Chicago Lakes Trail

HARD 630 reviews
#1 of 6 trails in

Chicago Lakes Trail is a 8.7 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Idaho Springs, Colorado that features a lake and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

DISTANCE
8.7 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
1,860 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

dogs on leash

birding

hiking

nature trips

snowshoeing

trail running

walking

forest

lake

river

views

wild flowers

wildlife

muddy

rocky

snow

Directions from Idaho Springs: Travel southwest on Highway 103 approximately 14 miles to Echo Lake Campground which is located at the intersection of Highway 103 and Highway 5 on the Mt. Evans Scenic Byway. The trail begins at the Echo Lake Campground.

hiking
6 days ago

What a beautiful hike! It is at the base of Mt. Evans 14er, so you get great views of the peaks around you as well as three lakes! At the top you get a great view down the valley; definitely worth the climb. We arrived at the trailhead around 7:30AM and got great parking, and only started seeing others towards the end heading back to our car. Definitely recommend this hike, it is one of my favorites in Colorado!

hiking
9 days ago

This is my favorite hike in Colorado. I typically only see one or two people/groups after you’ve made it up to the upper Chicago lake. But everyone you run into along the way is always very friendly & respectful. Echo lake itself gets VERY congested but most people remain there & don’t venture off to the Chicago lakes.
I went up yesterday & while hiking around the lower Chicago lake I noticed an abandoned campsite. It had been totally thrashed by time & weather. Just some bits of tent, garbage and boots... It was very odd. I thought it was worth making an account here to mention it. Never seen anything like that before on this hike.

11 days ago

Awesome hike. It goes downhill at first, which stinks for the hike back, but the lakes, views and colors are amazing. We went up to the second lake which made the hike closer to 10 miles

hiking
20 days ago

Love this hike, go to the second lake for stunning views. It’s not far past the first lake. Once you get out of the forest and past the private property the mountains are gorgeous. Parts of the trail are strenuous and you do have to climb towards the end of the hike when you’re a bit tired but on the whole a great experience. I was there on a weekday and only saw 6 others. The only downside is the mile on the gravel road on private property.

24 days ago

Pretty moderate hike. Start early to avoid crowds.

hiking
24 days ago

I thought it was such a great hike. Gorgeous throughout a great workout. Beautiful views. I’d recommend it to anyone.

backpacking
25 days ago

Challenging trail if carry a heavy backpack. Worth the effort. Make sure to go to the Upper Lake.

hiking
26 days ago

One of my favorite hikes consisting of lovely forests, peaceful streams, beautiful lakes and sweeping mountain views. This hike has it all! The trail is easy to follow and the hiker population is reasonable. That last incline to the final lake is short but intense so you will feel like you’ve really earned a rest by the peaceful waters and epic view at the top!

hiking
26 days ago

Great workout. Different views all the way to the lakes. Very pretty but the trail is lots of up and down both ways. Hiking poles are useful . Long hike, GPS showed over 10 miles round trip.. Views are worth it. Did not find the hike difficult just long and rocky. Took some careful footing on rocks.

26 days ago

This trail was amazing but I'm not sure how it's showing that it's 8.7 miles, I logged almost 12 miles round trip from the Echo Lake campground to the second lake.

hiking
26 days ago

Definitely an amazing trail. Took my Husky up and she loved it! This was my first real hike and even though it’s though on the feet, it’s definitely worth it!

hiking
29 days ago

Chicago Lakes trail is fantastic.

The views heading down the mountain and at the reservoir were impeccable.
Trail was a bit rocky with a fairly narrow passage here and there.
Wouldn’t recommend going for snow shoes.


Didn’t continue to the other two lakes.

hiking
1 month ago

UPDATED: The hike from Echo Lake to Idaho Springs Reservoir was beautiful, and only moderately challenging. Rocky, rooty and some elevation. We hiked to Idaho Springs Reservoir to fly fish Chicago Creek as it enters, but there was not much access and the creek was very small, so not worth the hike. We did catch a few small trout in the actual reservoir while we were out there, but overall, we won't be heading that way to fish again. If you are going to fish the reservoir, I'd recommend a spin rod to go after fish farther out in the lake.

hiking
1 month ago

Gorgeous area. If going on the weekend, get there early, parking lot does fill up, and area from echo lake to the Idaho Springs reservoir can get quite busy. Well shaded, good distance, pretty lakes, creek, and reservoir. Also dog friendly, expect to see a few. Highly recommend this hike!

hiking
1 month ago

a beautiful hike

hiking
1 month ago

I started this hike at 7:30 a.m. (second car in the otherwise empty parking lot) on a Monday and returned somewhere between 1:15-1:30 p.m. This hike was definitely challenging for me as a flatlander and I had to stop to take breaks quite often. I also spent quite a long time up at the lake *maybe 45 minutes or longer) and took another longer break during my return at the reservoir to soak my feet before making the final uphill climb. I think this hike is moderate for people who live at altitude and hike regularly, or who are otherwise very fit. If you're not much of a fitness enthusiast and don't workout very often, this is going to be a very challenging hike. If you're fit-ish to average on physical activity, this hike is challenging.

