This week’s hike was fairly close to home: Chief Mountain on Squaw Pass Road (CO Hwy. 103) between Evergreen and Echo Lake. It’s a good short hike, 2 miles out and back, 4 miles total, through Subalpine forest that takes you to a summit at timberline with fantastic 360-degree views of the surrounding area. As it is fall now and the aspen leaves are turning their vibrant yellows and the Squaw Pass Road is the route we usually take on the fall leaf tour, it seemed like an ideal way to get some hiking in, combining it with the drive through the high country.
Well first off it’s a perfect day for hiking. It’s a little hazy back toward Denver but not too bad – otherwise a beautiful blue, cloudless sky. The Chief Mountain trail starts off at an elevation of 10,700 feet and you’re hiking to the summit at 11,709 feet. Erin and I are on the trail a little after 7:30; it’s a nice brisk 37 degrees and by the time we’re back down it’ll be about 50.
Although the trail is uphill all the way – after all, you are hiking up a mountain – it’s a gentle uphill, and if you’ve hiked at all you know what I mean. 1,000 feet of elevation gain in 2 miles which can be easily done in an hour to an hour-and-a-half with a little bit of bouldering at the very end.
So we spend about half-an-hour on the summit, eat some snacks and just soak it all in. A few people join us on the summit – it’s still early in the day and there are not a whole lot of hikers on this trail which is heavily used during the summer months. It’s just good to be up here and enjoy the quiet and peace… and of course, the views. No mountain goats today – they’re elsewhere.
To reach the Chief Mountain trail, take I-70 west out of Denver and exit on Evergreen Parkway (Exit 252). Go approximately 3 miles to CO Hwy. 103 and take a right. This is the Squaw Pass Road. Go approximately 9 miles up Hwy. 103 and when you reach the Echo Mountain Ski Area you’ll see a long shoulder on the right side of the road. The trailhead begins a little to the east of where the ski lift and the parking area on the shoulder is.
Coming from Idaho Springs, take CO Hwy. 103 to the south, go past Echo Lake approximately 4.5 miles and you’ll see the shoulder above the Echo Mountain ski lift on the left side of the road.
As always in the high country, get there early, take plenty of water, and dress in layers. And now, a little fall color…
We drive into Idaho Springs after our morning hike and have beer and lunch (in that order) at Tommyknockers on Miner Street. Get there early too – the place is packed by 12:30 even now that tourist season is over. The Pumpkin Ale is available, now that it’s fall and in the season, and their Imperial Nut Brown Ale is excellent as are all their offerings.
Work progresses on the next Nights on Venus EP/album Unearthly. Until then…