Cataract Loop Trail, Lower Cataract Lake Trailhead, Summit County - Eagle County - Clear Creek County, Colorado
Cataract Loop Trail - 2.25 miles
Lower Cataract Lake Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||2.25 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||8,652' - 8,652' (8,805' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+152' net elevation gain (+312' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Cataract Loop Trail - 2.25 Miles Round-Trip
Lower Cataract Lake is located 25 miles northwest of Silverthorne, CO in the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area. The Cataract Loop Trail circles the lake on mild terrain that's well suited for families, runners, anglers and winter recreation.
Though short, visitors will enjoy diverse ecotones that include open sage fields, thick aspen groves, dense spruce-fir forests and leafy riparian zones around the lake and its inlet stream.
Three paths emanate from the Lower Cataract Lake Loop Trailhead. The left and right forks follow the loop trail, while the middle provides direct access to the lake. The following description follows the left fork and travels clockwise around the lake:
The Cataract Loop Trail drops across the outlet stream and rises up the lake's southeast shore with good views of aspen-sage studded hillsides to the north. It officially enters the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area (.17 miles : 8,644') and levels on a SW heading above the lake through open scrub.
The trail is gradually enveloped by columns of spruce as it wraps around the lake's west side and enters a notably tall pine forest (1.0 miles : 8,661').
The trail shifts quickly through dark timber to a long bridge spanning Lower Cataract Lake's primary inlet (1.2 miles : 8,684'), born from Tipperary Lake directly to the south.
It soon emerges on the lake's marshy west shore, a good place to see waterfowl. The trail bends northeast (1.5 miles : 8,666') and undulates to the loop's highest point (8,805') with excellent views across the lake basin and a glimpse of some of the Gore Range's tallest peaks.
Travel moderates along the north shore through a diverting stretch of aspen, some of considerably size and girth. The trail merges with a private road (2.1 miles : 8,704') and glides gently back to the trailhead to complete the loop (2.25 miles : 8,652').
- N39 50.239 W106 18.967 — Lower Cataract Lake Loop Trailhead
- N39 50.018 W106 19.179 — .5 miles : Mild travel along south shore of lake
- N39 49.797 W106 19.491 — 1.0 miles : SW corner of lake in thick spruce-fir forest
- N39 49.690 W106 19.586 — 1.2 miles : Cross wide inlet stream on footbridge
- N39 49.909 W106 19.604 — 1.5 miles : Undulating travel up NW corner of lake
- N39 50.193 W106 19.156 — 2.1 miles : Merge with road; gentle glide back to TH
- N39 50.239 W106 18.967 — 2.25 miles : Lower Cataract Lake Loop Trailhead
- Mild grades and good trail conditions are well suited for families, runners, anglers and winter recreation.
- Large swaths of aspen and leafy riparian vegetation in the lake vicinity make the Cataract Loop Trail particularly colorful in the fall. Summer wildflowers are notably abundant along the lake's north and east shores.
- Though County Road 30 and Cataract Road are well-groomed and accessible by most vehicles in good condition, the roads are narrow in places and subject to washouts and potholes. Contact the Dillon Ranger District for the latest road conditions.
Camping and Backpacking Information
- Camping is permitted only within designated campsites at the Cataract Lake Campground. Dispersed-Backcountry camping is not permitted in the Lower Cataract Lake vicinity.
- Dispersed backcountry camping is permitted in the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area. No permit is necessary. Camping is prohibited within 100' of any lake or stream. Group size is limited to 15 individuals.
- Campfires are permitted for dispersed camping in the backcountry, with potential seasonal restrictions. Campfires are not permitted above or within .25 miles (440 yards) of treeline, or within 100' of any lake or stream in the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area.
- Contact the Dillon Ranger District (970.468.5400) for the latest on weather, trail conditions and trail-specific usage guidelines when planning your trip. The office is open M - F from 8am - 4pm.
- For those not wishing to camp in the backcountry, there are several developed campgrounds within the White River National Forest. Contact the Dillon Ranger District for information on these sites.
- Fishing is permitted at Lower Cataract Lake with a valid Colorado fishing license.
Rules and Regulations
- Dogs are permitted on the Lower Cataract Lake Loop Trail and within the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area. Dogs must be leashed at all times, on a leash no longer than 6'.
- Horses are permitted on the Lower Cataract Lake Loop.
- Bikes and motorized vehicles are not permitted on the Lower Cataract Lake Loop.
Directions to Trailhead
Lower Cataract Lake is located within the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area and Dillon Ranger District of the White River National Forest. The Lower Cataract Lake Trailhead is located 25.2 miles northwest of Silverthorne, CO on Cataract Road.
From I-70, exit #205 at Silverthorne and head north on HWY 9 for 17.0 miles to Heeney Road (County Road 30). Turn west on Heeney Road and travel 5.6 miles to Cataract Road and turn left. Cataract Road is an improved dirt road suitable for most 2WD cars in good condition.
Continue 2.6 miles on Cataract Road past the Cataract Lake Campground, Eaglesmere Trailhead and Surprise Trailhead to the dead-end at the Lower Cataract Lake Trailhead.
Dillon Ranger District
680 Blue River Parkway
Silverthorne, CO 80498
M - F from 8am - 4pm
White River National Forest
900 Grand Ave.
P.O. Box 948
Glenwood Springs CO 81602