Are you looking for great hikes near Idaho Springs, Colorado? Start here! This is our go-to list of the best hikes that are the perfect length for a solid day on the trail and feature alpine lakes, fishing, wildlife, ancient trees, and insane views.
1. Herman Lake – Herman Gulch Trailhead | 1/2 Hour From Idaho Springs
Why It Made the List: scenic meadows and a high alpine lake right off I-70
Miles: 6.5 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1,655 feet net (1,815 feet roundtrip)
Herman Gulch Trail, located just off I-70 before the exit to Loveland Pass, is a well known hike due to it’s proximity to the Interstate. But, don’t let the traffic noise scare you. The trail climbs steeply up a narrow road through the trees and by the time you’ve met up with the creek, any reminders of I-70 will be gone. The trail levels off and passes through two large, wildflower-filled meadows where you may spot moose, deer, elk, or even a bear. After the second meadow is another steep climb to the Continental Divide Trail Split. Stay left to the lake, surrounded by open tundra and the Continental Divide between Pettingell Peak (13,553’) and Hagar Mountain (13,195’).
Note: arrive early. Weekends see a lot of traffic and parking is limited.
👆Herman Lake with the Continental Divide, Pettingell Peak (13,553’), and Hagar Mountain (13,195’) beyond.
2. Chicago Lakes – Echo Lake Trailhead | 1/2 Hour From Idaho Springs
Why It Made the List: summit Mt. Evans if you’re up for the haul
Miles: 9.8 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1,116 feet net (2,392 feet roundtrip)
Chicago Lakes Trail makes for a fantastic, long day hike. This sometimes steep and rocky trail starts at Echo Lake Park south of I-70 in the Mt. Evans Wilderness Area and ascends to a pair of high alpine lakes below Mt. Evans (14,265′), Mt. Spalding (13,842′), and Mt. Warren (13,307′). Hikers often see moose, elk, bighorn sheep, and mountain goat in addition to a valley touched by the 1978 Idaho Springs Reservoir Fire. Look southwest while hiking in the valley above the reservoir during the fall for bright yellow aspens against a clear blue sky.
Bring your rod and spend the afternoon fishing cutthroat trout or continue up the trail to Summit Lake or even summit Mt. Evans if you’re up for the haul.
👆The upper of the two Chicago Lakes.
👆A bristlecone pine tree at Hell’s Hole Tarn.
3. Hell’s Hole – West Chicago Creek Campground | 1/2 Hour From Idaho Springs
Why It Made the List: 1500 – 2500 year-old ancient bristlecone pine trees
Miles: 8.2 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1,861 feet net (1,987 feet roundtrip)
Hell’s Hole Trail, a steep climb through Mt. Evans Wilderness, starts at West Chicago Creek Campground and ends at a marshy, seasonal tarn below Gray Wolf Mountain (13,602’). This glacial valley hosts aspen groves and tons of wildlife including elk, mountain goat, and bighorn sheep.
The real gem of this hike, however, is the ancient bristlecone pine trees, some of the oldest in Colorado. These twisty trees range from 1500 to 2000 years old.
Note: arrive early. Parking can be limited on weekends.
4. Mt. Bierstadt – Guanella Pass, Mt. Bierstadt Trailhead | 3/4 Hours From Idaho Springs
Why It Made the List: great “starter” 14er if its your first
Miles: 7.4 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2,404 feet net (2,664 feet roundtrip)
Mt. Bierstadt, at 14,060 feet, is located just south of Georgetown and can be summited from Guanella Pass Road. Though still a challenging hike, it is considered one of the most attainable 14er summits due to low exposure and easy route-finding. It’s a great mountain to start with if you’re considering bagging your first 14er. The landscape surrounding Bierstadt is also stunning with panoramic views of Mt. Evan’s (14,265’), the impressive Sawtooth, Mt. Spalding (13,842’), and Abyss Lake below. Look west to see two other popular 14ers, Grays Peak (14,270’) and Torreys Peak (14,267’).
Note: arrive early. Mt. Bierstadt is one of the busiest 14er routes because of its proximity to Denver. Also, an early start time (think 6am) is important to ensure you’re off the summit by noon. Avoiding afternoon thunderstorms is top priority.
👆Mt. Evan’s (14,265’), the Sawtooth, & Mt. Bierstadt (14,060′).
👆Trail intersection sign below the lake.
5. Beartrack Lakes – Camp Rock Trailhead, Mt. Evans State Wildlife Area | 1 Hour From Idaho Springs
Why It Made the List: great, varied, loop hike
Miles: 10.8 mile loop
Elevation Gain: 2,139 feet net (2,582 feet roundtrip)
Beartrack Lakes Loop is a perfect long day hike. This varied, diverse loop starts at Camp Rock Trailhead east of Mt. Evans in the Mt. Evans State Wildlife Area. Please note, public access to the wildlife area is prohibited from the day after Labor Day to June 14 the following year, except for hunting permit holders. Start the loop on Beaver Meadows Trail heading west where you’ll pass beaver ponds, two old camping shelters, and the chimney for the old Resthouse Cabin before intersecting with Cub Creek Trail. Turn left. Hike through the 2011/2012 blowdown area to the intersection with Beartrack Lakes Trail. Turn right and stay right again at the fork with Roosevelt Lakes Trail. The final section can be vague but the lake is close.
For the hike out, follow your steps back to the Cub Creek Trail, turn right, and after a short distance, turn left at the second Beartrack Lakes/Cub Creek Trail intersection. The final stretch of the hike is barren but beautiful, lacks water, and can be quite hot as you pass through the Beartracks burn scar.
About the Author & Photographer
Whitney P. Schuettpelz
Whitney is equal parts outdoor junkie, vegan foodie & designer of things with a passion for mountains, beets & architecture in no particular order. She can usually be found on Colorado’s sunny slopes with her dog Sloane, kiddo Kit, and partner-in-crime, Brent.