Chief Mountain is a relatively short hike with amazing views at the top. Clocking in at just over 4 miles round trip, from the summit of Chief Mountain you’ll have 360 views of some of the best of the Colorado Rockies, from flat views of the Front Range to the East, to Mt. Evans rising up over 14,000′ to the South-West, and a gorgeous section of the Range to the North(ish). While we made our way up to the tree line and got to witness the stunning views to the North, we didn’t quite make it to the summit, the reasons for which I’ll discuss in my next post. But today I’m just going to talk about the trail itself, because finding this trailhead requires an entire post of its own.
You can google directions to the trailhead and you can read other articles on how to find it, but they’re all just going to lead you to the turnoff where you can park, and you will be stuck standing there for 20 minutes trying to figure out where to go. It is my hope that a combination of words, annotated maps, photos and videos will help you find this lost trailhead in at least half the time it took us.
DISTANCE: About 4 miles round trip
DIFFICULTY: Summer: Easy/moderate. Winter: Moderate. Short but a bit steep.
STARTING ELEVATION: 10,760′
SUMMIT ELEVATION: 11,640′
TOTAL ELEVATION GAIN: 880′
Let’s break down how to find the trailhead into steps:
- Click here for google directions to the turn off. If you are coming from the East, it is exactly 12 miles from the intersection of Evergreen Parkway and Squaw Pass Road.
- Confirm you are in the correct spot by looking at this map:
3. Once you’ve parked, look over the downhill edge. If you see a ski chairlift, you’re in the right spot.
Are you clicking on the white links? They’re hilarious! (Or so we think.)
4. Across the road, looking uphill toward Chief Mountain you’ll see this:
Where on earth is the trailhead?!?!
5. If all else fails, just start climbing up. You will eventually hit the cross country ski trail (Old Squaw Pass Rd). It is a very uniform trail that runs parallel to the road you drove in on, so no matter which way you twist and turn up the hill you’ll get to it. Once you’re on that ski trail, if you look to the East you’ll see a huge rock at the end of the trail, just above where the Squaw Mountain parking lot would be.
Before we knew where the real trail was, we turned the wrong way at the first fork, came up too far to the west and almost turned in the wrong direction. So if you bushwhacked up the hill like we did, make sure you head toward the rock in the picture above until you get to the marker Andre is pointing at. Just above him to the right, buried in snow, is the actual Chief Mountain trail sign.
Once you pass this point the trail is easy to follow to the summit.
Which we never quite made it to.
But that’s a story for another day.
– C. Egli