Chief Mountain (CO)

March 27, 2022


Idaho Springs, CO

Chief Mountain is a short and popular hike near Echo Mountain ski resort not far from the small village of Idaho Springs in the Front Ranges. I was browsing the maps and randomly noticed this peak with a trail to the summit. A quick search on AllTrails showed that it’s regularly done in winter/spring as well. I chose to hike Chief Mountain in order to properly acclimate for Mt. Elbert the day after. This was my first time ever hiking in the state of Colorado so I wanted to tackle the altitude more gradually. I had previously summitted a handful of peaks between 4200 and 4700 m in one day from sea level and never got sick, but that might be just pure luck.

Doug, Arthur and I spent the better half of the day driving from Utah back to Golden, CO along I-70. I should have slept during the drive, but I wanted to check out the scenery as I had never been to this area before. We got back to Arthur’s apartment at around 2 pm. I needed time to take a shower and to repack, but by 3:30 pm I was ready to get out again. I borrowed Arthur’s Subaru for a day and half since I booked my rental car in the morning of 29th. The weather forecast for the 28th was the best in the coming week so I needed that day for Mt. Elbert. I drove back onto I-70 and followed Google’s direction onto some narrow and winding, but paved roads for about half an hour.

Chief Mountain and Papoose Mountain. GPX DL

I knew the trail should be very hard-packed but I carried snowshoes nonetheless as I wanted 100% chance of success. Having to turn around because of not bringing snowshoes is downright unacceptable in my book. Of course the snowshoes turned out to be weight training if I only wanted to hike Chief Mountain, but I did make use of them by adding a bonus, untracked peak. The ascent of Chief Mountain was longer than I thought mostly because I was hiking at a snail’s pace. Still, I caught up with groups of people and passed them. Nearing the summit the foot tracks more-or-less went for a straight beeline and the views were much more expansive than expected.

As typical as the trail was in the forest…
Breaking through the trees near the summit
Looking east at the slight-lower Squaw Mountain
Summit Panorama from Chief Mountain. Click to view large size.
Pikes Peak in the far distance
The summit area has some large boulders. Mt. Evans behind in the background
Tremont Mountain is that prominent-ish peak in the distance
A closer look at the Front Range 14er – Mt. Evans that also has a road to the summit
Another hiker descending from the summit boulder
Me on the summit of Chief Mountain, my first peak in Colorado
Another photo of me on the summit with Parry Peak etc. behind

I stayed on the summit for about half an hour to soak in the views. I was hoping to stay longer for better acclimatization but then I decided to use the spare time to ascend Papoose Mountain nearby. This bonus peak looked to be completely forested but it’s officially-named so I had to tag it. After descending back to Chief/Papoose saddle I could not find a set of tracks heading up Papoose Mountain, so I spent a minute or two to don snowshoes.

Looking back towards the summit of Chief Mountain
The Rockies front range skyline in the background
The other group descending. I passed them quickly.