Thursday had plans for really getting into the mountains. Just west of Denver is Mount Evans. The Mount Evans Scenic Byway climbs more than 7,000 feet in just 28 miles, reaching an altitude of 14,130 feet.
At the summit you’ll enjoy the big picture – the entire Front Range sprawls at your feet. From here we saw mountain goats, marmots, and alpine lakes off in the distance. Not to mention the opportunity to take a photo of my GPS saying the altitude was 14,000, in my car!
After going back down the mountain we continued west on I-70 to Loveland Pass. Rather than continue on the freeway through the tunnel, we exited and took US Route 6 over Loveland Pass.
It is located on the Continental Divide in the Front Range, reach by a twisty road that is considered to be especially treacherous during the winter months. A steep, steady 6.7% grade with numerous hairpin turns on either side. Loveland is the highest mountain pass in the world that regularly stays open during a snowy winter season.
When the Eisenhower Tunnel opened in March 1973, it allowed motorists on Interstate 70 to avoid crossing the pass directly. Large or hazardous material trucks that cannot pass through the tunnel must still take US 6 across Loveland Pass, 800 vertical feet above the tunnel. I have been across Loveland Pass numerous times, and enjoy it more each time.
Stopping in Dillon for lunch, our westward path continued through Glenwood Canyon. This canyon is a rugged scenic 12 mile long canyon on the Colorado River. Its walls climb as high as 1,300’ above the river. It is the largest such canyon on the Upper Colorado. The canyon, which has historically provided the routes of railroads and highways through western Colorado.
The final link of I-70 through Glenwood Canyon has been hailed as an engineering marvel because of the care taken to incorporate the interstate improvements into the fragile canyon environment while leaving as much of the flora and fauna intact as possible.
Construction of three tunnels, 15 miles of retaining walls, and numerous other structures, comprised a challenging but very rewarding project. The Glenwood Canyon project required 30 million points of structural steel, 30 million pounds of reinforcing steel, and 400,000 cubic yards of concrete weighing 1.62 billion pounds.
Our stop for the night was Glenwood Springs, with our hotel setting at the edge of town. The next morning we woke to a beautiful red rocks mountain next door, which we totally missed the night before.