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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.

Length 10.2 mi Elevation gain 2,493 ft Route type Out & Back

Dogs on leash

Backpacking

Camping

Hiking

Nature trips

Snowshoeing

Walking

Bird watching

Running

Forest

Lake

River

Views

Wild flowers

Wildlife

Bugs

Muddy

Snow

Description
Waypoints (0)

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.

Weather
UV Index
Daylight
Reviews (90)
Photos (179)
Recordings (41)
Completed (201)
Jon Hill
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMon Jul 06 2020
HikingBugs

Cat lake and upper Cataract are beautiful. Lots of bugs bring the deet. Trees all the way mostly mature aspen, fir and spruce.

View Jon 's Recording
Jill Hatch
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarMon Jul 06 2020
BackpackingBugs

BUGS!!!!!! I didn't even know the entire state of colorado had so many mosquitos...... bring bug spray or long sleeves and pants if you want to survive this hike. Other than that the trail was super nice and the lake was beautiful!! We did an overnight backpacking trip, lots of good camping spots all around upper cataract lake.

Brendan C
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarTue Jun 30 2020
BackpackingBugs

One night backpacking trip to Upper Cataract Lake, hike was uphill but not too aggressive. Trail is almost entirely through lush forest with little variety until reaching the Lake. Amazing views and good camp spots. The lake is massive and has tons of fish. Surprise Lake is a good rest spot halfway up the trail. Only flaw is the mosquitos were awful. Probably the worse I have ever experienced as they followed us up the entire trail and never let up. Still a great trail though and the bugs might be seasonal as it was really wet near the lake from snow met. Prefect for late summer.

Anya Kaufmann
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarMon Jun 29 2020
BackpackingBugs

Did this as an overnight trip the weekend of 6/27. Got to Surprise trailhead at 7:30am on Saturday and it was already full. Luckily there was still plenty of parking just up the road at Lower Cataract trailhead. The hike is definitely an uphill climb pretty much the whole way. We ran into mosquitos early on and they persisted the whole hike. Definitely bring bug spray and/or a mosquito net. Would be unbearable without those. Got to the lake in about 3 hours and there were already a few groups camped. Found a spot relatively easily though. This is a great overnight, just be prepared for the bugs!

natalie ortiz
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarMon Jun 29 2020
BackpackingBugs

This hike is truly beautiful filled with lots of flowers, especially columbines, and is definitely worth the hike and mosquitoes (so many mosquitoes). You start off in a pretty steep incline up to surprise lake and then it is pretty mellow the rest of the way to upper cataract lake. Picked to go backpacking here bc the description says that it is lightly traveled, unfortunately that could not have been farther from the truth. Lots of day hikers all weekend, and we were one set of at least 10 different groups of backpackers. Definitely worth the day trip for a nice hike but if you are looking to backpack and get away from people this is not the place.

Carissa Gross
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarFri Jun 26 2020
Backpacking

Hiked in Thursday 6/25 and got to Upper Cataract in 2 hours. A large group of gentlemen were up there fishing and enjoying the morning! Beautiful area to spend the day exploring and camping. Mosquitoes are bad through the trees but didn't find them unbearable at the lake. Hiked out Friday 6/26. Perfect overnighter!

Kimberly Wagner
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMon Jun 15 2020
Hiking

Hiked this today. The hike is mostly through the trees with very limited views until the very end but it’s totally worth it! Mosquitos were out in full force so bring bug spray. A little snow left but nothing problematic. Took us around 5 hours and clocked out at about 11.2 miles.

Natalie W
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSun May 31 2020
BackpackingSnow

Tried to backpack 2 weeks ago, and couldn’t even make it to Surprise Lake with how much snow there still was. Waist deep post holing until we made the decision to turn around. Would love to try again in a few more weeks!

Jessie Nestra
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarThu May 28 2020
Hiking

Not quite ready. Tried to hike a week ago. Still lots of snow, barely made it to surprise lake. Love this hike otherwise, still rated 5 stars

Sara Page
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSun Oct 06 2019
Hiking

Highly recommend this hike! It’s definitely high moderate and the Aspens were spectacular! I parked at 8:15a today and only one other car was in the lot. My dog and I didn’t see any other hikers on the trail at all and we went up to Upper Cataract Lake. Met a few anglers on their way up as we were heading back. Next time I’ll bring my fly rod!

Joe (Colorado Mountaineer)
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarWed Oct 02 2019
HikingBlowdown

Its a moderate hike but because we were going up for several nights (backpack weight), it took the wind out of my sails! You'll pass Surprise Lake along the way. This is a great lunch spot. Dispite the challenge, it's still very well worth it. When you get to the Cataract Lake, I highly recommend you cross the out-flowing river (creek) and venture up into the trees where you'll find some great campsites. Fly fishing was good with 11-12 inch Cutthroats (very colorful fish)! Its starting to chill-down up there and the mountain tips got a dusting.

