Summit Lake Park

lake4882Fast Facts:

  • Denver’s highest mountain park; acquired 1924
  • Designated National Natural Landmark (1965)
  • Alpine lake and tundra wildflowers
  • Best place to see mountain goats
  • At the base of scenic Mount Evans (14,264 ft; m)
  • Headwaters of Bear Creek

Features:

  • Shelter and parking area
  • Trail to Chicago Lakes
  • Watchable wildlife, from mountain goats to picas
  • Accessible alpine tundra
  • Rare arctic plants
  • Nearby Mt. Goliath Natural Area (Denver Botanic Gardens)

Overview:

At 12,840 feet ( m), Summit Lake Park anchors the high-altitude end of the Mountain Parks system. The route to the top of Mount Evans, one of America’s highest auto roads, is (usually) accessible from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and provides a taste of Colorado’s high peaks to tens of thousands of Denver visitors annually. The 160-acre Summit Lake Park is surrounded by National Forest lands and the Mount Evans Wilderness. Fees charged by the City of Denver help maintain services and facilities at Summit Lake Park.

flowerThe short growing season makes life a challenge for the many slow-growing tundra wildflowers; their entire life cycles must be completed in a few short weeks. (Visitors who stay on trails will avoid adding to that difficulty.) Look for “spring” in early July at this elevation, and fall following quickly by mid-August. By September, the road to Mount Evans is closed, but access to Summit Lake is maintained until major snowstorms prohibit travel.

For information about Mount Evans, contact Clear Creek Ranger District at 303.567.2901.

Caution: Other than the stone shelter house, there is little protection from harsh weather at Summit Lake. Storms arise quickly in the afternoon; please take cover in your car or the shelter if lightning threatens. It can snow at any time of year here. Sunscreen is advisable at high elevations.

Location and Facilities:
Summit Lake is 62 miles west of Denver. Take I-70 to Idaho Springs; Exit 240 (Hwy 103) 15 miles to Echo Lake, then Highway 5 to Summit Lake (about 15 miles). Alternatively, from Echo Lake, Highway 103 (Squaw Pass Road) returns to Bergen Park, creating a loop drive. See map of Mt. Evans area.

Facilities in the park include parking, shelter, trails, and interpretive signs and markers. Trail connections to the Mount Evans Wilderness Area and Chicago Lakes.

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