Chicago Lakes Hike from Echo Lake in Mt. Evans Wilderness

September 18, 2010 Comments (15) 9+ Miles, About 60 Min, Cliffs, Creek or Brooks, Difficult, fall colors, High Country, Lakes, Mountain Range Views, Wildflowers

Chicago Lakes Hike Near Mt. Evans

Want to take in some of Colorado’s breathtaking scenery and put some miles under your hiking boots? The Chicago Lakes hike begins at Echo Lake. You’ll pass three more mountain lakes as you punch up into the high country of Colorado’s Mt. Evan’s Wilderness. Explore the full trail profile below for the Chicago Lakes which includes driving directions, map, and tips.

Looking for amazing views and some high mountain lakes near Denver? This challenging hike takes you to two high mountain lakes with amazing views of the Mt. Evans Wilderness area. Both lakes can be fished, as well as the lower Idaho Springs Reservoir that you pass on your way. We are not into giving long trail descriptions on Dayhikes Near Denver, but we’d suggest you read the basic one below and check out the trail description and pdf Chicago Lakes map link in the trail profile below.

The Chicago Lakes Trailhead and Trail: Park at the Echo Lake lot, where you’ll find the sign for Chicago Lakes Trail 52 on the west side of the lake. That will lead you to another sign about .5 mile later directing you to the trail. The trail will turn into Idaho Springs Reservoir Road, then will return to a normal trail. It climbs through a burn area, the result of a fire in the 1970s, then continues to climb to Lower Chicago lake. The trail has a lot of character: steep areas, massive cliff walls, and expansive meadows. The trail continues, faint at times, up a steeper section to Upper Chicago Lake.

As you’ll see in the comments on this hike, people come back with different trail lengths. So, to clear this up: Beginning at Echo Lake, the trail is 4.24 miles one-way to the lake. However, most people don’t want to stop there, many continue on to the upper lake, which adds and additional .6 mile to the trail. Then, some people opt to hike around the lake, which adds to the hike as well. You may want to start early, especially in the Summer months so that you have the time to explore and to avoid our famous, afternoon Colorado thunderstorms.

Tips & Resources for Hiking Chicago Lakes Near Mt. Evans, Colorado :


Map & Driving Directions

Click for Driving Directions

15 Responses to Chicago Lakes Hike Near Mt. Evans

  1. Ben says:

    According to my GPS, this was about 12 miles. I’ve seen one other website where someone claimed it was 12 miles as well. I took my time hiking up to the upper lake, then took even longer getting back since the trail was starting to get crowded. Still worth it, though. Next time, I’ll probably try to start earlier than 6:30 AM, or at least not on a weekend.

  2. Ben, Thanks for update on the mileage and verifying it with the GPS. I’ve gone in and updated it. Any other tips for this hike that you would give to our readers?

  3. Hannes says:

    AJ – I’ve done this hike twice now. The first time was October and I extended it into a 14er, but wouldn’t recommend that. It’s definitely a long hike, we started at Echo lake both times. Easily one of my favorite hikes in Colorado since you get to explore three separate lakes and decently varied terrain This one is no cakewalk though, it’s got some steep sections and is consistently uphill. When I have visitors in town that enjoy hiking, this is the place I take them.

  4. Jeanene says:

    A friend came to Denver from Germany this week. Her first time in the USA! She wanted to hike our beautiful mountains. We stumbled upon Chicago Lakes Trail on accident and was just in awe and so happy with this wonderful, amazingly beautiful trail! The hike/scenery was exactly what we had hoped to find! It started to rain lightly on the hike back to Echo Lake as we were not properly prepared for weather changes. Next time we will be! What an GREAT hike and made our day to find the most amazing trail yet! Thanks

  5. Sam says:

    We were up at Summit Lake and saw that there was a trail that looked like it went down from there to the Chicago Lakes. Can anyone give me any info on this trail or point me to a link for some info on it? It sure is a beautiful area!

  6. You’re right. There is a trail that connects with the Chicago Lakes Trail, a trail that will take you up to the summit of Mt. Evans or down to the Chicago Lakes basin. These are not easy dayhikes, so be sure you prepare and bring the 10 Essentials (really, we should always pack the 10 essentials) :) I’d recommend picking up a Trails Illustrated map or printing off a quad map of this before taking the route.

    Check out our profile of the Chicago Lakes hike on the sides of Mt. Evans. And if you are interested in the Mt. Evan’s Summit hike from Summit Lake, Protrails has an online map with waypoints here.

  7. chris hass says:

    I am coming to Denver end of October (18-23). Is this still a time to go hiking on Mt Evans – or will it be to late in the season

  8. Great question, Chris. The Mt. Evans road typically (depends on snow) opens on the Friday of Memorial day weekend and closes after the first weekend in October of each year, depending again on weather. The road is Colorado Highway 5, and you can check its status at
    I just went on the site and it appears that Hwy 5 is closed for the 14-15 Winter, and will reopen on Memorial Day. The road up to Echo Lake should be open, and that is a beautiful area. However, I would would strongly caution against attempting the summit from their during the winter season–which is now upon us a bit early in the high country–unless you are an experienced mountaineer or are being guided by one. Sadly, just this last Spring, a wonderful father and son, visiting from out of state, lost their lives on the sides of Evans when a storm blew in and dropped a ton of snow on the mountain.

  9. Kris says:

    I did this hike with my wife today and it was awesome. The scenery just gets better and better as you go. Thanks for the recommendations!

  10. Steve says:

    We hiked a short section of this trail in May while exploring the area. I’m from Ohio so this was another world for me. We started late in the day, so we decided not to go far because we didn’t want to get stuck, and also it was mainly show covered. I plan to hike it in full when I get a chance to return to Denver, so thanks for all the information everyone.

  11. Jeff Brown says:

    It’s a good trip to warm up on before trying longer ascents. I especially enjoyed the solitude mid-week.

  12. Jeff Brown says:

    The close proximity to Denver and some really beautiful vistas. Abundant wildlife, as I saw Pica, Marmot, Bighorn, Mountain Goat, Elk. Am I quite certain I saw a few Mule Deer? This hike is best during the week and can get a little crowded on the weekends, in my opinion.

  13. Alicia says:

    Can you kayak at any of the 3 lakes that are on the way up to the Chicago lake trail?

  14. I’d recommend contacting the Forest Service to find the answer. Even if you could, that would be a really long hike in with a kayak on your back :)

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