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Lower + Upper Chicago Lakes

Central Front Range, Colorado

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Lower + Upper Chicago Lakes

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  • Descending toward Chicago Creek.- Lower + Upper Chicago Lakes
  • Crossing Chicago Creek.- Lower + Upper Chicago Lakes
  • Proceeding through the woods toward Lower Chicago Lake just past the flat tributary that crosses left back toward Chicago Creek.- Lower + Upper Chicago Lakes
  • Upper Chicago Lake.- Lower + Upper Chicago Lakes
  • Morning sunrise near Lower Chicago Lake.- Lower + Upper Chicago Lakes
  • Passing alongside Upper Chicago Lake to continue up the headwall to Summit Lake or around the shoreline.- Lower + Upper Chicago Lakes
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Great views. Relatively easy to get to. Great access to continue on to Mount Evans or Summit Lake.
Cons: 
Popular popular day hike. Can be crowded. You will have to search for level campsites.
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Region:
Central Front Range, CO
Congestion: 
Moderate
Pets allowed: 
Yes, with restrictions
Highest point: 
11,752.00 ft (3,582.01 m)
Net Elevation Gain: 
1,116.00 ft (340.16 m)
Year round: 
Yes
Parking Pass: 
None
Permit required: 
Yes
Permit self-issue on site: 
Yes
Preferable Season(s):
Spring, Summer, Fall
Total Distance: 
9.80 mi (15.77 km)
Total elevation gain: 
2,392.00 ft (729.08 m)
Trail type: 
There-and-back
Trailhead Elevation: 
10,617.00 ft (3,236.06 m)
Typically multi-day: 
No
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Contributor

From the Echo Lake park you will follow the paved road around the Echo Lake Lodge (awesome cinnamon buns!) and continue onto the dirt path that parallels Echo Lake. Follow this through some dense forest (it is clearly marked) until you reach a more open area. The trail continues toward the back corner of this area. There are some paths but it is easy to get off trail here, so it is best to follow either the leftmost or rightmost edges until you find the intersecting trail in the back. You will see a small sign indicating the start of Chicago Lakes Trail #52. The trail quickly becomes rugged and narrow at points as it descends for the first mile down to Chicago Creek. The descent rewards you with some incredible views of the Chicago Creek basin, Mount Spaulding (a 13er), and Mount Evans (a 14er) peaking out from behind Spalding. 

At 1.1 miles you will reach Chicago Creek, cross the wood bridge, and continue out of the woods onto a dirt road. Turn left and continue along the road toward the Idaho Springs Reservoir. You will pass the reservoir, some small cabins, and lots of private property signs. At the 2-mile mark the road reconnects with the Chicago Lakes Trail. You will find a trail register and a self-service permit station. Sign your group in (no fee) and continue up the trail. Just past the register you will enter the Mount Evans Wilderness Area. The trail follows the western edge of the Chicago Creek basin. You will pass through a burned area from the Idaho Springs Reservoir fire and begin climbing steadily toward Lower Chicago Lake. Keep an eye out for wildflowers and wildlife as you pass through this area. The trail meanders along the west edge and eventually cuts back left toward the creek itself across a flat tributary at 3.2 miles. You will continue to climb more steeply until 3.95 miles, where you will reach an open area leading toward the Lower Chicago Lake. In order to reach the lake, you will need to bushwhack a bit through some brambles. There is a loose trail network through them, so follow it as best as you can. Eventually at 4.1 miles you will reach the Lower Chicago Lake outlet.

If you plan to camp, around the 3.95-mile mark there is an elbow in the trail (before you enter the brambles to reach Lower Chicago Lake) with a large rock on the left (closest to the lake). To your right is a fallen tree, and above that a single bristlecone pine. Follow the trail up behind the pine and back away from the trail. You will find plenty of spots to camp back in that area. Tip: Plan a trip to Lower Chicago Lake for your water, bring all of your empty contains, and do it prior to dark. It is an adventure in itself getting to the lake through the brambles. 

From Lower Chicago Lake, continue another 0.6 miles along the Chicago Lakes Trail #52 toward Upper Chicago Lake. Halfway to the lake the trail will become steep and narrow. After another bit of effort you will arrive at the shoreline of the upper lake at 4.9 miles in. Take a break, do some fishing, shoot some photos, wander the shoreline, and enjoy the view. The giant headwall in front of you leads up to Summit Lake and then on to Mount Evans. If you are feeling ambitious, you could certainly top out on Mount Evans in a day (depending on your route, it is another mile to Summit Lake and then 1 to 3 miles from Summit Lake to the summit of Mount Evans). Just keep an eye on the weather and know that the trail leading to Summit Lake is steep and full of loose rock. 

Simply reverse your course to your campsite at Lower Chicago Lake or back to Echo Lake Park.

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(15 within a 30 mile radius)

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(103 within a 30 mile radius)

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