“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." - Henry David Thoreau
I captioned the above photo on Instagram with "If I was the type of person to use phrases like happy place this is where I would" and it couldn't be more true.
I have been coming here, to Echo Lake, since I moved to Colorado almost two years ago. I take almost every visitor, but I'm always surprised that most Denver residents I ask haven't been or have never even known it existed. So here is my plea - for Colorado residents AND visitors - to visit Echo Lake.
Here's some history on Echo Lake. It's at the base of Mt. Evans on the Mt. Evans Scenic byway. It was purchased by Denver in 1920, so although it is 45ish miles from Denver, it is part of the Denver Mountain Parks system.
It encompasses 616.3 acres and at 10,600 ft is Denver's only subalpine park. Echo Lake itself is a 24 acre natural lake that has fishing access, a hiking trail, and links to Forest Service Trails (Chicago Lakes and Bear Tracks Lake).
Echo Lake Lodge is also on the property - originally built in 1926 as a lodge for visitors to the area - it is now a restaurant and gift shop open seasonally along with the Mt. Evans road (highest paved road in North America!) I eat and drink at the restaurant almost every visit in the summer and fall and can vouch for the food, (mostly the pie), and the service. My first Denver friend was probably the bartender I met there last summer. (no shame)
In the 1940's the Echo Lake area was used as a military base for high altitude training. At 10,600 feet above sea level, even casual visitors may experience altitude sickness - especially if continuing on to the summit of Mt. Evans. (14,264 feet above sea level!)
There is a bench at the beginning of the trail perfectly placed for plein air painting. I was painting on this day when a photographer asked to take my picture then graciously suggested she use my phone to take some pics "because I bet no one ever does" (I wasn't experienced at the camera timer back then)
View from the lodge bar. It's great in the summer for a cold drink or in the fall for a hot chocolate (with Baileys obv) The restaurant itself also has a beautiful view. The staff is seasonal and generally interesting and friendly travelers. The last time I ate there this fall I bonded with my server from the Czech Republic over the Kafka book I was reading.
Never gets old. The short Echo Lake trail begins at the parking area and leads to the lodge on the other side of the lake. It is only about 3/4 of a mile each way but it is so beautiful. I generally hike it once and then catch the Chicago Lakes Trail for a longer hike if I'm not content painting or reading.
View from the other side of the lake with the Lodge in the background.
Believe it or not these pictures were taken just 2 weeks apart! Things change quickly in the subalpines.
Narnia. On the Echo Lake Trail.
Despite being gorgeous and easy to get to, the lake usually isn't too crowded - especially in the winter. And despite the tent, there is no camping. Shortly after this photo was taken a park ranger came and shook him out.
Echo Lake trail after the first snow.
Good thing I have those warm fingerless gloves.
Perfect reading spot. No one is ever on my bench.
My other favorite reading spot is a rock right off the Chicago Lakes Trail. Perfect place to celebrate America.
It really is this perfect.
To visit Echo Lake from Denver: drive I-70 to exit 240 (highway 103) and follow the road 14 miles. You will enter Arapaho National Forrest and make some decent elevation gain on the mountain road.
The only thing left to say is: Go! If you're close by go now! If you aren't, put it on your list. Your won't be sorry.