Containing 74 thousand acres, the Mt. Evans Wilderness area is one of the smaller parcels of wilderness in the Rocky Mountains. Albeit small, the wilderness area receives significant visitor numbers due to the Mt. Evans Scenic Byway. (The road is not included within the wilderness boundary.)
Because of two fourteen thousand foot peaks (Mt. Evans, Bierstadt), proximity to the large cities of Colorado, and the ease of access via a paved road, the wilderness is heavily visited in the summer months. The wilderness contains rare high altitude arctic tundra, spruce-lodgepole pine forests, and bristlecone pines in high altitude locations. Granite cirques, several small lakes, and scenic views characterize the wilderness.
The Mt. Evans Scenic Byway follows a non-wilderness corridor right into the heart of the wilderness. The road itself and Mt. Evans’ summit is on non-wilderness land, the land on either side of it is within the wilderness boundaries. To get there, exit I-70 in Idaho Springs (Colorado) at mile marker 240 onto CO-103 & Mt. Evans Scenic Byway.
Another popular way to access the area is by way of Guanella Pass Road (CO Road 381) that passes over Guanella Pass just west of the wilderness boundary. From Georgetown, Colorado, head south on Rose Street until the 2nd St. intersection. Make a left onto 2nd Street/CO-381. Follow the switch backs to the pass summit. The Georgetown side of the pass has been closed below the pass due to rock-fall repairs.
The pass can also be accessed from the south side by following Hwy 285 from Bailey, CO to the junction of Hwy 285 and Guanella Pass Rd. in Grant, CO.
Note that the highest portions of Guanella Pass Road and the Mt. Evans Scenic Byway are closed in the winter months due to snow.
Abyss Lake – Enjoy this 18 mile round-trip hike to an alpine lake set in a high-altitude cirque between two tall peaks. Head south on the Abyss Lake Trail from the Geneva Pass trail head and parking lot. This trail is strenuous, due to it’s length and high altitude location. – USFS Page – Abyss Lake.
Chicago Lakes – A popular 4 mile (one-way) wilderness hike to two alpine lakes at the end of a valley terminated by the jagged cliffs of Mt. Spalding. The trail begins behind Echo Lake Lodge at Echo Lake. Drive 12 miles to Echo Lake on Hwy 103 from Idaho Springs. The trail heads southwest and descends first to Idaho Springs Reservoir before ascending to the first lake. – From USFS Page – Chicago Lakes.
Available online from National Geographic ($12.95) and local retailer REI.
Lost Creek Wilderness, James Peak Wilderness