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Camping: Colorado > White River National Forest > Dillon Ranger District

Quick Facts

Eagles Nest Wilderness Area-Dillon side

Satellite and Topo Map

General Description

Upper Cataract Lake, Eagles Nest Wilderness
Copyright: - US 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.


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:
White River

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.

Seasonal Information:
Normally Accessible: 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!) .

Current Conditions & Trip Reports

Add your own trip Report! Newly re-released feature. One of the most popular features on Wildernet, trip reports allow you to share your experiences with others. This is an invaluable resource for determining what to expect on your outdoor adventure, so please participate! To prevent spamming, you must be a registered user of Wildernet in order to submit a trip report

Filed By: Kim Fenske (Copper Mountain, CO)
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: Eagles Nest Wilderness Area hiking guide information is available at: http://coppersnowboarder.tripod.com. Lower Cataract Lake Loop is a popular, short, nearly level trail that offers a picnic area on the eastern shore, a waterfall on Cataract Creek near the western shore, and an open meadow near the southern shore that propagates a hundred species of wildflowers.

Filed By: Kim Fenske (Copper Mountain, CO)
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: The Eagles Nest Wilderness Area beats Rocky Mountain National Park for scenic beauty. Less wildlife sitings due to open hunting in the multiple-use forest, but plenty of wildflowers. For more information and photographs of the area, view my web-site.

Filed By: tim panatone (huntington beach, ca)
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: best place on earth

Recreation Opportunities
Activity Remarks On Site
ICON Backpacking
ICON Forest Areas Eagles Nest Wilderness Area-Dillon side
ICON Hiking & Walking
ICON Horseback Riding
ICON Mountain Climbing

Related Activities
Blue River Campground - The Blue River Campground is located north of Silverthorne along the Blue River at an elevation of 8,500 feet.

Cataract Creek Campground - Cataract Creek Campground is an undeveloped campground with very limited services. It is located north of Silverthorne, near Green Mountain Reservoir.

Davis Springs Campground - Davis Springs is a small undeveloped campground with limited services. It is located north of Silverthorne, along the west side of Green Mountain Reservoir.

Elliott Creek Campground - Elliot Creek is an undeveloped campground with limited services. It is located north of Silverthorne, along the west side of Green Mountain Reservoir.

Heaton Bay Campground - Heaton Bay Campground has 72 sites. It is located between Dillon and Frisco on Dillon reservoir. Heaton Bay has one handicapped accessible site.

Mcdonald Flats Campground - McDonald Flats Campground has 13 sites and is located north of Silverthorne, along the west side of Green Mountain Reservoir.

More Information
Frequently Asked Questions
Email the Local Ranger

Visitor Information:

Dillon Ranger District, 680 River Parkway, P.O. Box 620 , Silverthorne, CO, 80498, Phone: 970-468-5400, Fax: 970-468-7735


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