With a surface elevation of 10,725 feet, Upper Cataract Lake is a beautiful, natural body of water tucked into the Gore Range of the Rocky Mountains. Located south of Heeney, Colorado, visitors can reach Upper Cataract Lake by hiking or riding horseback deep into the White River National Forest.
From the trailhead, the journey to Upper Cataract Lake is roughly five miles in length and experiences nearly 2,500 feet in elevation gain along occasionally steep terrain. At the shores, visitors are greeted with clear waters and stunning views of Eagle’s Nest Peak and surrounding mountains.
Access to the Surprise Trailhead parking lot is typically open from late May to mid-October. After passing Surprise Lake, snow may block the route leading to Cataract Lake as late as mid-June. Free parking and restrooms are located at the trailhead, and ordinary passenger vehicles should not encounter any issues along the well-maintained forest road.
Backpacking: Backpacking is permitted at Cataract Lake, with a few designated backcountry campsites surrounding the water and in other areas of the Eagles Nest Wilderness. Traveling by horseback is also permitted on the trail.
Camping: The Cataract Creek Campground is available near the Surprise Trailhead. You can also find dispersed camping on some of the forest service roads within the White River NF. There are also a handful of campgrounds located closer to US 9 at Green Mountain Reservoir.
Fishing: Upper Cataract Lake is a great, low-traffic fishing spot and there are also many opportunities for stream access along the way. Anglers age 16 and older are required to carry a valid state fishing license.
Hiking: Hiking to Upper Cataract Lake is very popular in the height of summer and early autumn, with the opportunity to view many species of seasonal wildflowers and dramatic fall colors from abundant aspen trees.
Visitors should be prepared for wildlife encounters and may experience many bugs in the area during the summer months. Dogs must be kept on a leash at all times. There are other activities within the White River National Forest.
Trailhead Address: Surprise Trailhead, Forest Rd 1725, Silverthorne, CO 80498
Season: Best in summer and early fall
Map: data.fs.usda.gov… (PDF)