Chief Mountain Trail

EASY 398 reviews
#5 of 142 trails in

Chief Mountain Trail is a 3.1 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Idaho Springs, Colorado that features beautiful wild flowers and is good for all skill levels. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from June until November. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

DISTANCE
3.1 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
984 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

dogs on leash

kid friendly

birding

hiking

nature trips

snowshoeing

walking

forest

views

wild flowers

wildlife

Directions from Idaho Springs: Exit I-70 in Idaho Springs at exit 240. Go south on Colorado Highway 103. The trailhead is located 5 miles east of Echo Lake on Colorado Highway 103.

hiking
18 hours ago

Great trail and the view at the top is worth the climb! Climb up felt harder than “easy” but the altitude has been messing with us. We went today (5/22/18) and there were places that still had snow/slush which made it slick at times.

1 day ago

One of my favorite easier hikes. Amazing 360 views at the top.

hiking
1 day ago

Amazing trail. We were fortunate enough to go on a foggy day in Denver and we were literally on top of the clouds when we reached the top. Indescribable.

hiking
9 days ago

One of my favorite hikes that I've ever done. Not too physically demanding, but so rewarding. The views at the top are insane, even with cloud coverage. The drive up to the trailhead is a treat in itself too. Did this one 5/14/18 and would recommend crampons or microspikes for the descent- I can imagine it'd be a little slick without them. However, the risk of post-holing is pretty much gone! Get up there and see some beauty!!!

hiking
14 days ago

Fun hike. We went this past Saturday May 5 and it was ALL snow. Either Yaktrax or trekking poles are helpful, but not necessary (but expect to fall a few times or get buried into feet of snow at times). I think it should be considered a moderate hike because the incline in the first 1/2 mile itself is tough. But I think it is "easy" because its short. It took us about 2.5 hours in and out. Beautiful views!

View was amazing. Definitely a bit more difficult in the snow, but totally worth it. Spikes are definitely necessary until the snow melts.

18 days ago

05-04-18, Lots of snow on the trail. Shoe spikes were a must. This is a great trail with stunning views.

hiking
23 days ago

Excellent for what it is - front range hike with great views.

We did this hike yesterday. Excellent views in 360 degrees but really slick especially from the start up to about 5/6 of the way up where the snow had finally melted. Excellent views of the front range and not too far of a drive. Even with chains on my boots, still fell a couple times into snow. Windy at the summit.

1 month ago

Decent short hike to a great view! Too many peope.

hiking
1 month ago

It was very beautiful, but I have trouble breathing in high altitudes. I would defiantly recommend it. It was really hard, but I persevered and when I got to the top, it was breathtaking!

1 month ago

not exactly easy going up because there was no flat area. going up was a bit challenging. the trail was beautiful; covered in a fresh snow. lots of unleashed dogs running around and pushed me. almost fell because of that. it was windy too, but a good trail overall.

hiking
1 month ago

This hike was great! With recent snow, the hike was 98% snow covered trail, but thankfully very little ice. Half of our group wore tennis shoes and shorts and they slipped a bit, but survived. If you have yaktraks or extra traction for shoes, bring it. Once through the trees, it got really windy and cold. We were greeted with blue skies and beautiful views at the top!

hiking
1 month ago

Great trail! Covered in thick snow: Yak Traks are a must. Trail is rated as easy but to me it’s more toward moderate. It’s very well marked which made it easy to follow but it’s a good climb.

hiking
1 month ago

Well packed snow through the initial wooded area with a few spots above tree line with ~6”. Totally doable without poles or spikes right now. Great 360 views from the top, but be ready for some wind. A few large boulders made for some easy wind shelters for stopping to snack. Parking is on the roadside near the ski lift for echo mountain (trailhead can be easy to miss if there aren’t other cars parked already). This hike would make a great introduction to a bit of altitude for a lowlander without being too long or strenuous.

hiking
1 month ago

3/25 - hiked up Chief Mountain after doing Squaw Mountain. The trail was mostly packed ice/snow mix, but definitely starting to melt in places. I brought my spikes and they were needed, although I saw groups doing it without any traction. Beautiful day outside today and fantastic views from the summit - clear skies all around!

hiking
1 month ago

3/17/18 — Microspikes were necessary as it’s all snowpack and ice. Beautiful hike with a 360 view at the top. We got to the trailhead at 8am and there was only one person at the summit when we arrived. However, we passed a good amount of people on descent.

1 month ago

Beautiful views all the way up, 360 degree views from the top! There's a good amount of packed snow on the trail (was there on 3/24) so I recommend microspikes- they really came in handy.

hiking
1 month ago

Great views! Snow was pretty packed. Spikes needed.

1 month ago

This is a great little trail! The views at the summit are perfect. We had the summit to ourselves at 9am, but came across many others on the way down. Lots of unleashed dogs.

