A Perfect Afternoon In The Mountains – Mt. Evans

Only in town for a day? Want the ultimate Colorado afternoon in the mountains?  Head up to Mt. Evans, which is between Idaho Springs and Evergreen and only 38 miles from Denver. The last 15 miles will take the longest because it will be a series of switchbacks through the Arapahoe Forest.

Ever since my parents moved us here in 1982, Echo Lake has been a family favorite.  The Lodge beside the lake was built in 1926 by the Denver Mountain Parks and was used for high altitude training during WWII.  Park by the lodge and take an easy hike around the lake.

View of Echo Lake on Mt. Evans

With little change in elevation and a groomed trail, the hike around the lake is perfect for visitors and locals alike.  It’s a big favorite of my pups too!

I love the calmness I feel walking down the path, the sound of the wind through the trees and the crystal clear water, it’s good for the  soul. On my latest trip the path was filled with blue dragonflies.  It felt magical  – like beings surrounded by fairies!

Echo Lake, Mt. Evans.

Once finished with your hike, drive up the mountain to Summit Lake.  Be warned, it’s a tricky drive. Not only is it curvy, but also narrow and literally hanging off the edge of the mountain. I’m an experienced mountain driver and this road makes me a little nervous. (Below I’m standing in a spot for slower drivers to pull over to let others pass. )


Summit Lake was deemed a National Natural Landmark in 1965 due to it’s diversity of alpine plants…some of which can be found only here and above the Artic Circle.

Summit Lake

As a matter of fact, when my husband and I moved our family here in 2013 it was the first place we took our kids!


The road up here is only open from Memorial – Labor Day so plan accordingly!  Even in summer you will need to bring a jacket.  To be honest, we were freezing the day the above picture was taken.  Expect crisp, cool mountain air carried off the recently frozen lake via strong winds.


Make sure you stay on the trails – due to this harsh climate it can take these plants five years to grow an inch!  You can damage them by traipsing where you don’t belong.

stay off tundra

Mid-summer is the peak time to view wildflowers.  This particular day was during the second week of July.  Look at all the blooms!

Summit Lake Wildflowers

Yellow tundra flowers

If you follow the path, you will see many amazing rock formations.

Summit Lake CO

Keep your eyes open for wildlife. Look at this cute Yellow-Bellied Marmot!

yellow bellied marmot

On this particular day we saw a herd of Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep.

Rocky Mt Big Horn Sheep ewe

Trust me, these are big horn sheep! Just a group of ewes and lambs because the males live a solitary life most of the time.

Rocky Mt Big Horn Sheep - ewe

Keep looking up high on the rocks.  Sometimes it can take a minute to spot them…Mother Nature gives them great camouflage! (See the two butting heads?)

Rocky Mt Big Horn Sheep

Make sure you use a fast shutter on your camera if you want to take photos of the flowers.  The wind is strong and it’s hard to get clear photos of the blossoms.

burgandy tundra flowers




alpine tundra flowers

Blue bells

As long as you bring a hoodie you will have a wonderful day!  Enjoy the wonder of nature!

Rocky Mt Sheep