When I told people I wanted to see Lincoln Lake, some laughed. That's because it's one of the easiest lakes to see in the Mount Evans Wilderness -- it's right by the road. However, while you can see Echo Lake and Summit Lake as you drive by, Lincoln Lake is actually below the road. That means stopping and hiking a bit.
Reset your odometer at the Mount Evans entrance/pay station and drive about seven miles. You should see a little parking area, with room for about 3-4 cars on the opposite side of the road. That's where I suggest parking for the short cut hike to Lincoln Lake.
Look over the edge of the road and you should see a small, rocky ledge. Work your way down this ledge and you should see a faint, single-track, dirt trail heading toward the lake. As you stand here, you'll see part of the lake, but it's worth walking down the hill, at least a little way, to see more.
We walked about a quarter mile to an overlook of sorts. It's a steep walk down -- we dropped almost 400 feet in that quarter mile. But the views here were great. You can see the entire lake.
Now the question is, how much further do you want to drop? The lake sits about 800 feet below the road. While the hike is short, coming back up is tough.
We hiked down about 500 feet in a third of a mile and decided to sit and enjoy the views from there, instead of going to the shoreline. But instead of just hiking back up the steep hill, we decided to have some fun. We went off-trail and headed for the ridge above us. Not the road, the ridge. We took our time going back up, enjoying the views of the lake below us and the rocks above us. At the ridge, we went exploring. This is a beautiful spot.
In some places the rocks look like they've been stacked one on top of the next one. In other spots, we used the rocks to frame the views of the valley on the other side of the ridge. (See photos in the slideshow.)
After some exploring, some photos and a little scrambling, it was time to head back up to our car. Once again, we took our time, since we still had to climb a couple hundred feet.
Details: This hike can be a few steps or a mile or two. You can drop down a 1/4 mile (and 400 feet) or go down the entire 800 feet to the lake's shoreline. On the way back up, you can take the trail, or go off-trail and explore the ridge. You can also drop down to the lake, walk around and look for the trail down to Resthouse Meadows or out to Summit Lake.
Check out the long way to Lincoln Lake (which I liked) and the mid-length way (which I don't recommend). Find more great hikes in this list of 200+ hikes across the state. Don't miss any of my trip reports, sign up for an email alert by clicking on subscribe at the top of this page and follow me on Facebook.
Admission fee: $10 in 2014 or use your federal National Park's pass to drive the road for free. Note, the road is typically open from Memorial Day to September. Check www.cotrip.org for the latest information.
Directions from the Forest Service: From I-70: Take exit 240 in Idaho Springs. Follow Highway 103 south until it meets Echo Lake. Take Highway 5 about 7 miles from the entrance station to Lincoln Lake. From Evergreen: Take Squaw Pass Road/Highway 103 west and travel to Echo Lake. Take Highway 5 about 7 miles from the entrance station to Lincoln Lake.
Off-trail hiking: If you decide to hike off-trail to the ridge, you will want good boots, and possibly trekking poles. If you have a group of people, do not walk single file, that creates a trail. Experts say you should spread out.