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Friends of Mount Evans and Lost Creek Wilderness
Chicago Lakes - Trail # 52


(Click Map for PDF)

Beginning Elevation: 10640
High Point: 12870
End Elevation: 12870
Difficulty: Difficult
Length, One Way: 6 miles
Seasons: Summer through Fall
USGS Quads: Mount Evans, Georgetown, and Idaho Springs
Other Maps: Arapaho National Forest, Trails Illustrated #104
Usage Level: High


Access

Trail Heads

Echo Lake
Summit Lake

Connecting Trails

Resthouse
Mt Evans
Summit Flats






Description

This popular trail is often hiked in combination with the Mount Evans Trail to climb to the summit of Mount Evans. It lies in a classic U-shaped glacial valley with steep walls along the sides and at the end.

Leaving the Echo Lake Trailhead, the trail passes south of Echo Lake, then descends to Chicago Creek, where it joins a road up the valley to the Idaho Springs Reservoir. Just south of the reservoir, the trail enters the Wilderness and climbs upward through the Reservoir burn. Abundant wildflowers stand out against the burned trees. Ignore a social trail leading across the creek to a popular bouldering area on the east side of the valley. Lower Chicago Lake sits just at treeline. The trail continues to the upper lake lake, above treeline. The lakes sit in a classic glacier-carved valley and offer excellent views of surrounding peaks. From the upper lake, the trail climbs steeply up the east side of the valley to a junction with the Mount Evans Trail at the north end of Summit Lake. In September of 2013, heavy rains caused a serious washout just above Upper Chicago Lake. Please follow the route up the debris flow, avoiding trampling the sensitive tundra vegetation nearby.


Trail's History

The lakes were a popular destination even before the National Forest was established. Early quad maps from the early 1900’s show the trail and two cabins in the vicinity of the lower lake. The remains of one can be found along the trail by sharp eyed hikers. Nothing can be found of the other at the south end of the lake, but a photo from the 1880’s by William Henry Jackson shows the cabin next to the lake. The north segment of trail from Echo Lake down to the Idaho Springs reservoir on Chicago Creek was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s, and was called the Chicago Reservoir trail or simply the Reservoir Trail. According to a 1945 trail plan, the trail extended to Summit Lake, although the total mileage is given as only 4.6 miles. If it did go to Summit Lake, it was poorly defined above the upper lake and hikers generally just made their own way.

On 10/9/1978, the Reservoir Fire began from an abandoned campfire near the south end of the reservoir. It advanced up the valley for a week before being controlled, burning 400 acres.

In 2004, the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative constructed a new trail between Upper Chicago Lake and Summit Lake in a safer, more sustainable location. However, in September of 2013, heavy rains caused a serious washout just above Upper Chicago Lake.