Primarily known for its recreational sites, Echo Lake Park is not only a historic physics site but also the home of a WWII high altitude training center.
Echo Lake Park is located at about 10,600 feet above sea level along the Mount Evans Scenic Byway. Ever since the Mount Evans Crest House at the top of the Mount Evans Scenic Byway burned down in 1979, Echo Lake has served as the primary lodging and stop for visitors to the area. Echo Lake hosts a variety of activities and also features two surprising historical sites. Visitors coming to fish at the lake or hike the trails might be surprised to find laboratories that were used to research cosmic radiation. Similarly, those stopping to get a meal at Echo Lake Lodge might be surprised by its wartime history.
The Echo Lake laboratories along with the High-Altitude Laboratory at Mount Evans were designated as a Historic Physics site in October 2017. Once, the laboratories were run in conjunction by the University of Chicago, Cornell, the University of Denver, MIT, NYU, and Princeton. Now the University of Denver oversees the site. Research began in 1935, just four years after the Mount Evans Scenic Byway opened to the public. Although it was easier for the cosmic rays to be studied at the higher elevations, Echo Lake played an important role in the research because it was accessible during the winter. At both laboratories, scientists studied radiation and even proved Einstein’s prediction of time dilation to be true.
In addition to the laboratories, Echo Lake Park is also home to the Echo Lake Lodge. It was originally constructed by the City and County of Denver so that visitors from Denver could have a place to stay while visiting the Mount Evans Scenic Byway. However, it was handed over to H. W. Stewart Inc in 1965. This group continues to run the house to the present day. Individuals can stay and eat at the lodge, which once served as a high-altitude military training camp during World War II. The lodge became the primary stopping point for tourists after the Mount Evans Crest House, built at the top of the Mount Evans Scenic Byway, burned down in 1979.