Chicago Lakes via Summit Lake Park
Mt. Evans Wilderness Area
Date Hiked: September 5, 2014
- Distance: 2.2mi (RT)
- Elevation Gain: 1,281ft
- Elevation Min/Max: 11,754 to 12,892ft
- Trailhead Lat/Long: 39 35' 56'' N; 105 38' 26''
- Managing Agency: U.S.Forest Service/Denver Mountain Parks
- Fee: $10 (National Parks Pass accepted)
Summit Lake Park Website (USFS)
Summit Lake Park Website (Denver Mt. Parks)
Mt. Evans Recreation Area Website (USFS)
Chicago Lakes via Summit Lake Trail Map (Google Maps)
Directions: From Idaho Springs, go south on 103 (Squaw Pass Road) for 14 miles to Echo Lake. Turn right (west) onto Mt. Evans Road, through the entrance station and take this all the way up to Summit Lake Park.
Chicago Lakes is a very popular destination, see description here. However, very few people go to Chicago Lakes, the other way. You can get to the lakes from Summit Lake Park by following the Chicago Lakes Overlook Trail 1/4 mi from the parking area and climbing down the Chicago Lakes Trail down to Upper Chicago Lake. The hike is steep (very steep) and a mix of rocky areas and loose scree, but it is fun, short, and spectacular. Just be sure to leave yourself plenty of time to get back up. Climbing a trail this steep at almost 13,000ft is very strenuous.
The joy of this hike is the view of the wall separating Chicago Lake from Summit Lake. It is a very impressive 1500 ft wall of granite leading from Upper Chicago Lake to Mt. Spaulding. The wall is in view the entire time but it never gets old.
The hike begins by traversing a narrow rock ledge before the trail becomes solid earth. It descends on a good grade until you start to switchback. From here down, it is very steep especially at the bottom where the original trail was destroyed by a rock slide. Make your way down and pick up the trail again where it follows a ridge above the lake. The trail leads you straight to the eastern shore where Upper Chicago Lake flows down into Lower Chicago Lake. The views from the lake are awesome. There are many flat boulders to relax on and regain your strength. The climb back up is hard. Take your time, rest a lot, and don't forget to take in the views again...you'll do great.