The Pesman Trail starts at the Dos Chappell Nature Center, just 2.8 miles up the road (directions below). Take the time inside to read the signs explaining how plants and trees survive at this high elevation.
Then it's time to step outside and enjoy the incredible views. There are two trails here -- the Mount Goliath Nature Trail to the left and the Pesman Trail to the right. I recommend hiking the Nature Trail first. It's just a .25 mile loop and it will tell you if your visitors and if your lungs are ready to hike at 11,500 feet. Remember the air up here is much thinner and even after taking just a few steps, it may be hard to breathe.
Both trails quickly take visitors into a forest of colorful, twisted trees. These are Bristlecone Pine trees. Some of the trees are 1,500 years old. They're short because the growing season up here is short. The road to Mount Evans is only open from Memorial Day to Labor Day each year and sometimes it's closed, even in the middle of summer, because of snow storms.
The Nature Trail has a couple benches along the trail, the Pesman does not. As you hike up the Pesman Trail, marvel at these special trees. Notice that on many of the trees, one side has very few branches. That's because of the strong winds that blow here. Two interesting facts about the Bristlecone Pine: 1. Their branches bend in the wind, they don't break. 2. Bristlecone Pine trees drop their needles every 10 to 15 years instead of every year to save energy.
Eventually the Pesman Trail climbs above tree line, the spot where trees stop growing. At this point, the views once again open up. Tree line is not an exact science, so you'll see the line where the forest ends varies around the valley you're hiking in.
After leaving the forest, the Pesman Trail winds its way through a rocky section. About a quarter mile from the end of the trail, you'll come to a marked split for the Alpine Garden loop. I suggest turning off here and taking the loop to the top, for a little variety.
At the top of the trail, you'll find yourself in a small parking lot. Read the signs here and enjoy the views before hiking back down the Pesman Trail.
If you want more hikes, check out this list of 200+ great hikes in Colorado.
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Details: The hike from the Nature Center to the upper parking lot is about 3 miles roundtrip with 600 feet of elevation gain, according to the signs. My GPS read about 2.3 miles roundtrip with 600 feet of elevation gain.
Directions: From I-70, exit Evergreen Parkway. Drive 2.4 miles south to Squaw Pass Road and turn right. It's about 18 miles on this curvy, mountain road to the entrance station to Mount Evans. There is a fee here, typically $10, unless you have a National Park pass. From the entrance station, it's about 2.8 miles to the Mount Goliath Research Natural Area parking lot.
More to see: After visiting the Nature Center and walking the trail, drive up Mount Evans Road to see Summit Lake and of course, the summit of the mountain at 14,130 feet.