Upper Cataract Lake Trail is a 10.2 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Silverthorne, Colorado that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from March until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

10.2 miles
2,493 feet
Out & Back

dogs on leash





nature trips


trail running






wild flowers





Start at surprise trail. Go past surprise lake. Keep going until you come to Cat lake. Seen from the top of trail. Then keep going on short trail to Upper Cataract Lake.

1 month 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:
Garmin Activity Going Back:

2 months ago

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.

2 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.

3 months ago

Challenging (moderate/difficult) to Surprise Lake and a more moderate second half to Upper Cataract Lake. We left the TH at 6:30am, arrived at Upper Cataract shortly after 9:00am. We fished with small spinners and spoons and caught four brook trout. Great hike, we will be back to camp at Surprise Lake!

3 months ago

Spent 5 days at Upper Cataract lake. As others have said, the hike is not exactly easy but if I can do it it's not impossible (I was clocking a 40-50 minute mile). The lake is spectacular. Especially the side that has the shear cliffs. That side also has incredible fishing. Caught many brookies, browns, and hybrids.

Mirror lake, in my opinion, is okay but not nearly as nice as Upper Cataract. If you hike to Mirror lake be sure to cross the stream that runs out of Mirror lake even though you probably won't see the trail on the other side. Don't be tempted by the trail to your left unless you really, really like making your way over a very large boulder field. Don't ask me how I know.

4 months ago

We hit the trail around 7:30pm and made Surprise lake just at dusk. Recommend starting earlier as the this section is pretty steep. Surprise is very pretty but the upper lake is pretty stunning.
However, busy season and there were campers everywhere. Campers clean up your toilet paper!
5 star beauty but busy, busy. Not a secluded mountain.
4 stars overall
Easy to hike the 5.7 miles out

4 months ago

Hard and up hill beautiful

4 months ago

Bring Bug Spray! Bad mosquito problem the whole way. 6/16/18. But hopefully won't be for long.

Nice trail. Good workout. Several campers along the way. One small snowfield about 30 feet.

The wild flowers were very pretty.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Awesome trail. All of the really hard part is in the first 2 miles. We logged this as 6 miles in and 6 out on the GPS. After Surprise lake the trail mellows. We saw lots of mushrooms. No great views until Cataract lake due to dense forest thus the 4 stars and maybe 40 people were up there by Saturday night, we were glad we went Friday as people were struggling to find spots by Sat night. Cataract Lake was hard to fish, nothing bit on good worms in 2 days of fishing. We only caught 3 baby 5 in brookies with metal spoons. Also this is a difficult trail, almost 3,000 ft of elevation gain and 12 miles I'm seeing 8 mile trails with 2,000 ft that are called difficult.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Yep, it's mostly uphill but hey, most of Colorado is! I led the boy scouts up this trail and we made a 4 day event of it. The trail passes Surprise Lake - a picturesque lake with flowering, floating Lilies. If you camp at this lake, I recommend as soon as you see the lake, hop over the little hill on the north and drop down the other side. It's more secluded and off the trail. As the trail continues towards Cataract Lake, it levels out for awhile then, one last upward trek to some really great views then quickly drop down to Cat and Cataract Lake. Be prepared for any weather as we had over an inch of hail that lasted for 20 minutes. Afternoon rain was regular but that didn't last long.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Easy and quiet in beautiful CO

Friday, August 11, 2017

Not the most scenic hike, and pretty much uphill all the way out. That said, Upper Cataract Lake and Surprise Lake both have great camping spots. Went during the week and it wasn't busy at all. Plenty of space. Fun to do once.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Just got back from backpacking to Upper Cataract Lake. It was stunning. Long, steady uphill until the last half mile when you drop down to the lake. We had two different GPSs that both measured the distance to the Surprise Lake junction as 2.8 miles from the TH, not 2.4 as the topo map shows. We thought we had missed it until we met someone coming down. The first 1.5 miles of trail is filled with wild flowers right now! The trail from Surprise Lake to Upper Cataract is an obstacle course of mud holes and downed trees to navigate over or around (I counted 49 of them) but well worth it. A few small snow patches to cross but nothing dangerous. The west shore of the lake is a boggy mess with all the melting snow so camp spots are somewhat limited right now but we found a great one right near the outflow and a small reflection pond.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

6/10. Trail up to Surprise Lake is just fine, but the trail leading to Upper Cataract Lake is still snowy as shit. Most of it is compacted so its doable without snowshoes, just a bit more tiring. Had to follow footsteps in the snow and at times was a bit tricky sticking to the trail.

When you get to Cat Lake, the trail leading down to it is completely covered in snow. You will have to climb down the steep snow bank, or just slide down it... but climbing back up sucks hard. There's still a lot of snow around Cat Lake and its a bit marshy, but there are some nice spots to camp out

Snow around Upper Cataract Lake hasn't fully melted either, so camping spots may be limited on weekends.

I hiked up Sat night and came down Monday afternoon. The snow melt between those few days was noticeable. Expect it to be more muddy and slushy in the upcoming week.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

I'm a local, grew up 5 mins away from the trail. I LOVE it. It steep until you get to Surprise Lake. At the end it's a little tricky. You will see a lake and think you made it, but its Cat Lake. I do recall a sign that was there explaining it. Go further up and you will find upper Cataract. There are camping spots around the lake and it's the at the base of Eagle's Nest (Most locals call it Sleeping Indian). An Awesome view the whole way up!!

Sunday, September 04, 2016

The best. Steep at first in a washed out gully-trail. Flattens out at surprise lake. Upper cataract is breathtaking.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

I loved this hike! It starts out through 2 meadows with aspens and beautiful wildflowers. The first 2.5 miles is a long, steep grind until you get to Surprise Lake. But then things get a little easier. My dog loved all the creek crossings.

I took a star away for two reasons:
1. It was poorly marked. I met 2 other groups at a trail marker near Cat Lake. There was NO mention of Upper Cataract Lake. (just so you know, continue walking straight beyond the spur).
2. This is more of a complaint with Alltrails.com. The site said this hike is dog-friendly. There was NO mention that leashes are required.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Take bug spray ,alot of mosquitos when we went. Crossing alot of creeks, and ponds. 7-22-2005

1 month ago

2 months ago

3 months ago

3 months ago

5 months ago

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Sunday, September 03, 2017

recorded Upper Cataract Lake Trail

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Saturday, June 24, 2017

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