Sometimes past drives are so memorable that I just need to get back for another go. I’ve had this goal for many places I’ve visited, but one that tops the list was Mt. Evans in Colorado…the highest paved road in North America.
I actually didn’t plan this much in advance. It was more of a last minute trip idea, and not going to be a blog post until I decided to throw in one more stop, Pikes Peak! This trip happened in early August of this year, so the weather was just right…cool temps with light spots of rain. My buddy, James Zamora, and I decided that a four-day weekend was in order to escape the humid heat of the desert in search of those cooler temps.
You may remember my first drive to Mt. Evans in 2013 with James and Tyson from drivetofive. I drove my 2004 Honda Accord Coupe V6 6spd then and never forgot the experience. We planned to visit Pikes Peak as well, but it was closed for a bike event. Mercifully, it was open this time so I couldn’t pass it up. Now, let’s give my Mazda 6 that same Mt. Evans experience and see how the 230,000 mile motor handles 14,000+ ft above sea level…twice! While Mt. Evans soars to 14,211 ft, Pikes Peak isn’t that far behind at 14,112 ft. More importantly, how would I handle those heights since I’ve not been in the best shape lately. Let’s find out!
Total drive time: 22hrs
Total miles: 1,451
Starting day: Picked up James Z. from Socorro, NM and we headed out on I-25. With multiple clouds multiplying in the sky, it was sure to be a beautiful day. We planned it by spending the night in Denver, attack Mt. Evans Saturday and Pikes Peak the following day near Colorado Springs. Let’s get going…
Getting into Colorado with a gentle mist in the air. Note this was the time I was trying out those chrome alloys!
Oh, what’s this? A national park along the way? It’s the Great Sand Dunes National Park, and we both had never been. Time to rectify that.
Checkout those menacing clouds!
A rather underrated National Park, the Grand Sand Dunes lives in southern Colorado and is known for being the tallest sand dunes in North America. Being at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Range, it offers some of the most majestic scenery around Southern Colorado. I highly recommend a stop to just let your feet sink into the sand.
We continued onward to Denver for the night. Hotel of choice was the Hyatt Business center which had the best rates on the south end of town.
The following day gave us bright and sunny weather for the drive to Mt. Evans. I was thrilled to be once again driving this highest paved road in North America. Lots of switchbacks with no shoulders or no guardrails await!
Didn’t take long to get up into alpine country.
Stop at Summit Lake, just 5.5 miles from the top of Mt. Evans.
Thanks to James for helping out with the photography. This selfie mirror shot is starting to become a tradition.
Made it to the top! Parking was a little tricky since there were quite a few tourists at this time of year. The little 6 charged up the mountain without incident.
Views for days!
And it wouldn’t be a 14,000 ft+ experience without spotting the occasional big horned sheep and mountain goat!
Heading back down. Luckily, we didn’t suffer any ill effects of the altitude aside from a very slight headache I felt coming on. This could also have been my lack of water intake that day, though.
We wrapped up the day with an easy drive to Colorado Springs for the night. Stay tuned for Part II of Pikes Peak!