3 miles RT, but add another 0.2 for climbing the rocks at the top Elevation Gain:
900-1,100 feet depending on the book/Web site you read. Highest elevation: 11,710 feet. Location:
Between Evergreen and Idaho Springs (directions & trail map below) Fee:
Allowed on leash Hiking Partner:
It's hard to believe the days are getting shorter already. Sunset this week will be around 8:21 p.m., according to TheDenverChannel.com's weather page
. But there's still time for some after work hikes.
I found a summit hike that's close to town: Chief Mountain. Like most summit hikes, it's a bit of a drive. However, the views from the top make it worth the effort.
Chief Mountain is between Evergreen and Idaho Springs on Highway 103. I left downtown Denver at 5:30 p.m., went through Evergreen, and got to the trailhead at about 6:25 p.m.
It's not an easy trailhead to find since there are no signs. There is a landmark to watch for -- the new Echo Mountain
Ski & Snowboard Park. (Long time Coloradans will know this as the old Squaw Pass ski area.)
From Evergreen, the trailhead is a 0.6 miles past the well-marked Echo Mountain entrance. The parking area for the Chief Mountain trailhead is just above one of the lifts for Echo Mountain Ski & Snowboard Park
The trail is on the south side of the road, so park in a dirt pulloff on the north or right side of the road. You'll see one of the lift towers for Echo Mountain downhill from the pulloff. Look closely across the roadway and you'll see the trail and maybe the trail sign. It says simply Chief Mnt. Trail, No. 58. This is the starting point.
The Forest Service Web site
says specifically the trailhead is not marked.
My friend Hendrik met me at the parking area so we packed up quickly and headed up.
Up is the right word. The trail gains about 1,000 feet in 1.5 miles. Most of the trail has a steady elevation gain, but it wasn't ever terribly steep, just a constant gain.
A short way up the trail, you'll come to the old Squaw Pass Road. Take a moment to think about coming up the mountain from town on this road. It must have taken awhile. You actually hike a few steps on the old road, then you'll see the Chief Mountain trail again.
You'll also see a sign on the way up the trail that says Chief Mountain 2 miles. The Forest Service says it's 1 mile. My hiking books say 1.3 miles each way to 1.5 miles each way. My GPS on the hike said 1.64, but I also did some rock scrambling at the top.
This is a pleasant hike. You're in the trees on a single track trail until you hit treeline. Then the views only improve with peaks all around you. At the summit of Chief Mountain there are rocks to climb for even a better view.
As you climb, when you stop for a breath or a drink, make sure you do a 360-degree turn. The views are worth it.
At the end of the trail, you'll climb a few switchbacks to the peak. There is a trail all the way to the top. The only question is: is the top where the trail ends or on top of one of the rocky outcroppings?
We climbed on both sets of rocks. As we explored, I found a rock wall/shelter of sorts on one side where you could probably get out of the wind if it was blowing.
On our evening, there were a lot of clouds, but we had a clear view of the Mount Evans highway and Mount Evans to the south. Others claim you can see to Pikes Peak, but not on the night we were there. From the top of the rocks, we could see the town of Idaho Springs and the mines above it. I'm told you can see Long's Peak to the north but I assume we didn't because of the storm clouds. View of part of the Mount Evans Highway from the summit of Chief Mountain
But even with the storm clouds, this was a great place to take in the views and to think about how great it was to get in a summit after work.
After exploring, it was time to head back down the trail. While I liked the hike up, the hike down was even better. Not just because it was easier, but because of the views. We enjoyed trying to guess what towns, peaks and areas we were seeing as we hiked down. Pretty soon we were below treeline, hiking through the forest and then back to our cars.
The hike took us about 90 minutes and we were back at our cars about 8 p.m. I saw the sun setting in the clouds as I drove down the highway. I got home kinda late, but it was worth it.
I've read articles that say this trail is quite popular, but on an evening after work, we didn't see anyone else.
From Denver, take I-70 West to Exit 252. Go south on Colorado 74 for 3.4 miles and turn on Colorado 103, Squaw Pass Road. This is a twisty, mountain road and you will find yourself slowing down to 15-25 mph at times. Drive 12.4 miles to the parking area. There is no sign at the parking area, but you will see a ski lift below the parking area. If you look closely, you'll see the trail on the other side of the road and a small sign a little way up. (trail map below)
I enjoy hearing from my readers. If you have a question, comment or hiking trail suggestion, e-mail email@example.com
Previous hiking reports:(lower elevation hikes have a star)
, Mallory Cave*
, Marshall Mesa
,Heil Valley Ranch*
, South Boulder Peak*
, The Boulder Flatirons*
, Walker Ranch*
, Bear Peak*
, Rabbit Mountain*
, Bald Mountain*
, Betasso Preserve*
, Wonderland Lake*
, Chimney Gulch*
, Apex Park*
, Elk Meadow*
, Chicago Lakes
Rocky Mountain National Park:
, Twin Sisters
, Bierstadt Lake
, Chasm Lake
, Lulu City & Little Yellowstone
, The Loch, Andrew's Glacier
, Sandbeach Lake
Indian Peaks/James Peak Wilderness:
King, Bob & Betty Lakes
, Forest Lakes
, Arapaho Lakes
, Mitchell & Blue Lakes
, James Peak Area
, Heart Lake
, Devil's Backbone*
, Lake Agnes
Summit & Eagle Counties:
, Missouri Lakes
, Mohawk Lakes & Continental Falls
St Louis Lake
, Waterfall At Snow Mountain Ranch
, Granby Ranch
Exploring Fulford Cave
, Our Favorite Hikes
, Our Favorite Bike Rides
Map courtesy of Trails Illustrated.
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