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  • Writer's pictureVien R. Guenther

Hiking to Chicago Lakes - Mount Evans Wilderness, Colorado

Updated: Aug 16, 2023

CHICAGO LAKES – 9.5 to 10 miles

This trail is strenuous and can be long if you hike all the way to the upper lake. The trailhead begins at Echo Lake. Then the trail goes downhill for the first mile or so, and as you pass Idaho Springs Reservoir, the trail goes uphill for the last three to four miles, depending how far you want to go. You will find an area where 400 acres were burned in the Reservoir Fire in 1978. Wildflowers have overtaken that burned area today, at least while the forest tries to recover. It takes time.

Wildflowers at the burned area in summer
The trail

There are two lakes on this trail. You can either stop at the Lower Chicago Lake or continue on to the upper lake. You will find the Lower Chicago Lake at treeline. It offers great views, but hiking all the way to the second lake is even better. It's not an easy trail going to the upper lake though; it is very steep, but it will be worth the extra mile.

Lower Chicago Lake

We hike here in Summer or Fall - either time offers a different experience. You get to see wildflowers in summer and beautiful fall colors of the landscape in Autumn. Hermann has hiked here many times, but I only hiked here with him three times. There are so many beautiful trails to explore here in Colorado that we don't have to keep coming back to the same trails all the time.

Trail to Upper Chicago Lake
View of Lower Chicago Lake from above

Up by the upper lake is a gorgeous view of the landscape. You can see why it is worth huffing and puffing to the top.

Looking down to Lower Chicago Lake

In Autumn this trail is stunning. The different shades of gold and rust covering the landscape are so bright that you almost need to wear sunglasses, if you are not already wearing one.

Upper Chicago Lake in Autumn

For a much tougher hike, you can continue hiking south to Summit Lake and all the way to the summit of Mount Evans. The elevation gain will be quite tough, but if you can do it, why not? Not for me, hiking to the upper lake is quite long enough for me.



  • Wilderness Areas have special regulations, check the U.S. Forest Service for information. Check with Idaho Springs Visitors Center or Colorado Department of Transportation for road conditions.

  • The Mount Evans Road and Scenic Byway (Colorado Highway 5) is usually open from Friday of Memorial Day weekend through the first weekend in October, depending on weather conditions. The road and access to the top of Mount Evans is closed at Summit Lake the day after Labor Day.

  • Weather conditions can change, even in summer, so come prepared. The best way is to dress in layers, it's easier to take it off when it gets warm or put it on when it gets chilly, hail, rain or extreme wind. Watch out for afternoon summer thunderstorms - they are common here and you don't want to be caught outside in one at this altitude.

  • Vehicles over 30' long are not recommended on Highway 5 (Mount Evans road) due to the steep, narrow, winding road.


Other nearby wilderness areas you can explore:

Lost Creek Wilderness

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