Landscape with Mt Evans, Colorado, USA

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The pinnacle of many visitors’ trips to Colorado is a drive to the alpine summit of Mt Evans, less than an hour west of Denver’s skyscrapers. It was opened in 1930 and remains the highest paved road in North America. Be prepared for cool weather, even when Denver is baking hot. The road only opens in summer when conditions are safe for driving.

From Idaho Springs to the summit, the road ascends roughly 6600ft in altitude over 28 miles, passing through montane, subalpine and tundra ecosystems. One stop you don't want to miss is the Mt Goliath Natural Area (11,540ft; park at the Dos Chappell Nature Center), where you can check out some of the oldest living organisms on the planet: the gnarled, wind-sculpted bristlecone pine. The trees here range from 900 to an astounding 2000 years old.

Continuing on the road past Summit Lake, which freezes solid in winter, you are likely to encounter Rocky Mountain goats and bighorn sheep. From the parking lot it’s then a short but lung-busting scramble to the summit's transcendent views.

Altitude change is serious business and you should come prepared, particularly if you start the day in Denver. You'll need to bring lots of water, a warm fleece (even if it's 90°F out), outer shell, sunscreen and sunglasses. There's no food up here, so a picnic lunch is a good idea as well. Afternoon thunderstorms are always a possibility, so get an early start.

To get here, take exit 240 off I-70 at Idaho Springs and follow the signs south on Hwy 103. You can camp at Echo Lake, just before the fee station.

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