Hiking to non-existent reservoirs is still a day of Colorado bliss

Remember our adventures atop 14,265-foot Mt. Evans and how I vowed to go back to the eccentrically charming Echo Mountain Lodge’s gift shop and restaurant? Two days later, it happened.

Upon returning home, I checked my email. My friend Dawn organized a summer hiking group with gals from church and I was shocked to see that Tuesday’s hike was to Idaho Springs Reservoir and the trailhead was right at Echo Lake. We skipped swim lessons that day and I declared yet another mountain adventure was in order. On previous hikes, there were plenty of kids but no one Hadley’s age so we invited her bestie Alex along for the ride.

Besties at Echo Lake

Idaho Springs Reservoir

Though I’ve hiked 90 percent of the trails on the Front Range, the Chicago Lakes Trail to Idaho Springs Reservoir is over an hour from my house and deep in the backcountry so I was not familiar with it. As we started hiking, a mom whipped out her guidebook for directions and lo-and-behind it was Best Hikes with Kids, the book I was contacted about revising a few years ago!

The publisher shipped me a copy when it came out last year and I was mostly relieved I turned down the project and pleased that the author did such a nice job with it. Mind you, if I was contacted about doing something similar now, my kiddos are of a more suitable age for me to take it on.

The guidebook is thorough but here’s one thing the author neglected to mention: this hike is not great for young kiddos. For about 12 minutes, we skirted along a narrowish ledge with a steep drop. We had a few preschoolers, which made for an ulcer-inducing time. Even more stressful was I was up front with the older kids while the other moms helped the youngin’s at the back. My friend Dawn has two darling twin boys who are Bode’s age and let me tell you, those boys are mischievous. One of them tried climbing DOWN the steep cliff while the other tried to race past us while still on that ledge.

We eventually sent them back to hike with their mom and everyone was much happier. Well, except for them.

The guidebook suggested we start at the Echo Lake Campground but the host said it was quicker to commence from the north side of Echo Lake. There was a simple map in the guidebook but we had no idea how far our altered route was. We stopped a lady on the trail who had a topographical map and lo-and-behind, the Idaho Springs Reservoir wasn’t even on it. You know, OUR DESTINATION.

Echo Lake, the group at the creek and that lovely ledge.

We kept blindly hiking for another 15 minutes with glorious views of Mount Evans looming in the background. Upon reaching a creek, we opted to turn back. Who knew if we were even going the right way and we had already been hiking an hour.

If there’s anything I hate, it’s unfinished business and that is particularly prevalent with hiking. If I don’t summit, I have to go back or I obsess about it. Upon turning around, we were a few minutes from the trailhead when we ran into a hiker. I started talking to him and mentioned our turnaround point. “Oh really? You should have kept going. Idaho Springs Reservoir is only 1/4-mile from that creek.”

I guess the only positive side to that is I’ll be back.

The Scenic Route

As promised, I let the kids each pick out a souvenir at Echo Lake Lodge but opted to hold out to try the restaurant until we could return with Jamie (he was only a little bit bitter about being left behind). Then, instead of heading back on I-70, I announced we were going the scenic route via new-to-me Squaw Pass Road to Evergreen, one of my favorite mountain hamlets. My bribery? I’d buy them ice cream.

Of course, with views like this, it doesn’t take too much arm-bending. The great thing about traveling with kids is they have a radar for anything fun. We stopped at Baskin-Robbins in Evergreen and upon sitting on the creekside benches, they noticed a charming area to climb trees and play in Bear Creek so that is exactly what we did for the next hour.

Bear Creek, Evergreen

Oh, to be a kid again. But living vicariously through them is the next best thing.

96-mile journey