Past Meetup

Chicago Lakes from Echo Lake Trailhead

Location visible to members


Chicago Lakes are located south of Idaho Springs, CO in the Mt Evans Wilderness Area The lakes are located in a spacious valley beneath Mt Evans (14,265'), Mt Spalding (13,842') and Mount Warren (13,307'). About 7 miles RT to lower lake, 8 miles RT to upper lake, depending on the book/web site you read.

Elevation Gain: Trail gains 200 feet, then drops 400 feet, then gains 1,400 feet to the upper lake. Poles are recommended and be ready to retie your boots for the descent on the way back!

Parking at the Trailhead: We will park at the Echo Lake Campground just off the Mt Evans Road and across the street from the lodge and the trailhead.

From the parking lot, cross the street and just a few yards up from the metal gate used to close the road in the winter, there will be a sign for Chicago Lks. Trail No. 52. The trail winds around Echo Lake, but not on the shoreline. You'll occasionally see views of the lake through the trees. It's about a half mile to the sign that says "Echo Lake" one way, "Chicago Lakes" the other. The trail undulates mildly, then ruggedly, on a fast descent through healthy spruce and fir to Chicago Creek (1.1 miles : 10,342'). Cross the creek and emerge a few steps further on a dirt road (1.15 miles : 11,367'). An unofficial-looking sign correctly points up this road on a steady climb to Idaho Springs Reservoir (1.65 miles : 10,617'). It continues to the Mount Evans Wilderness Area Boundary (2.05 miles : 10,652'), where it moderates on a rocky path up the valley's west side. Ridge lines connecting Rogers Peak (13,391') and Mount Warren (13,307') form the east valley wall.
The trail enters an area touched by the 1978 Idaho Springs Reservoir Fire, which burned over 400 acres, mostly on the valley's upper west side. Despite its skeletal appearance, the forest is in a natural state of recovery. The trail is intermittently rocky and steep heading up the valley with a full view of Mt Spalding, and a partial look at Mt Evans. It levels across a major tributary through treeline (3.2 miles : 11,321') to a marked spur for lower Chicago Lake (3.95 miles : 11,545'). From the marked spur, the main trail continues above Chicago Lake up and down a rugged knoll and last thick patch of forest to the lake's far side. It steepens considerably up the rock face separating the two lakes, a strenuous climb with a commanding view over Chicago Lake #1 and the valley below. It crests a ridge in open tundra overlooking upper Chicago Lake, from which the shore is easily reached (4.9 miles : 11,733').

Directions to the Trailhead: From Denver, take I-70 West to Idaho Springs. Take exit 240/Highway 103, the Mount Evans Road. It's about 12.5 miles to the Echo Lake parking area and about 14 miles to the turnoff for Mount Evans and the parking

Carpooling: Meet at the Wooly Mammoth parking lot, Section CC, at 7:30am where we'll form some carpools.

Optional cool/hot drink or a piece of pie at Echo Lake Lodge if they're open and if not we'll head to our favorite spot - Tommyknockers!

See you there!