Explore Nate 2018 - view hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

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Only two types of vehicles can make it up the road, 4WD or rentals. We had a rental and if you took it slow, it wasn't much of a problem. This may be the prettiest start to a trail that I have ever hiked. A beautiful lake framed by the mountains, it was awesome. The only disappointment was that you could hear the falls from miles away but when you arrive, you can't get a good view of them.

In one trail we saw a moose a bald eagle and 3 deer. The road to the trail is horrible but the trail, waterfalls and scenery are fabulous

hiking
1 month ago

Nice hike! On the easier side of moderate and I clocked it closer to 3 miles, including all the lakes, but still super enjoyable! Beautiful views. Pretty muddy and snowpacked right now but was fine in regular hiking boots. Went on a Saturday and only saw one other person on the trail.

snowshoeing
2 months ago

Road was open to the trail but you need 4x4 or AWD. We broke trail snowshoeing. We made it two miles in before turning back. Fun first snowshoe of the season.

hiking
2 months ago

Hiked this trail yesterday 10-27-18. Very snowy like the previous poster said. After the first lake it got really deep and we had to turn around. It was also pretty slick after everyone had compacted the snow and melting then refreezing at night. I would be cautious, there were a few parts that were a little touch and go. On the other hand, beautiful beautiful hike!!

Road was good and clear of snow. The hike took me about an hour and forty minutes one way. In a season with less snow, I would have definitely continued on as the trail is beautiful. I enjoyed the last portion best as I neared the creek. Also, I found quite a few scenic options and ended up walking up the boulders to get a better view of the valley and peaks ahead. Met about 7 people on the trail and a few more that came to see the lake. Nice moderate hike. I packed poles but did not need them.

Agree with other reviewers about the road. If it's clear with no snow, you're fine in a basic passenger vehicle. Just go slow. Anything more and a 4x4 is strongly recommended. With that said....

The trail is so worth it. The Gore Range is spectacular. I heard about the crowds, heat, etc. and must have lucked out. Thursday afternoon and not a soul in sight. Perfect day to hike. I started at 12:30pm and finished about 4:00pm with plenty of down time for photos, stop for water, etc. I lost sight of the trail at the falls (even though I could hear them) and ended up on the trail to climb Powell. I didn't have the time to keep going, so turned around and hustled back (got nervous about the weather). But the aspens, pines, falls are worth it.

I just came from sea level and took this trail slow given I've only been at altitude for less than a day. Did fine. I'm in above average shape, so lots of water and a good nights sleep the day before probably helped. I chose this for the limited elevation gain on the trail - think that was the right call.

Strongly recommend.

hiking
2 months ago

Snow on parts of upper half of trail. Fortunately for us, someone who knew the trail had preceded us so it wasn’t hard to find the way. Sunny, windy and about 32 degrees at the lake. A beautiful day!

hiking
2 months ago

I hiked this trail on 10/21/18. Very beautiful area. However, this 7.2 mile out and back turned into 10.5 miles due to the snow. 80% of the trail had between 2 inches - 2.5 feet of snow. The snow and ice made the hike very difficult. Unless you’re experienced with snow hiking and snowshoes, I would not advise the hike until the snow melts. In the end, the snow got so deep, we couldn’t even make it the last 400 meters to grand lake.

One note though is that the first mile of the hike is easy (if no snow) and takes you to a beautiful small waterfall and small lake.

Slow incline on the way up. We took our time. The hike down went much faster. The road here was sketchy. We rented a car, booked a Jeep, ended up with a HYUNDAI. Even the front wheel drive vehicle did fine. If it snows you will need four wheel drive. You get a bit of everything in this hike though. 4- of the 5 senses. Everything but taste:)

We went during the week back in August to avoid the crowds. Bumpy road going up in a Jeep. Views are stunningly beautiful. Gentle stroll at first then slow ascent. I’d barely call this moderate.....more like advanced easy

3 months ago

This hike was so beautiful, the first but is steep but the rest is pretty easy. Each lake was beautiful and so was the overlook and waterfall. I will definitely do this again

trail running
3 months ago

Amazing trail, the lakes and creeks are gorgeous.

backpacking
3 months ago

Really fantastic hike from Surprise Trailhead to Upper Cataract Lake. About 11 miles round trip. From Surprise Trailhead to Surprise Lake, it is 3 miles of steady uphill. Then gets easy the rest of the way.

From Upper Cataract to Mirror it is about 2 miles, mostly downhill. Total, if you go a little past Upper Cataract to Mirror Lake you're looking at 14 miles round trip, with only about 3 miles of difficulty in the beginning.

Once you get to Upper Cataract Lake the trail diverges in multiple places but it finally comes together on the way to Mirror Lake. We found a campsite about .33 miles from Mirror Lake and used that but there are plenty of spaces around Mirror Lake and it is less crowded than Upper Cataract and not too much further.

Note: there is NO camping within 100 feet of the lakes and no fires allowed within .25 miles of any lake. Stoves are ok. There are few campsites within .25 miles of any lake, so be prepared to camp without a fire if it is crowded.

