"IN WILDNESS IS THE PRESERVATION OF THE WORLD." Henry Thoreau
Copyright: USDA Forest Service
Upper Cataract Lake, Eagles Nest Wilderness
The Eagles Nest Wilderness is located in the Gore Range of north central Colorado, directly north of Vail Pass. The southern boundary of the wilderness is adjacent to the Interstate 70 corridor which connects the towns of Vail, Dillon, and Silverthorne. Designated as wilderness in 1976, Eagles Nest totals 133,496 acres.
Eagles Nest is dominated by the Gore Range, a chain of sharp peaks, rugged escarpments, and narrow mountain valleys, forming a rock backbone of wilderness. Elevations range from 7,850 feet on the Piney River to 13,534 feet at the top of Mount Powell. There are 17 peaks over 13,000 feet and 33 peaks over 12,000 feet. At the lower elevations on the east side and in the Piney River drainage on the west, are open parks, broad valleys, and densely forested slopes. There are many constructed trails available for travel through this rugged terrain, which offers moderate to difficult hikes.
LEAVE NO TRACE
As humans, we must minimize our impacts to help preserve this resource for present and future generations.
GROUP SIZE: Eagles Nest Wilderness use regulations allow no more than 25 people and/or stock.
DOGS: Please remember, dogs must be on a leash at all times! Dogs may harass, stress, injure, or kill wildlife, annoy fellow hikers, and introduce disease. In protecting the natural ecosystem, the USFS enforces the leash regulation.
FIRES: Are prohibited within 1/4 miles of all lakes. Carry lightweight stoves for cooking.
HUMAN WASTE: Deposit human waste in cat holes dug 6 to 8 inches deep at least 200 feet from water, camp or trails. Pack out toilet paper.
TRAILHEADS: The following trailheads access the wilderness:
Access from I-70 Copper Mountain: I-70 to Exit 195.
Wheeler Lakes: Cross I-70 and turn left on the frontage road towards the gas station. Park in the trailhead parking on your right, past the gas station. Walk back across I-70 to catch the trail. DO NOT PARK ON THE OFF RAMP!
Access from I-70 Frisco: I-70 to Frisco Exit 201.
North Tenmile: Turn north away from Frisco and park in the area just beyond the highway interchange.
Access from I-70 Frisco/Breckenridge: I-70 to exit 203.
Meadow Creek: Turn northwest at the stop sign. The overpass ends in an open round area with several roads leaving from here. Take the gravel road to the left that runs parallel to I-70.
Access from I-70 Silverthorne: I-70 to Exit 205.
Mesa Cortina: Travel north on HWY. 9. Turn left onto Wildernest Road. Travel 0.2 miles then turn right onto Adams Avenue. Almost immediately turn left onto Royal Buffalo Rd (Cty Rd 1240). Travel 0.8 miles and take a sharp right onto Lakeview Drive. Proceed 0.5 miles and turn left onto Aspen Drive. Travel a short distance to parking on left and trailhead on right.
Willow Lakes: Same as Mesa Cortina.
Lily Pad: Travel north on HWY. 9. Turn left on Wildernest Road and follow this road to its end (3.5 miles). Park at the end of the loop and walk towards the water tank to begin hike.
Rock Creek: Travel 7.3 miles north on HWY. 9. Turn left on Rock Creek Road (CTY 1350). Stay on main road to trailhead (3 miles).
Boulder Lake: Same as Rock Creek.
Cataract Lake: Travel 16 miles north on HWY. 9. Turn left onto the Heeney Road (No. 30) and proceed 5.3 miles to County Rd. 1725. Turn left and drive 2.3 miles to the end of the road.
Surprise: Just below Cataract Lake TH.
Eaglesmere: As above except turn right at the Cataract campground and travel 0.2 miles to park.
MAPS: The following maps cover different portions of Eagles Nest Wilderness. They can be purchased at district offices or outdoor recreation shops
National Forest Maps:
USGS Quads (7 1/2 minute series):
Piney Peak, Mt. Powell, Squaw Creek, Willow Lakes, Vail East, Vail West, Red Cliff, Vail Pass, Dillon, and Frisco.
PERMITS: There are no permits required at this time.
"Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of like." John Muir
Directions from Silverthorne: The trails on the Dillon Ranger District portion of the wilderness are all accessed at various points either west of Silverthorne on I-70, or north on HWY 9.
Summer through Fall
(NOTE: Seasons vary depending on snow depth and weather. Many trails travel through high elevations and are not clear of snow until Mid-Summer. WEATHER: Weather patterns change quickly. Warm sunny days can turn into powerful electrical storms. Be prepared for snow even in August!)