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Upper Cataract Lake

  4.3 ( 6 ) Favorite


10.4 mile 16.8 kilometer out and back


Ascent: 2,510' 765 m
Descent: -2,510' -765 m
High: 10,946' 3,336 m
Low: 8,632' 2,631 m


Avg Grade: 9% (5°)
Max Grade: 33% (18°)


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Trail shared by Brian Huber

A great, shaded trail with multiple high-alpine lakes.

Brian Huber

Features Birding · Fall Colors · Fishing · Lake · River/Creek · Swimming · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife · Commonly Backpacked

This hike enters Eagles Nest Wilderness so dogs must be on leash, no bikes are allowed, and no campfires are allowed above treeline or within 1/4 mile of any lake.


The hike begins in alpine fields and then winds through aspen groves to reach Surprise Lake. From there, the trail continues through similar groves until it reaches Upper Cataract and Mirror Lakes.

This is a popular weekend backpacking spot, so leave early to score a campsite by one of the three lakes.

Info from USFS can be found here.

Need to Know

This trail can be especially busy on weekends, so try to plan your hike during the week.


From I-70 take Exit 205 for Silverthorne/Dillon and travel north on HWY 9 for 16 miles. At mile marker 118, turn left onto County Road 30 toward the town of Heeney. Follow County Road 30 for 5.3 miles and then turn left onto Cataract Creek Road (FDR 1725). Continue for 2.5 miles to the parking area at the end of the road. Please do not block the gate!

The Surprise Lake Trailhead (FDT 62) is at the foot bridge. Approximately 2.35 miles from the trailhead you'll intersect with Gore Range Trail #60. Turn right (west) on Gore Range Trail #60, which you'll follow for 0.81 miles until you reach the intersection for Upper Cataract Lake Trail #63 on your left (southwest). Travel approximately 2.16 miles to Upper Cataract Lake, which will be on your left. Continue for another 1.31 miles to reach Mirror Lake.

Many views of the Cataract Creek drainage are available along this trail. Fishing is reportedly in both of these lakes.

Flora & Fauna

An abundance of wildflowers can be seen from late-June through mid-July. The lower quarter of the trail is a pleasant trip through open aspen groves. However, the trail becomes increasingly more difficult as you climb in elevation through fir and spruce forest.

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Family Friendly, ADA Accessible, History & Background


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Aug 11, 2019
Lexí Roberts
Lovely lovely! Caught sight of a red crossbill for the first time 7.8mi
Aug 10, 2019
Brian Huber
Boom! Full 10.4 with Lexi 10.4mi — 7h 50m
Jun 22, 2018
Meagan Shepherd
Sep 11, 2017
Jeru Kidder
Jul 8, 2017
Matt Anderson
Steady climb all the way, but Upper Cataract is beautiful. Great fishing and plenty of great places for tents. 10.4mi — 8h 00m

Trail Ratings

  4.3 from 6 votes


in Heeney


  4.3 from 6 votes
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in Heeney


in Colorado


143 Views Last Month
4,074 Since Aug 13, 2019



Final descent to Upper Cataract Lake with Eagles Nest looming in the distance.
Aug 11, 2019 near Vail, CO
Upper Cataract Lake looking south.
Jul 14, 2017 near Vail, CO
Gore Range approaching Mirror/Cataract Lake
Jun 21, 2015 near Vail, CO
Unnamed lake just below Upper Cataract Lake.
Jul 14, 2017 near Vail, CO
Mirror Lake
Jun 21, 2015 near Vail, CO
Surprise Lake
Jun 21, 2015 near Vail, CO


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