Cheap, free, and local-endorsed things to do in beautiful places

Chicago Lakes Trail

  • ★★★★★
  • 8.5 miles round trip (out & back)
  • Elevation gain: 1,971 feet
  • 4-5 hours
  • Moderate difficulty
  • 4 lakes, forest, mountain views

Distance from Denver: 1 hour


This is one of my favorite hikes in Colorado – there’s a great variety of beautiful views, scenery along the entire walk, and a challenging climb that is still totally doable.

Begin the hike at the trailhead just before Echo Lake on Highway 103. There’s a medium-sized lot and parking along the road appears to be legal but check signs to be sure.

Follow signs to Chicago Lake Trail and begin the hike along the west side of Echo Lake, meandering south downhill along a cliff with great views of a valley below. Follow signs and merge onto a forest road, passing Idaho Springs Reservoir just before returning to a dirt path that will take you to the first Chicago Lake. The trail provides a panoramic view of the lake and there are a few steep & narrow side trails that take you to the water. Continue on the main trail up the steepest climb of the day alongside a beautiful waterfall before arriving at the second and most epic Chicago Lake. Here there are beautiful meadows which provide excellent vistas of the lake and surrounding mountains – you can relax here or continue on the trail on the left side of the lake for a different perspective. Return to your car along the same path.

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