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
Cataract Loop Trail
|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)|
Lower Cataract Lake is located 25 miles northwest of Silverthorne, CO in the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area of the White River National Forest. The Cataract Loop Trail circles the lake on gentle grades and mild terrain that's well suited for families, runners, anglers and winter recreation. Though short, visitors will enjoy a surprising range of ecotones that include open sage fields, thick aspen groves, dense spruce-fir forests and colorful 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 southwesterly 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.
The grade 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').
GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84View these GPS points on a Google Map
- N37 56.057 W122 44.826 — Palomarin Trailhead
- N37 56.250 W122 45.560 — 1.0 miles : Travel on bluffs over Palomarin Beach
- N37 56.591 W122 45.494 — 2.0 miles : Curl inland around wide coastal valley
- N37 56.799 W122 45.436 — 2.2 miles Lake Ranch Trail junction
- N37 57.160 W122 45.886 — 2.9 miles : Bass Lake access spur
- N37 57.104 W122 46.160 — 3.15 miles : Crystal Lake Trail junction
- N37 57.233 W122 46.689 — 3.75 miles : Alamere Falls Trail junction
- N37 57.248 W122 46.983 — 4.1 miles : Cross Falls (point may vary by individual)
- N37 57.212 W122 47.016 — 4.3 miles : Alamere Falls and Wildcat Beach
- N37 58.165 W122 47.452 — 5.45 miles : Wildcat Camp and Coast Trail access
- 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.
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 miles to County Road 30. Turn west on County Road 30 (a maintained dirt road) and travel 5.6 miles to Cataract Road and bear left. 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