Snowshoeing the Chicago Lakes Trail in the winter provides a greater sense of solitude. This is also a wonderful summer trail that’s just an hour drive from Denver.
Trailhead: Echo Lake Lodge
Activities: Hiking, Camping, Skiing, Snowshoeing
Closest City / Town: Idaho Springs, Colorado
- From I-70, head west towards Idaho Springs.
- Get off on Highway 103 (exit 240) and head south.
- Go south for approximately 12 miles.
- Park near the Echo Lake Lodge
Hiking Distances: 9.0 miles (roundtrip)
Description: The Chicago Lakes Trail is a great hiking opportunity and location in the Mount Evans Wilderness Area. The trailhead is located at 10,600′; the final destination is at 11,800′.
From the trailhead, pick up one of the numerous social trails heading southwest. You’ll essentially skirt the southern boundary of Echo Lake.
After leaving the southwest edge of Echo Lake, the trial drops precipitously for about a mile until it hits Chicago Creek. The Creek is dammed shortly up the trail, creating Idaho Springs Reservoir. The trail is relatively flat as it bypasses the dam.
Once you get to the southern edge of the dam, the trail climbs the remaining three miles to Chicago Lakes. On your way, you’ll go through a 400-acre burn area that caught fire in 1978. The first of the two Chicago lakes is right at treeline. The second lake is above treeline. It’s 4.5 miles to the upper lake from the trailhead. There is nice dispersed camping at the lakes. You can also head to the summit of Mount Evans from Chicago Lakes.
Worth Noting: Snowshoeing this trail in the winter provides a greater sense of solitude than hiking it in the summer. The area sees heavy use in the summer due to the its close proximity to Mount Evans and numerous picnic areas. The views of the surrounding peaks – Mount Evans, Mount Warren, and Mount Spalding – from the trail are outstanding.