CLEAR CREEK COUNTY — Due to the unique risks associated with COVID-19, the opening of Mount Evans Highway (Colorado Highway 5) will be delayed, and the roadway will not be open by Memorial Day weekend as it usually is. At this time, the Colorado Department of Transportation, the U.S. Forest Service, and Denver Mountain Parks — the agencies that jointly manage Mount Evans — have reached an agreement that Mount Evans Highway will not open until at least early July due to delays related to COVID-19 and public health orders.
The challenges COVID-19 presents for opening Mount Evans Highway include:
- Opening the highway would make it more difficult for tourists to practice social distancing, as more than 200,000 people from all over the world visit the summit of Mount Evans while the road is open.
- On weekends, thousands of vehicles pass through the fee stations, and visitors gather at the summit, visit the nature center, attend interpretive programs and wait in lines to use the restroom facilities in large numbers, creating a challenge in properly managing social distancing.
CDOT, the Forest Service and Denver Mountain Parks are carefully considering the economic feasibility of operating an abbreviated season on Mount Evans while mitigating health and safety risks in alignment with federal, state and local guidance.
There are no plans to prohibit nonmotorized use of Mount Evans Highway, such as hiking and biking. However, all involved agencies implore everyone to follow state and local orders regarding recreation. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has ordered the public to only recreate within 10 miles of home, and many roads in Clear Creek County remain closed. Avoiding travel between cities and regions is an important part of limiting the spread of COVID-19 between different communities.
Conditions on Mount Evans could be quite variable and unsafe due to weather and potential icy and snow-packed conditions on the pass over the coming months, and high-risk activities that increase your chance of injury or distress should be avoided. Law enforcement and/or search and rescue operations may be limited due to COVID-19 issues. If plowing begins, the public may be asked to stay off the road for safety reasons.
BACKGROUND ON MOUNT EVANS
Located near Idaho Springs, Mount Evans Highway is owned by the Colorado Department of Transportation and jointly managed by Denver Mountain Parks and the USDA Forest Service, both of which have land and facilities along the highway to the 14,264-foot summit. CDOT partners with these agencies by plowing and maintaining the narrow, winding highway — the highest paved road in North America — from Echo Lake at CO 103 to the summit. More than 200,000 people from all over the world visit the summit of Mount Evans annually while the road is open, generally from Memorial Day Weekend to Labor Day Weekend.
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I really doubt we are going to see millions of international travelers this year in Colorado and on Mt. Evans this Summer so this seems like overkill. But I do like the idea of biking and hiking up the trail. Wonder if Pikes Peak will do the same thing.
FH, I don't think they are worried about that so much as they may not have the staff to keep facilities properly disinfected, and they're worried about crowds as we've seen at Open Spaces around the Foothills.
The mountain bikers in the 303 Trail Monitor Facebook group are stoked about not having to worry about cars, and have started dreaming they'll do the same for Fall River Rd in RMNP.
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