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Backpacking: Colorado > Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests > Clear Creek Ranger District

Quick Facts

Chicago Lakes Trail

Beginning Elevation: 10,600 Feet (3304.2 Meters) at Echo Lake Campground
Difficulty: More Difficult
Elevation Gain: 1,400 Feet (436.4 Meters)
Ending Elevation: 12,000 Feet (3740.6 Meters) at Chicago Lakes
Length: 5.5 Miles (9.17 Kilometers)
Trail Number: 52
Usage: Heavy
USGS Maps: Idaho Springs; Mt. Evans

Satellite and Topo Map

General Description

The Chicago Lakes Trail #52, begins at the Echo Lake Campground, south of Idaho Springs, and leads to Chicago Lakes, in the Mount Evans Wilderness.

The first part of the trail passes behind Echo Lake and along a ridge to the Idaho Springs Reservoir Road. The trail travels along the road about a mile and then travels up, steeply at times, through and old burn. The trail to the upper lake is rather steep and narrow. Both lakes offer excellent views of the surrounding peaks and the panorama. There are limited places to camp at the lakes.

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.

Seasonal Information:
Normally Accessible: Summer through Fall (NOTE: Accessibility depends on snow depth and weather.) .

Current Conditions & Trip Reports

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Time of Day: Noon
Length of Time: we did a three day trip
Difficulty: Moderate
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: My 44 year old husband, 20 year old son and myself hiked this trail with two dogs. We each had packpacks ranging from 30 to 40 pounds. We hiked to the lower lake and camped out for two nights. They do the trip every year, but this was my first time backpacking. It was awesome!! Parts of the trail are steep, but the scenery is so beautiful, it makes taking the needed rests easy. We climbed to the upper lake on day two and had poor luck fishing so we enjoyed the views for a while and headed down to the lower lake. We made up for our poor luck there! We caught and released over 100 cutthroats. We headed out the next morning and avoided the rain by about an hour.
Conditions: Some mosiquitoes, but deet took care of them. No burn was in effect, which made for a chilly campground at night, but not bad.
Water Availability: Plenty of water along the way. We filtered and used iodine.
Recommended Clothing: Take waterproof stuff, as rain and hail is common.

Filed By: Jan (Glenwood Springs, CO)
Time of Day: 3-day backpacking trip
Length of Time: not sure
Difficulty: Moderate
Number of People Encountered: 25-50 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: My 27-year-old son asked if I'd like to do a mother-son backpacking trip (he already knew the answer!) and Chicago Lakes was the route we chose. Totally wonderful 3-day trip. We camped 2 miles below the lower Chicago Lake then did day hikes out of there. Seems like there are a very limited # of sites--or were we just missing them? Ours was quite nice. Chicago Creek is beautiful, the granite is beautiful, the lakes--well, beautiful. Wildflowers were great, too. Lots of columbines, delphineum, little elephant heads, achillea, asters on and on.
Conditions: Mostly sunny but a few storms rolled through--rain, hail, wind.
Water Availability: Water from the creek is available intermittently along the whole route.
Recommended Clothing: Shorts and a short-sleeved shirt sufficed most of the time but evening brought out the fleece and the storms made us thankful for the gore-tex.

Filed By: Jane L (Pine, CO)
Time of Day: 12:00 noon
Length of Time: 5 hours
Difficulty: Moderate
Number of People Encountered: 11-25 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: We hiked up to Chicago Lakes (trail #52) from the Echo Lake Trailhead on Rt. 103. After the trail veers away from Echo Lake, it skirts along a steep cliff with a sharp moraine drop off to the right. The trail is plenty wide enough and there are many wildflowers growing in the crevices of the cliff face. The trail then drops 400 feet, crosses Chicago Creek, and follows a dirt road past an Idaho Springs reservoir. The trail then becomes fairly steep and rocky as it passes through an old burn area. You eventually emerge from the trees and can see the first of the Chicago Lakes. But, don't stop there. The trail continues high above this lake for 1 mile to the second, much more beautiful Chicago Lake. As you look toward where the second Chicago Lake is located, you may wonder how in the world the trail could go up that sheer rock face. It does, fairly easily - the trail winds through a moraine with super huge rocks that you must scramble over, through willow bushes, and eventually up along the right hand cliff face and over the precipice. We felt the second Chicago Lake was the most beautiful lake we have seen in the high country. It sits below a truly towering, sheer, rock cliff on one side, a rocky cliff with small rock spires on another side, the wide open gulch from the way the trail came up. And, the view back down the gulch is awesome. Our stats: 1,800 foot gain, 11.75 miles, 5 hours
Conditions: Rain, sun, clouds, typiccal CO, all weathers. The trail is in excellent condition.
Water Availability: Carried 4 pints, it was enough.
Recommended Clothing: We wore hiking shorts and mid-weight hiking boots. Be sure to have rain gear!
Suggested Accessories: none

Filed By: Dennis (Denver, Co)
Time of Day: 9:00 a.m -6:00p.m
Length of Time: 3 hr. up 2 hours back
Difficulty: Moderate
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: Good trip !Moderate to hard trail rough walking besure you have good footwear. Well worth the trip! Take rain gear ,we were rained& sleated on on the way back! we packed lunch, no fastfood there! Besure to stop and take in the sights!Plan for a full day hike!

Difficulty: Hard
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: Beautiful views of canyon, muddy in spots. Hard to get away from trail and view of others.

Recreation Opportunities
Activity Remarks On Site
ICON Backpacking There are limited places to camp at the lakes.
ICON Hiking & Walking

Related Activities
Echo Lake Campground - Echo Lake Campground is located 14 miles southwest of Idaho Springs on Colorado Highway 103, near the junction with Colorado Highway 5.

More Information

Visitor Information:

Clear Creek Ranger District, 101 Chicago Creek Rd, P.O. Box 3307 , Idaho Springs, CO, 80452, Phone: 303-567-2901, Fax: 303-567-3021

Clear Creek Ranger District Visitor Information Center, P.O. Box 3307 , Idaho Springs, CO, 80452, Phone: 303-567-2901, TTY: 303-567-3009


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