• Activities:

    Photography, Snowshoeing, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Intermediate

  • Season:

    Year Round

  • Trail Type:

    Out-and-Back

  • RT Distance:

    4 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    1100 Feet

Dog Friendly
Forest
Scenic

This easy hike is great for early season training, catching the sunrise or sunset, or taking visitors who want to experience the feeling of standing on a mountain without biting off the larger peaks of the state.

Sitting at 11,709’, Chief Mountain is not one of Colorado’s highest peaks, but the views from this mountain are spectacular nonetheless and rival the views of any 14er I’ve climbed. This mountain sits along Squaw Pass Road so you get the luxury of a high trailhead for this peak.

To get there, follow Squaw Pass Road (Colorado 103) which you’ll find along Evergreen Parkway. If you are coming from I70, you’ll turn right onto this road. Follow the road for about 12 miles. Once you pass the turn-in for Echo Mountain Ski Area, you’ll see a small pullout on the right side of the road, this is the parking area. Cross the road and find the trail marker for Chief Mountain and climb into the forest.

You’ll climb a little over 1,000ft as you switchback through the forest on this hike of about 4 miles round trip. As you make your way above the trees you may lose the now rocky and class 2 trail, but don’t fear, you can see the summit from there. Set your sights for the top and head that direction.

Once on the summit, you’ll have spectacular views of Rocky Mountain National Park to the north, Gray’s and Torrey’s peaks (both above 14,000 ft) to the west, the Mount Evans Massif immediately to the southwest, Pikes Peak to the South and Denver and the foothills to the east. Truly a fantastic 360 degree view!

This hike can be completed any time of year. If you go in the winter, be sure to bring snowshoes or microspikes and expect to find solitude on this trail. If you go in the summer, crowds will be larger, but the trail may be easier to find. Just be sure to start early and plan to be below tree line before the afternoon thunderstorms begin.

If you are looking for a longer hike, you can see the Squaw Mountain Fire Lookout immediately to the east of Chief Mountain and with a little research and planning, these could be combined into a longer day. 

Pack List

  • Backpack
  • Snacks
  • Water
  • Camera
  • Snowshoes/Microspikes (winter)
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This was a perfect hike to do on a weekend morning in winter! The dog and I had the trail to ourselves the whole way up and down. Trailhead is tricky to find when there is a lot of snow, but just trust the directions provided! Park at the pullout right at the top of Echo Mountain ski resort! There will be a well-defined tracked out trailhead with a wooden post marking the trail. Incredible views up top! I would recommend a pair of crampons for your hiking shoes/boots (I used a cheap pair of yaktrax on my boots) when there is snow on the ground. They were a lifesaver!

12 months ago
12 months ago

I will start out by saying that the drive up there is beautiful! Semi long but so gorgeous. It is a little tricky to start, because the trail head is literally on the side of the road. Hard to find, so drive slow and look to your left and you'll find it! If you're by eco ski and snowboarding area you're on the right track. The hike to the top is incredible. It's 110% worth it. Can be VERY windy, so dress warm (even if it's hot) up at around 11,000 ft, temp changes dramatically. Take the hike, it's totally worth it!

about 1 year ago
about 1 year ago

Matthew Eaton Explorer

Greetings! I am an outdoor lifestyle and adventure photographer based in Denver, Colorado. Loving life since 1983. I hope you find some of my adventures below helpful and inspiring!

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