Sunday, July 3, 2011
Chicago Lakes, Mt. Evans Wilderness Area
Mount Evans Wilderness, Arapaho National Forest
Date Hiked: July 3, 2011
Distance: 10 miles (RT)
Elevation Gain: 1,400ft
Managing Agency: U.S. Forest Service
U.S. Forest Service Chicago Lakes Trail Webpage
Directions: The trail to the Chicago Lakes starts at the Echo Lake picnic area. From Idaho Springs take W. Chicago Creek trail south to Echo Lake. From Evergreen, take Squaw Pass Road to Echo Lake. Easy peasy.
The first mile of the trail switchbacks down to a creek crossing. You get an appetizer of a view of the Chicago Lakes basin from the trail, just a taste of whats to come in 4 miles. The next mile follows a dirt road to the Idaho Springs Reservoir. The trail skirts the reservoir and leads to the Mount Evans Wilderness Boundary. From here the trail gets really cool. The gradually ascend through forest, some burn areas, and into a valley surrounded by granite peaks. Before too long you arrive at Lower Chicago Lake. Take a minute, but don't rest too long because the next lake is even better. Skirting the lake you ascend a steeper route with late lingering snow. Once on top of the shelf, you will find yourself at the boulder lined Upper Chicago Lake. There is a huge wall of Granite on the other side of the lake, it's iconic and inspiring. You can't see it, but Summit Lake and Mt. Evans are just above that wall. If you really had an overabundance of energy, you could continue on the trail, up the wall and eventually summit Evans.
This is probably the most scenic hike in the Mount Evans Wilderness, and it is also one of the most popular. Start early and you'll have most of the trail to yourself on the way up. Save some energy on the way back, the last mile goes back up the gorge to Echo Lake.