Cycling Mt. Evans - the highest paved road in North America
Ride 27 miles gaining 6,740’ to 14,130’ at 4.5% average grade.
Last hairpin to the top.
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 5 miles to the top.
Mile markers correlate to the start of Mt Evans Rd 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, marmots (they 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).
Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, deer, marmot, mountain goat.
Our climb begins in Idaho Springs, Colorado (Colorado is a mecca for climbing, particularly high altitude climbing - and routes across the Continental Divide) with a 4 miles warm up at 3.1%. We travel along Colorado State Highway 103 for the first 13 miles (3,130’ / 4.9% average grade) before making our only traffic turn on the route onto Hwy 5. Neither of these highways have much traffic and the trip feels safe the entire route.
Highway 103 - pristine roadway.
In Arapaho National Forest most of the climb.
Turn right into Mount Evans National Wilderness area at mile 21 - turn right onto State Highway 5.
Echo (mirror?) Lake at mile 20 (Mt. Evans Summit center photo)
Enter the Recreation area at mile 21 (No charge for bikes as of 2017)
14.4 miles/3,720’ gained/4.6% average grade from turn off to summit.
We go above tree line around mile 16 and the views from there to the top are unobstructed of the striking Rocky Mountains and several natural and beautiful lakes along the way.
Just about to go above treeline here at mile 15.9
Climbing up Hwy 5
No need to guess where treeline is!
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. 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'!
Be aware that the top 5.3 miles of the climb is limited to foot and cycling traffic after Labor Day (as of 2014) and closes to cyclists/hikers when weather dictates. You will have no SAG support after Labor Day from mile 22.1 (Summit Lake Park) to 27.4 (summit).
Summit Lake mile 22.5
To the summit = 5.4 miles gain 1,460’ at 4.6% to elevation 14,150’.
Miles 21-22 just before Summit Lake
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 http://www.coloradodot.info/ “ 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 Hwy 40 and Chicago Creek Road, Idaho Springs, CO, 55 miles west of Denver International Airport (39.73919, -105.52242 latitude/longitude).
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 5 mile descent from the top to Summit Lake.