Kevin Willett
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarSun Aug 25 2019
Backpacking

Didn't actually do the hike. Warning for backpackers: overnight, 4 vehicles were broken into. Remember not to leave wallets, purses, cell phones, or other valuables in view in your vehicle. Unfortunately, even in places we feel are safe, things like this can happen

Michelle South
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarSun Aug 25 2019
Hiking

I don’t know what everyone is talking about a slow gradual incline. The first mile or so is very steep. It did eventually become a gradual incline, but I wouldn’t say that first part was easy. Very rocky trail with lots of roots and stream crossings. And yes, bring bug spray if you plan to sit by the lake and enjoy the view for more than a couple minutes.

Jesse P.
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarSat Aug 24 2019
HikingBugs
View Jesse's Recording
Matt Trewhella
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarWed Aug 21 2019
HikingBugs

Very pretty trail. I would recommend skipping surprise lake for camping and go all the way to upper cataract. It is incredible there except for the mosquitos. Incline was gradual for three miles then flattened for the most part.

Allie Niemeyer
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarSat Aug 17 2019
Hiking

good trail, lots of slow inclines followed by flat, there are many people here on weekends

Jerry Enger
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSat Aug 17 2019
Hiking

Been going there for 44 years. Trail gets cleared in mid-July, don't go before that or you will encounter a lot of downed timber and snow. We were there last weekend. Fishing is unreal, but the fish get smaller every year. Please help them grow by taking some out of the lake (stunting)! Kastmasters from practically anywhere on the lake will catch brookies. BTW the photo on the top of this page is of Little Cat, not Upper Cataract Lake.

Max Murphy
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSun Jul 28 2019
Hiking

Awesome hike! Bring bug spray and be ready for a workout.

Ryan Scanlan
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSat Jul 20 2019
Backpacking

Got a late start due to bad traffic from Denver so ended up hiking in the dark. Was a steady incline most of the way. Surprise lake was full by the time we got there (10pm) so we continued on to Upper Cataract. Trail was rocky most of the way and muddy in places. A TON of downed trees. Found a pretty good camp site at Upper Cataract. Was very surprised to see many people having illegal fires when there were signs posted everywhere. Had an obnoxiously loud group of snowboarders camped near us. I finally had to yell at them to shut up (they had been screaming for hours). Overall the hike and lake were beautiful. Huge aspen groves, wildflowers, and plenty of streams. It was a bit crowded so I’d recommend camping here on a weekday if you’re looking for peace and quiet. Also, the mosquitos were ravenous so definitely bring bug spray.

View Ryan's Recording
Kyle Gish
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarTue Jul 16 2019
HikingBugsSnow

Started at surprise trailhead. Hiked up and camped at upper cataract lake. Trail to surprise 100% cleared of trees and snow. Trail to upper cataract lake 90% open, couple down trees. Great camp at upper cataract. Mosquitos are ferocious. Hiked up to mirror lake and then almost up to the ridge above eaglesmere. Trail to mirror lake was mostly clear, some down trees and snow patches. Above mirror lake the navigation got significantly more difficult. Lots of water, frequent snow patches. Great hike overall. Did I say mosquitos are expert level?

Sawyer Bluhm
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarTue Jul 16 2019
HikingBugs

First half has amazing flowers and is steep to surprise lake. From surprise to upper cataract is dense timber and mellow incline. Lots of mosquitos! Beautiful two nights at upper cataract, hardly saw anyone. Great fishing

Chris Amt
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarFri Jul 12 2019
Hiking

Should have read the reviews prior - TONS of mosquitoes. Had trouble keeping them off with 99% deet. Well maintained trail and beautiful scenery. Will spend more time here in the fall when the pests are gone.

Hannah Garcia
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarMon Jul 08 2019
HikingBugsMuddy

i ended up on this trail and absolutely loved it for my first backpacking trip. there were so many wildflowers on the first part of the trail and lots of green throughout the whole thing. it was a pretty steep climb up to the lake but there were lots of places to stop and take in the scenery. the lake was gorgeous and still had spots to camp when we got there which was a little later than we anticipated. there were a TON of skeeters, make sure to bring a hefty amount of bug spray and layers.

Andrea Luthi
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarSun Jul 07 2019
HikingBlowdownBugsSnow

Great hike but not for the faint hearted! Lots of mosquitoes but we were able to keep them at bay with 30% deet. Past Surprise Lake the trail is 90% clear with snow and blowdown over the other 10%. My husband and I were able to get through it without too much difficulty while carrying 30 lb packs. The views around the lake are spectacular!

Matthew Lea
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarSat Jul 06 2019
HikingBugs

Hiked on the 4th of July. I’m super conflicted. It was such a beautiful trail... So lush and green, creek crossings abound, Blue Columbine flowers everywhere... The first leg is difficult given how steep it is. But, whatever you do pack your deep woods bug spray. The mosquitoes in high summer are brutal! I only intended to make it to Surprise lake but had to turn around just 2 miles in given the slow going and abundance of bugs.

Jaci Smith
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarThu Jul 04 2019
HikingBugs

We set out to go to Surprise Lake. We were absolutely eaten alive by mozzies. I don't think bug spray will help at all. I'm not sure if it's due to the moist spring, but if you stop for a second on this fairly steep trail immediately at least 10 will land on you. The trail is beautiful for the just shy of two miles that we went, columbines, and plenty of vegetation.. Just wouldn't recommend until heat and dryness kill off some of the bugs. I've lived in Silverthorne and other areas of the high country and have rarely seen a mosquito much less these crazy swarms.

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