Chief Mountain

Distance3.27 mi
Elevation Gain981 ft
My Time1 hr 47 min
DifficultyModerate
Closest TownIdaho Springs
Food NearbyBeau Jo’s

Chief Mountain Trail

The Chief Mountain Trail is a shorter but steep trail that takes you close to 12,000 feet of elevation and has amazing panoramic views of the foothills, Mount Evans and all the way to Longs Peak.

Getting Started

The Chief Mountain trailhead is technically in Idaho Springs but is between Evergreen and Idaho Springs on Squaw Pass right above the Echo Mountain Ski Area. There is no parking on the trailhead other than a few spots on the side of the road.

The trail starts right from the road and immediately starts a moderate incline that you will take to the top of the mountain. The incline sticks to the 15-25% grade for the first mile and a half before you start up to the top. The trail is actually really pretty and completely surrounded by pine trees.

The narrow trail of the Chief Mountain trail running between a forest of pine trees.

Most of the first mile of the trail is like this and surrounded by trees. In the winter when I went, the trail itself was well packed down except for some drifting areas that got a little sloppy but I didn’t need snow shoes.

About halfway, around seven-tenths of a mile up the trail, you will come to a clearing where the trail sort of doubles back on itself. It was hard for me to find the trail here because it had snowed the night before and it was important to have my AllTrails map working. Here is what the clearing looks like.

The clearing half way up Chief Mountain trail where the trail makes a 90 degree turn.

If you find the trail again you will end up again surrounded by trees with a few more switchbacks until you get to where the views get really nice.

The Top of Chief Mountain

As you get closer to the top, the trees will start to thin out and you will have some views of the surrounding mountains. It is pretty impressive and had me stopped in my tracks for a few moments.

The view from about 3/4 of the way up Chief Mountain.  You can see a thin layer of smaller pine trees in front with a panoramic view of the foothills in the distance.

The trees will continue to thin as you start to switchback to the top of the mountain. The trail gets much more rocky from this point forward and a bit steeper. The last tenth of a mile gains over 150 of elevation so that is pretty steep.

The views at the top get more impressive. Not only can you see all of the mountains to the west and north but you can also look back to the south and east along the way. I was more interested in the west and northern views and this is what it looked like.

The view to the west from Chief Mountain with Mount Evans surrounded with a bit of clouds as a storm is moving in.

The trip to the top of Chief Mountain is only about 1.6 miles one way and the views are impressive of the surrounding area. Definitely a good shorter hike to get some big views.

Elevation and Distance

If you don’t have the AllTrails app you might want to check it out, I really love mine. It records your progress and is a great way to search for hikes that are nearby and gives you difficulty measurements. According to AllTrails today’s hike was around 3.27 miles and had a total elevation gain of about 981 feet including undulations. That put the high point at around 11,708 feet. I was also moving for a total of 1 hour and 47 minutes.

Effort

A pretty consistent uphill grade leads to consistent but not overwhelming effort on this one. A bit of snow on the trail made the trek a little harder than usual. Here is the step count from my Fitbit.

The step count for the hike to chief mountain was 9,589 steps.

Terrain

The trail at Chief Mountain is narrow and the first three quarters of the hike you will be in the forest with good tree cover. As you get to towards the top the trees will think out and the trail will become much more rocky. There is usually a decent amount of wind when you get to the top of the mountain as well. I would suggest a good pair of hiking shoes or boots.

Access

The trailhead for the Chief Mountain trail is located on Squaw Pass between Evergreen and Idaho Springs. There is no parking area designated for the trail but there is a small area that a few cars can park on the side of the road just above the Echo Mountain ski area. No bathroom facilities are available at the trailhead.

Wrap up of Chief Mountain

I really enjoyed this hike. I think coming in the winter added an extra amount of beauty with the blue sky and white snow pack. The trail is pretty narrow and gaining almost one thousand feet of elevation in about a mile and half is no joke. But if you can handle that it is a nice short hike that has some amazing views. It would be nice if there was some more parking but then too many people would be on the trail!

I have added this hike and all of my hikes to my interactive map page that you can find here. If you have a suggestion or comment you can email me at fatmanlittletrails@gmail.com. You can also follow me on any of the below social media platforms. Happy Hiking!

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