“A beautiful high-altitude hike with lakes, flowers, and wildlife.
— Aaron Stoneberger
Dogs must be on a hand-held leash. No motorized or mechanized equipment. No bikes.
Camps, campfires and stock, where allowed, at least 100 feet from water and trails. Group size limited to 15 people and/or 10 pack/stock animals per party. Certified weed-free hay is required for stock.
Fall Colors — Lake — River/Creek — Views — Waterfall — Wildflowers — Wildlife
Family Friendly: The first segment to the creek is often done by families. The creek at the bottom provides a nice resting area.
I-70 westbound, Idaho Springs exit #240 - Hwy 103. Go south for approx. 12 mile to the junction of Hwy 103 and 5, the trail starts behind the Echo Lake Lodge. There are several social trails in the area, simply choose the one that heads southwest. This trail can also be easily accessed by the Denver Mountain Parks picnic area and scenic path around Echo Lake.
Leaving from Echo Lake, the trail goes downhill for the first mile to Chicago Creek. The first mile can be somewhat steep in spots, with a lot of large rocks. After crossing the wooden bridge at the creek, head straight to a dirt road and take a left to head uphill. This will be the easy part of the hike for the trail then climbs upward the remaining three miles. This first part of trail often tends to be the busiest, as many casual hikers or families will hang out at the creek for a while and then head back to the trailhead.
Just up the road Chicago Creek is dammed to form the Idaho Springs Reservoir. Continue on the road past the reservoir and you'll come to an area with a few cabins and "Private Property" signs. Don't let the signs deter you, you're on the right track! Continue past the cabins on the road and you'll soon see an information sign off to the right with the trail heading further back.
This next part of the trail goes through an old burn area where, in 1978, 400 acres burned in the Reservoir Fire. Abundant wildflowers stand out against the burned trees.
Darting back into the trees, the first Chicago Lake sits at treeline. The trail to the second lake, above treeline, is difficult to follow at times and is very steep. Both lakes offer excellent views of surrounding peaks. The upper lake is a great place to rest and have lunch. After refueling, you can continue the trail up the southern ridge to Summit Lake to properly finish the Chicago Lakes Trail. A lot of people are satisfied with making the upper lake their turn-around spot, as the last section of the trail up the ridge is very steep and technical.
After reaching Summit Lake, you have the option to turn around and finish the round-trip hike, or continue the last 1000'+ elevation to summit Mt. Evans.
After passing Idaho Springs Reservoir and the cabins, you will find many wildflowers along the trail to the Chicago Lakes in the burn area.