The snow was fairly well-packed, and we used microspikes, but didn't need poles.

hiking
1 month ago

Great hike! Through the pines for most of the trip and then pop out above tree line for gorgeous views. Spikes or poles recommended.

1 month ago

Quick hike with awesome views! spikes/yaktrax recommended, summit has a very open 360 degree beautiful view as well!! Hike it regularly!

hiking
2 months ago

Great short hike with stunning views in every direction at the top. Packed snow most of the way 3/17, spikes a big help. Gorgeous day!

2 months ago

I would give this a moderate rating in the winter! Steep incline and icy at spots until you get to the top. Great views! I recommend for a short hike outside of the metro area

2 months ago

great trail with a steady incline pretty much the whole way up. I did this with my wife and two teen sons and enjoyed it very much. fantastic views once you break the treeline. it didnt seem to busy either.

2 months ago

This is one of my fave go-to hikes. I do some pretty tough hikes so I’ll be assigning degrees of difficulty to this. But the reason I love it so much is its proximity to Denver, relative ease for most skill levels, and possibly the best view of Colorado’s Front Range you’ll encounter. On a clear day you can see every 14er in the Front Range. Some extraordinarily clear skies this weekend and perfection for this hike. Right now the trail is packed snow with some ice. Traction is absolutely necessary but will create a better experience getting up and down both. Snow shoes are too much but micro spikes are perfect right now in this trail. Again, not required but you’ll have a better day both ways using them. At least until you get above tree line. Go up. Enjoy. Take some gorgeous photos. Reward on this hike for the effort is just hard to beat. Dig it.

hiking
2 months ago

The access to the trail is at the lower area of the parking area.. think “parallel parking” on north side (uphill) of the road. It’s technically not a “Easy” Trail, where elderly and young kids can hike, there is incline all the way up the top and somewhat of a rock scramble at the top. But it’s a great view and hike. Snowpacked trail about 95 percent so I’d recommend microspikes just so you don’t have to worry about any slipping.

hiking
2 months ago

Great hike! As other reviewers have noted the trailhead is a little hard to find. But Google Maps got us there. The trail was completely snow-packed, so boots appropriate for that were essential. The views at the top are stunning! It’s not a hard hike - but it’s definitely a decent incline. I can’t wait to do it again.

2 months ago

Slippery, but good. Wear spikes if you got em.

hiking
2 months ago

Super calm serene hike up a beautiful mountain side, the views after the initial incline weigh out any negative thoughts of inclines as well as altitude. Super suggest the hike any time of the year.

hiking
2 months ago

The views at the summit of Chief Mountain are absolutely SPECTACULAR. I was actually speechless when I first came to the top and saw the 360-degree views of the Rockies. There were many 14ers in view. I will 100% be coming back to do this hike again.

I did a bunch of research for this hike and kept seeing conflicting points for directions, hiking distance, and difficulty of the hike. Let me be the one to clarify for future hikers:

There are actually two “trailhead” entrances between mile marker 18 and 19 that will get you to the second half of the Chief Mountain Summit.

1) The first is the one that I (mistakenly) took. This was just after mile marker 18 on Rt 103. There is a small parking area across from the entrance, which is unmarked. It is at the top of a hill, not the bottom. This (I believe) is the Old Squaw Pass Rd. It’s flatter and much easier for those weekend warriors who are actually expecting an easy trail. It also adds a mile R/T to your overall hiking distance - which is why some people on here clocked in at 4mi. This is a great cross-country skiing trail if you’re interested! If you take this, you will take a sharp right and start inclining about a mile in to your hike, where there is a wooden sign that says Chief Mountain with an arrow.

2) The second option is the actual Chief Mountain Trail, which is located just before mile marker 19 on 103. The Echo Park ski lifts are on the same side as the parking for the trail. The actual trail (on the other side of the street) is also poorly labeled, with a small wooden sign that says Chief Mountain trail. This is the way I walked back (and ended up a mile from my car...super fun!). This is about a half mile shorter than the other trail option, but I would absolutely put it in the moderate category. I’m not sure who designates whether a trail is easy or moderate, but I’ve noticed several trails that were much harder than their designations. For someone who isn’t used to 11,000ft altitudes or who isn’t hiking 3-4x a week, you’ll probably be out of breath for this. The good news is that it’s only 3mi. This trail is fairly narrow, and if you make the mistake of stepping off the path you will be in 2ft drifts.

Hopefully this helps prevent some confusion!!

I did this hike in trail running shoes and was totally fine without additional traction. You could probably use snowshoes but it’s not necessary. Definitely avoid tennis shoes or shoes without traction - the trail is totally snowpacked and slick at points. It was not windy when we went - it was about 25 degrees and sunny with maybe 10mph gusts that we could only feel above the tree line (for perspective, it was 57 and sunny in Denver when we got home).

We went at 10am on a Thursday and we saw a total of 6 people - one group of 4, 2 cross-country skiers, and 1 girl with her dog. It was super quiet and the snow was pristine off the trail. It was perfect!!

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