We can all agree that the 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI is truly a great car. Now that we have that out of the way, we can, yet again, agree that great cars need great roads. While I lived in Colorado I was blessed with fantastic mountain roads but you just don’t go to any mountain road in a Golf GTI. This one is the highest paved road (all the way to the top) in North America. 14,130 feet to be exact and let me say it was awesome.
Now a little back story on our mountain road in question. Mount Evans is the closest peak to Denver that’s over 14,000 feet in altitude. Originally Mount Evans was to be the middle section of a ‘Peak to Peak Highway’ connecting Longs Peak to Pikes Peak (famous for the international hill climb). However, at the time of its conception – 1931 – it was simply not feasible. Also, Mount Evans is open 24/7 – unlike Pikes Peak or other mountain roads you pay to go on – and you can go up day or night.
My first attempt up the mountain was marred with a pack of thunder storms moving through and the ranger advised to not go up the mountain. Since I was not too keen on getting struck by lightning I decided to come back the next day.
Going up Mount Evans felt like I was leaving Colorado and was being transported off to Iceland. In fact, the map you get says for every 1,000 feet of elevation gained it is the equivalent of traveling 600 miles North in latitude. So really, I’m not too far off in saying that it felt like Iceland. The road begins at 7,540 feet and as you begin your journey an endless forest awaits you; it engulfs you.
As you go around the first turn, it feels like a door shuts and a new one opens that puts you thousands of miles away from civilization. As the journey continues, you weave through the forest for a few more miles and then are treated to a view that leaves you breathless. All of a sudden, the forest ends only to reveal a rocky valley with trees, snow, ice, and mountains all around you.
Fun fact: This particular area is famous for a very special kind of tree- Bristlecone Pine. They happen to be the single oldest living organism on Earth, capable of living for thousands of years.
As you can see in some of the images there are little to no guard rails on the road, unlike Pikes Peak where they are abundant. It was very unnerving to be inches away from a free fall, but it was also very exciting to be on the edge of your seat, pushing the GTI up the road. The steering is accurate and nimble in the GTI which kept me on course all the way up and down the road.
Once you are past those amazing trees, you go above the tree line where you are treated with yet another view of endless mountains with snow covering them. The road continues upward and onward until you start to go down. Wait…down, not up? Yes, traveling down to Summit Lake. This lake is one of the highest lakes in North America sitting at 12,830 feet. The lake has a stunning view of the summit behind and a sprawling tundra landscape that drops off the mountain side in front of you. I was even greeted by some of its inhabitants–mountain goats.
After passing Summit Lake, the road begins to climb again-steeper than ever and eventually above the lake the road goes through a series of sensational hair pins all the way to the top. Now this is where the GTI really shines; putting it in the new sport mode option, the car really just pushed and pushed up the mountain–all 14,130 feet. Arriving at the peak, you are truly blessed with a view that is just magical. It was so peaceful to be above the clouds and it felt like I was on top of the world. There really are no words to describe the sheer awesomeness of the landscape.
Being a clear day that it was, watching the sun set at 14,130 feet was my first and best experience ever. The endless mountain range ahead of me and the sun dipping below the horizon gave me some excellent photo opportunities!
I stayed at the top for quite some time and at some points, I was all by myself, which was truly amazing. On the downside, staying up there for a longer period of time had its toll. The temperature was dropping, the air was thin, and a strong headache was taking shape. I knew it was time to leave. I had achieved what I wanted however I did not really want to leave. This mountain, its road, and the view are the best I have experienced in Colorado.
The Golf GTI was by far the best choice to drive up Mount Evans. It never bogged down. It wanted to climb much faster than I had the nerves for. VW has hit a home run with this car and I’m sure they can only improve upon what they have made. I have been in the VW family since 2012 and I look forward to seeing the next generation Golf GTI.
Going up Mount Evans was a lot of fun and truly a great way to break in my new car. The road and the scenery were pristine and when you reach the summit you know it was totally worth it. So, there are two things you need to do. First, go out and get yourself a new Golf GTI- it will be one of the best cars you drive. Second, take your new Golf GTI up Mount Evans. Will I go again? Without a doubt, and you should too.