists race from Idaho Springs (7,560’) to the end of the pavement above 14,000’ in the Bob Cook Memorial Bicycle Race.  This ride is named after Bob Cook, who died of melanoma at age 23 after having won the race an unbelievable six times in his young life. The race has been held every year (except three) since its inaugural in 1962.  Professional (or soon to be professional) cyclists have won the race over the years, such as: Alexi Grewal 1981, 1984, 1990; Ned Overend 1985-1986; Michael Engleman 1991-1995; Jonathan Vaughters 1997, 1999; Scott Moninger 1998, 2000-2002; Tom Danielson 4004, 2007, 2009; Peter Stetina 2010; LeRoy Popowski 2011-2013; Christopher Carr 2013; Lachlan Morton 2015; Chris Butler 2016; Chad Haga 2017; and Gregory Daniel 2018.

Roadway and Traffic:  Miles 0-13 are along Highway 103 (Chicago Creek and Squaw Creek Roads). The highway surface is a smooth two lane road with no bike lane,  but minimal traffic, particularly along the last several miles before the Mt Evans Road turn off.  Traffic is mild for the entire climb on Mt. Evans Road (14 miles) and the roadway surface good, although a little rough for the five mile descent from the top to Summit Lake.  Additionally, as of summer 2020, there are expansion ruts (linear gaps) in the roadway along the top section of the climb which make descending uncomfortable and potentially hazardous.

Great summaries of Mt  Evans are found at Steep Climbs and Mt. Evans. 

That’s a wrap!!