The Mount Evans Scenic Byway is the highest paved road in North America. It's located in Colorado, USA. The byway has a length of 28 miles (45 km) and has an elevation gain of 7,000 feet (2.100 m), achieving a final altitude of 14,130 feet (4.310 m). It's one of the highest mountain passes in Colorado.
The road begins at the junction of Interstate 70 and State Highway 103 near Idaho Springs, continues on State Highway 5 and ends near the summit of Mount Evans. The first 4 miles, from Idaho Springs on CO 103, are surprisingly flat, then there is a 4-6% grade to the entrance that continues to Summit lake. The last 5 miles have grades of 2-5%, but because you are above 12,000 feet it will feel like 10-15% grade to top. Drive from 8,700 feet at Idaho Spring where you turn off Interstate 70 to 14,240 feet to the summit, and you will pass through 3 life zones, passing ancient trees, lakes and forest to the land above timberline.
The road to the top is typically opened in May (Memorial Day) when Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has completely plowed the road, but it can be closed anytime when the access is not cleared of snow. Usually the road to Summit Lake is opened before the last 5 miles to the summit is opened. Once opened, the road is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Unlike Pikes Peak that is only open from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm.
With such a high summit altitude the road can be closed anytime due to snowfalls. The zone is prone to heavy mist and can be dangerous in low visibility conditions. CDOT has returned to closing the top five miles the day after Labor Day. CDOT says that the first 10 miles (of 15 to the summit) will be open until the "first significant snowfall" or the first weekend i n October, which ever is first. Exactly, what is a "significant snowfall" is not defined.
The route demands 100% concentration. This road has humbled many egos. It’s not for the sissies and shouldn’t be attempted by novice drivers. This route was designated a Forest Service Byway on July 1, 1993 by the US Forest Service and has also been designated a Colorado Scenic Byway by the Colorado Department of Transportation. Check weather forecasts before leaving home, and remember that it becomes cooler and often more prone to storms at higher elevations.
The experience of using this road is very impressive. A new extension was recently added to the byway from Echo Lake to Bergen Park via Clear Creek County Road 103 and Jefferson County Road 66. The route takes the visitor from open ponderosa and juniper hills and open meadows, up through deep spruce forests and into the magnificent splendor of the alpine environment. In the past there was a restaurant at the summit which is obviously no longer in operation.
This is an exquisite winding mountain drive with sharp and blind curves and hairpin switchbacks leading the traveler over the mountains. The drive is definitely worth it. There are many excellent photo opportunities. Don’t forget your camera! The road encompasses miles of stunning views through twisty hair pin corners, high elevations and steep grades.