CLEAR CREEK COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) - Signs reading "Reservations required" are everywhere you look approaching the Mount Evans highway. At the entry gate near Echo Lake, CBS4's Rick Sallinger decided to ask the ranger anyway.
"Hi, I don't have a reservation, can I go up Mount Evans?" asked Sallinger.
"Cannot go up Mount Evans today, but we have information for the future," the ranger replied.
Colorado Highway 5 officially opened for the season on June 10.
The fee for a passenger car is $15 plus $2 reservation charge if you signed up in advance. Sallinger, who has previously reported on the debate over charging to drive on the road to Mount Evans, knew the key question to ask, "What if I just want to drive up and not stop and come back?"
Ah ha, the ranger didn't offer that option, but when asked, she said, "OK, but...you can't use our restrooms, you can't use our parking spaces."
CO Highway 5 is managed by the Colorado Department of Transportation. The land is partially controlled by Denver Mountain Parks, but mostly by the U.S. Forest Service.
Driving up, Sallinger could stay on the road, but not stop. Easier said than done.
"Well, now I have no choice, but to stop," Sallinger said into his phone as several big horn sheep took over the road.
Finally he made it to the 14,000+ top and asked a different ranger, "Hi, have a yellow tag. Am I allowed to stop and look around?"
"You can stop outside of the fee areas. If you park outside at the brown sign that says now entering fee areas. You can park outside of there," the ranger replied.
Sallinger asked U.S. Forest Service District Ranger Scott Haas why they don't inform people that you can do this for free without a reservation.
"I would say 99% of the people anticipate stopping at the recreation sites. We do allow visitors to come to just ride the state highway without paying a fee," he replied.
While he did note that it is permissible to park outside the "fee areas," it is discouraged because it can harm the environment. Haas indicated information on how to drive the Mount Evans road to the top without a reservation or fee is contained on websites by the USFS and CDOT, but those sites have those same two words, "reservation required."
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