It really surprised me to see so many folks without adequate hydration and starting later. Do yourself a favor and start by 7:30 a.m. because there isn't much shade after you get passed 10:30 a.m. All of the regular rules apply: bring sunscreen and reapply once you're up at the lake, wear a hat and sunglasses, bring more water than you think necessary, and pack loads of snacks. I brought 64 ounces of water and drank about 3/4 of it. Didn't encounter too many bugs other than curious bees at the lake. The only wildlife I encountered were birds (saw an eagle at Echo Lake first thing) and chiding squirrels. Trail rules indicate dogs are required to be leashed but most were off-leash - doesn't bother me but it's something to consider if you don't like dogs.

Some additional navigation tips:
-Once you complete the initial descent and get closer to the water, look out for the primitive log bridge to cross
-Exiting the woods, take a left to follow the access road for about a mile; if you're early in the day, you'll pass the Idaho Springs Reservoir and see trout jumping out of the water to feed.
-Follow the access road past the cabins; the trailhead will be ahead on your right with a no-fee permit station. Fill out your permit and take the trail immediately in front of you, not the unmarked trial to your right.
-You'll pass a second sign indicating that you're entering the Mt. Evans Wilderness; don't worry, you're on the right trail.
-I tried finding the trail to the upper lake and was unsuccessful. I ended up following some of the unmarked trails that go around the lake and wound up in a boggy area just before the lake. Maybe avoid that and do more research on picking up the trail to the upper lake than I did.

hiking
1 month ago

Great hike! It took us about 4 hours, not including the 20 or so minutes we spend at the top. Great views and plenty of places where the dogs can drink water from streams and lakes.

1 month ago

Amazing hike. Not that hard at all. Saw big horn sheep, mountain goats, and lots of marmots. Spectacular views

1 month ago

Nice hike, relatively easy with lots of flatter areas. The reservoir and Chicago lakes themselves are pretty. Relatively quiet on a Thursday am. Took me 4 hours rt

hiking
1 month ago

This hike took us just under 7 hours. You’ll be going downhill at the start of the hike so be prepared to go uphill at the end. We ended recording about 11 miles going to the upper lake then back to the parking lot. It was a beautiful hike and I’d definitely do it again.

hiking
1 month ago

This is a great hike! I had difficulty finding the trailhead. You have to get to the west side of Echo Lake, through the campground, to find the trailhead. Definitely some tough spots and Oh Momma, the last mile back is solidly uphill. The stretch from the lower lake to the upper lake is short. . .but very tough! Much of the trek is quite easy, so you can definitely catch a break here and there. Well worth it, to be able to perch on top of a boulder and enjoy!

hiking
1 month ago

We started early, around 6am. Didn't see anyone on the way out, but quite a few on the way back in. All downhill to start, then uphill after you cross Chicago Creek. So a lot of uphill on the way back. The hardest part was going from the lower to upper lake. It was very steep there. The morning was cloudy but cleared up into a beautiful day, then clouds started moving in again. By the time we got back around 1pm it started raining. There were tons of wild flowers. All in all a nice hike!

1 month ago

Great hike. Love these lakes.

poo report, because, I guess, sharing is caring...
3 bagged
1 unbagged

1 month ago

beautiful views!

hiking
2 months ago

Great trail! Beautiful lakes, wildflowers, wildlife and mountains. Mileage is 9.5 mi r/t to second lake with increased elevation. It’s a push to the final lake, and save food, water and energy for the final mile back to the trailhead because the hike down to the creek is tough to hike back up at the end of 10 miles! We started early to avoid the heat, but there were people headed out as we finished with one 12oz bottle of water! Please be prepared with at least a liter of water, electrolytes and snacks...we live in the mountains and we needed all these...flatlanders will really need them!

2 months ago

Awesome trail. Pretty difficult unless you hike trails on the regular. Lots of wildlife everywhere as well. We hiked down from summit lake to the Chicago lakes.

2 months ago

I loved the hike. Only went as far as the reservoir because we started late. Go early to avoid the heat because you’ll need it for the incline areas. It was a “good” hard hike. The difficulty was due to the incline at altitudes of 10,800. But we’ll worth the challenge...you will say that at the end. Careful bringing dogs..,lots of rock I would believe to be hurtful on there pads.

hiking
2 months ago

Wow what gorgeous views!!! But the Hard rating on this was definitely deserved, mostly due to the last 2 miles or so are steep and technical. Gorgeous wildflowers and views the entire time, some tree coverage for the first mile- mile and a half. Definitely start early for parking and avoiding the afternoon storms!

backpacking
2 months ago

Some people say this hike isn't strenuous. Maybe with just a day pack it's not. If you plan on backpacking in, it's very strenuous. The views from the upper lake are incredible. Apparently, CO has a statewide fire ban. If you plan on staying the night, bring a gas burner (jet boil or similar). There was very little mud along the trail and the temps were 70ish during the day and low 40's over night. The first 1 mile is mostly downhill. The last 4 miles are uphill.

backpacking
2 months ago

Great hike but tricky. Mega incline technical footing. Trail starts at the parking area near the lake. Walk around the lake by the picnic tables and ascend from there. It does not start at the visitors center mentioned below. Start early as it rains in the afternoon

Load More