By Justin McHeffey

MOUNT EVANS WILDERNESS, Colo. (CBS4) – The road to the summit of Mount Evans is now open to the public. The 14 mile stretch begins at Echo Lake and climbs through several climate zones before reaching the top.

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If you make the drive early in the season, you can see just how deep the snow was before plows cleared the way.

 

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As the road winds through the last few feet of timberline, notice the twisted-looking bristlecone pine trees. Some of these have survived over 1,000 years through the hard winters and thinning air at high altitude.

Snowbanks about 15 feet tall create a drive-thru tunnel beginning at about 12,000 feet. This gives a visual sense of just how much moisture we’ve picked up since last fall.

 

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One of the best views of the Front Range appears on the northern side of Mt. Evans. It offers a panoramic look from Berthoud Pass to Longs Peak — about 80 miles of the Continental Divide.

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Bighorn sheep, mountain goats and marmots hang out on the rocks as you pass Summit Lake.

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Notice how the melting snow has created small creeks and ponds on the pavement, that’s why the road surface becomes uneven in a few places.

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From the eastern-facing side of Mt. Evans, the entire metro area spreads across the horizon. Downtown Denver can be seen on a clear day, as well as Buckley Air Force Base and Denver International Airport — over 40 miles away!

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The last leg of the trip goes around the southern slope of Mt. Evans. If you love geography, this is the view for you. From this vantage point you can see parts of the Gore, Mosquito, Sawatch, and Sangre de Cristo Range. As the mountains come into focus, try and spot Mount of the Holy Cross and the gap where Monarch Pass begins.

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The Mt. Evans parking lot sits at 14,130 feet, just a short hike from the actual summit. There’s an observation deck where you can faintly make out the Earth’s curvature when looking onto the plains. Dress for fall and spring conditions even during the middle of July — the temperature is often 50 degrees colder than it is in Denver.

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Justin McHeffey provides nightly reports from the Mobile Weather Lab. He travels Colorado in search of Mother Nature’s most powerful and beautiful conditions. Like his Facebook page Meteorologist Justin McHeffey and follow him on Twitter @WeatherMcHeffey.