Chihuahua Lake in Colorado is one of our favorite alpine lakes we’ve ever hiked to, and it’s certainly in the running for best hikes near Breckenridge area. The trail is lightly trafficked – we saw only a couple people throughout the entire day. While the hike is great, the true payoff is the lake at the end of hike. Its bright sapphire water is unlike most other alpine lakes in the area, and the view is well worth the effort to get there.
Distance: 7.8 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1,879 ft
Difficulty: moderately strenuous
Features: wildflowers, alpine lake, mountain views
Trailhead Coordinates: 39.600484, -105.838183
Coming from Denver, take I-70 westbound until exit 205. Take the exit then turn left at the light onto US-6. Continue on US-6 through Keystone and at the fork for Loveland Pass, keep right towards Montezuma. Drive on Montezuma Road for about 4 miles then take a left onto County Road 260 / Peru Creek Road. Continue for about 2 miles on this unpaved road. It’s easy enough that most vehicles should be able to make it to the trailhead, but sedans with lower clearance may need to take it a little slower.
The trailhead is not clearly marked, so it would be helpful to navigate using All Trails driving directions or enter the trailhead coordinates from above into Google Maps. You’ll know you’re there when you see a small parking area on the right directly across from a 4×4 road (FSR 263.1) going up to the left. If you have a 4×4 vehicle, technically you can continue up this road to save yourself some mileage, but we we not able to continue because the road was too thin for a 4runner (maybe a small jeep, SxS, or 4wheeler would be better). The road looked to be passible in average 4×4’s but we were more concerned about some serious racing stripes so we opted to walk.
The Hike – Chihuahua Lake
Whether you’re on foot or driving, continue up the rocky and steep 4×4 road. You’ll pass through pine forest, aspens, and massive rock slide areas with huge boulders. There are several small creek crossings, some of which are larger and more difficult than others but all are very doable. The trail is hardest at the beginning, middle, and the end, with sections in between that let you rest your legs.
Two miles in, you’ll reach the official trailhead where you would park if you drove this portion. There’s a sign marking Chihuahua Trail #78. The trail from here gets thinner and more rocky, becoming pretty steep after a slight left curve in the route. Once you climb this more difficult section, it evens out as you cross another open meadow, but this one is above tree line.
At around 3 miles in, you’ll begin the final ascent up to the lake, which is the most difficult part of the hike. It’s pretty steep with loose rocks, with some sections possibly requiring you to use your hands for stability. The lake is at about 3.6 miles in, so thankfully this final ascent is fairly short. Once you summit, you’ll descend a small hill down to the lakeshore.
We immediately loved Chihuahua Lake and spent several hours there fishing and enjoying the summer sunshine. Derek fly fished and caught several beautiful, good-sized cutthroat trout. Sight casting here is easy with the crystal clear water, and you could see fish swimming all over the place.
It’s pretty windy up there, so a wind breaker and sweater are useful, even on warm summer days. Bring a snack or lunch and enjoy your time at the lake, keeping in mind that you should be back below tree line by early afternoon.