Lower Cataract Lake is a pristine, natural body of water located in the Eagle’s Nest Wilderness section of the White River National Forest, west of Heeney, Colorado. Found within the northern Gore Range, Lower Cataract Lake is about halfway between Kremmling and Silverthorne in Summit County.
Lower Cataract Lake is a popular location to see summer wildflowers and fall colors amidst dramatic mountain views. To reach Lower Cataract Lake, visitors are required to walk along a short path for a full view of the water. From here, the 2.3-mile Lower Cataract Loop Trail provides panoramic views of the lake and surrounding scenery.
In the winter, access may be open to cross country skiing and snowshoeing, depending on weather and snow conditions. Public restrooms are available in the parking lot, provided by the US Forest Service. Despite its remote location, the area can become very crowded with Rocky Mountain visitors in the summer and fall.
Birding: Lower Cataract Lake offers tremendous opportunities for birding and wildlife viewing. The lake is frequented by native and migratory birds such as waxwings, warblers, towhees, woodpeckers, grosbeaks, swallows, eagles, and more.
Boating: Non-motorized watercraft are permitted, such as canoes, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboard. You must hand-launch all boats.
Camping: Camping is permitted adjacent to Lower Cataract Lake at the White River National Forest Cataract Creek Campground. Here, there are a handful of first-come-first-served campsites with a picnic table, fire ring, and access to pit toilets. Campsites require an overnight fee and are heavily sought after while the facilities are open from May until mid-October.
Backcountry camping opportunities are also available in the White River National Forest along the challenging Eaglesmere and Surprise Trails.
Fishing: Lower Cataract Lake and its surrounding streams are great for fishing. A valid state fishing license is required and standard harvest regulations apply.
Although previously stocked by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, anglers are more likely to catch native brook and brown trout in Lower Cataract Lake. Fishing from non-motorized boats such as floats and kayaks is permitted on Lower Cataract Lake, and all watercraft must be hand launched.
Hiking: The Lower Cataract Loop Trail #57 has minimal elevation gain and is generally very busy during peak seasons and weekends. Travel is limited to foot traffic only, with mountain biking and horseback riding prohibited around the lake. Dogs are permitted with a leash to protect the native wildlife.
Lower Cataract Lake is also a great access point for longer trails into the Eagles Nest Wilderness with opportunities for backpacking, horseback riding, and extended nordic skiing. From the Lower Cataract Lake parking area, serious hikers can reach the dramatically scenic Upper Cataract Lake via the Surprise Lake or Eaglesmere trails.
Picnicking: There are a few scattered picnic areas near the shore of Lower Cataract Lake which are free for visitors to use. All trash must be packed out and campfires are prohibited in the lake area.
Address: Lower Cataract Lake, Heeney, CO 80498
Season: May – October
Maps: dillonrangerdistrict.com… (PDF)