Trip Report: Lower Chicago Lake

A couple of my fishing buddies and I recently took a day trip to a scenic lake outside of Idaho Springs here in Colorado. This recap narrates the adventure and recommendations are discussed following the trip report. Enjoy!

5:00 AM

A soft, orange light glowed through the curtain cracks as my alarm reached crescendo. Simultaneously, I heard the distant sound of my friend’s alarms, gaining volume before quickly disappearing. Despite the early hour, my friends and I quickly rose to greet the day. We planned out a day-hike to Lower Chicago Lake outside of Idaho Springs, Colorado. The walkabout totaled just under 8 miles and is a decently popular trail for the weekend warriors, so we aimed to leave early to beat any potential crowds. As a group of friends tend to do, we left a half hour late but still made quick of the drive to the trailhead.

7:30 AM

Our packs are loaded on our backs, the dogs are fed and watered, and we are on our way to the spot. The weather was amply fair for our intentions, with lanky whisps tumbling along the skyline and a chilled air comforting our hike.

We gain altitude quickly in some spots along the trail, but otherwise follow along a beautiful path through the forest. The pines smell strong and wildflowers sprawl across the landscape. We continue along the trail with high spirits, chatting of random thoughts and catching up since our last outing. My friends are well prepared for the hike, with lightweight packs and proper gear. I have opted for the more casual route and have decided to pack an oversized bag, with my cameras, water and gear sitting on top of my sandwich. One day, I’ll truly understand how people properly pack for occasions. At this point I’m surprised I didn’t bring a spare tire under the premise of “you never know if you’ll need it”. Regardless, we continue in a quick pace up the trail.

9:50 AM

With the trail behind us and the lake drawing us near, my friends and I seem to have chosen the lesser-traveled path straight through a willow patch. We continue through the maze slowly and, rather awkwardly, weave a way through the entanglement. After a fierce battle and some ‘marco-polo’, we find our way to the banks of Lower Chicago Lake.

The water is clear and mountain-stream cold. A still morning created beautiful reflections on the lake’s surface, and we each took our respective moments to indulge in some of nature’s beauty. We pressed the South bank to reach some boulders which provided a great opportunity to cast into the lake’s deeper parts. We settle on a grassy bank behind the boulders and unpack our bags. We each used fiberglass rods (built by yours truly) ranging from 7’6” to 9’, 3-weights and up. The boulders sat far enough in the water to allow for long-range casts. Primed and ready, we hopped and waded our way to the boulders.

10:45 AM

Fish on.

I had been rolling out casts for a few minutes before the first ripple emerged. I had a size 14 Amy’s Ant loaded onto my line and honestly doubted its efficacy in these conditions. The fish didn’t seem to mind, as two more takes followed the first. My uncanny ability to set hooks must have been left at the trailhead, but I was eventually able to land my first fish. A beautiful native cutthroat met my basket and paused for a photo before being returned to his domain.

12:20 PM

I am standing on my boulder releasing my fifth catch of the day when I remember my sandwich at the bottom of my backpack. It’s the first thing I’ve thought of other than the present moment since we left the car. After a few more casts, I hopped off the rock to join the crew for lunch. We sat contently in the grass and enjoyed our meals, chatting about the day and some of the fish we’ve met. There is a certain time in everyone’s life when they should do the same.

2:20 PM

The glassy lake surface from the morning has turned into a rolling tide and the clouds are starting to settle in. Colorado in July typically follows this weather pattern; a beautiful calm morning followed by afternoon showers. The last-call was made and we packed our bags to head back down the trail. A few drops and some blustery gusts followed us down the trail until we reached the car. Well-worn, we emptied ourselves in the truck to return home to a well-deserved meal.

The trail to Chicago Lakes is stunning. You’ll pass through tight aspen groves, open meadows and creeks to wind your way up the path. The trail is clearly marked, and several rest points offer great information about the area. If you’re heading this direction, bring enough water and some snacks. Pack appropriate clothing for both cool and warm conditions and don’t forget a camera! You’ll want to snap some insta-worthy pictures along the way. Lastly, Plan for a full day! I’ll see you there.


Fish on, my friends.