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The Mount Evans Scenic Byway, just 60 miles west of Denver, is the highest paved road in North America. A day trip to the top is a journey that snakes and climbs through nearly 9,000 feet of elevation gain, from the high plains of Denver through five climate zones to the 14,264-foot summit of Mount Evans, one of 54 peaks in Colorado that soar to 14,000 feet and above – the famous “fourteeners.”
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Denver Botanic Gardens maintains a trail from here to Mount Goliath that winds across tundra, lined with alpine forget-me-nots, fairy primrose, purple fringe, chiming bells and spring beauty. They also offer guided hikes throughout the summer.
Another good stop on the way to the top is Summit Lake. At 13,000 feet, this is also a Denver Mountain Park and a good place to spot bighorn sheep and Rocky Mountain goats, both of which have herds on the mountain. At the mountain's top, there is a short quarter-mile trail to the 14,264-foot summit. At this altitude, there is much less oxygen and breathing is difficult. Although the trail climbs only 120 feet in elevation, it will seem like you climbed the whole mountain. Wear sunscreen, because at 14,000 feet, there is 50 percent less protection from the sun's rays. It's also advisable to visit and be off the mountain before noon to avoid common afternoon thunderstorms.
The view from the top is simply incredible. This is one of the grandest panoramas in Colorado and much of the state is visible, from the Never Summer Range in the north to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the south.
It's possible to return to Denver on scenic Highway 103 east over Squaw Pass, creating a circle loop back to I-70 at Genesee Park, yet another Denver Mountain Park. At this one, a herd of 40 buffalo grazes in a meadow, with snowcapped peaks as a backdrop.