Garmin Activity Going Up:
https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/3055444761
Garmin Activity Going Back:
https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/3055454799

The fall colors are beautiful right now. Great, family-friendly hike

hiking
3 months ago

Great hike on Saturday, 9/22. Very few people on trail. Sunny, clear day, sea level friend joined us and did fine! The first lake you come to is just as beautiful as Lower Missouri Lake, which is just up a bit. We didn’t do the loop to connect up to Fancy Lake Trail bec two in our party were tired. Will try that next time.

Yes, the drive up is long and bumpy, but the hike is so worth it. Fall colors were absolutely beautiful and view over the lake and mountains when you first start is breathtaking. Not a challenging hike at all with just a slight incline and some areas where you have to climb over some rocks. Totally fine to take kids on. There was quite a crowd when I was there, but you can park along the road, so don’t worry too much about that.

Survived the long forest road in a Prius, although any amount of rain or snow would have made it too difficult to pass. The view from the TH/ranch is a stunner. The trail the whole way to the waterfall is an easy hike, and the incline becomes much more challenging up the ridge afterward. We didn’t make more than a mile or so past the waterfall, the view looking back down and out to the Gore Range was worth the extra jaunt.

hiking
3 months ago

Along the ridge trail, beautiful aspen colors. Saw moose near winding river below. Several streams with logs to walk over. Waterfall minimal due to dry season

Absolutely beautiful fall hike! The aspens are gorgeous, and the mountains are spectacular!
The waterfall/creek at the end is nothing to write home about.
Little shade coverage, even when you’re in the trees.
The dirt road is about 5 miles and VERY bumpy- so make sure your car is ready! It’s fine in lower clearance cars as long as you drive nice and slow.

Did this hike about 5 days ago. The Golden aspen were striking and views of mountains ahead and on either side were magnificent. The falls are nice as well. It is quite sun exposed for much of the walk. We went early in morning but even then it was a hot day, but very lovely

Tough hike but very beautiful. The road to the trailhead was a long dirt road but not bad as far as clearance goes-- only the last mile or so was uncomfortably bumpy/slow, I imagine most vehicles could make it up. The beginning of the trail is steep, then it levels out a little with less dramatic gains. Don't be fooled by the first lake you come to... continue up about another 1/4 mile ish to see the bigger lake, it's worth it! Gorgeous water color and mountain backdrop. Highly recommend this for a great workout and views. Not too much fall color change on the hike bc of the tree composition in the area, but the drive from Minturn was stunning with tons of aspens.

Beautiful hike with golden aspen hills, blue skies, and majestic mountains in full view. Toughest part of the day is the drive to the walk. We made it in a non suv, but it’s slow, bumpy, and dusty. You are exposed in sun for most of the hike, so come early or enjoy the heat (and the crowds). But despite all that one of the most beautiful hikes ever

backpacking
4 months ago

We completed a overnight backpacking trip this past weekend, and it was absolutely perfect. It stormed a bit at night, but was perfectly clear by morning. There were plenty of other people staying overnight, but there are so many nooks to camp in that it was easy to feel like you were nearly alone. Incredible views and many places to scramble and explore around the lakes.

hiking
4 months ago

After reading about this hike we decided to make the drive from Breck to give it a go. We weren’t disappointed. A good bit of the hike follows the creek with a few bridges over the water. We covered about 8 miles total as we spent a good bit of time walking around the lakes. The lakes were really nice with good clear water. Great place to camp and we talked with a few folks that were staying the night. Only caveat would be that the trailhead is around 10 miles down an unpaved road but most any vehicle should be able to make it.

backpacking
4 months ago

Great trail with a variety of scenery from meadows, to waterfalls, small gorges, alpine lakes, streams etc. We camped at the larger lake, it looked like there were 1 or 2 other groups there and a couple more at the lower lake.

5.9 miles and 2362’ gain from Surprise Lake TH to Upper Cataract lake. Although steep in the beginning, the trail mellows out around 3 miles and it is so beautiful.

We backpacked one night. There’s a permit to fill out at the TH—please read the rules. All of the lakes here have a 100 foot minimum perimeter to camp nearby. Even though you see a spot right next to the lake, you should move back and away from the water.

We observed several groups of people and dogs camping a mere 4 feet from the lake shore. Please follow backcountry rules! Keep it beautiful.

We found plenty of great spots tucked up above the lake and in the trees, you just have to look for them. Great spot for fishing and set in a beautiful basin.

backpacking
4 months ago

Wonderful hike, but keep a close eye on the trail.

backpacking
4 months ago

First part of the trail from the lower lake is a steep grade change. Grade calms down after surprise lake, but is still a climb. The Eagles nest route is longer but less of a climb. This trail has become very popular since the first time I hiked it 40 years ago. Beautiful views, while a backpacking trail it can be a day hike, but start early as weather is always a factor.

hiking
4 months ago

My dog and I drove up for a day hike and spent the night next to Lost Lake Slough. It is an easy loop route around all three lakes and there is a nice spot for camping on the shore of Lost Lake Slough.

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