QUICK TAKE: Eagles Nest Wilderness, CO
DRIVE TIME: The trailhead is 92 miles (13/4 hours) west of Denver.
THE WAY: From Silverthorne, drive north 16 miles on CO 9 to County Road 30, turn left, and head 5.3 miles to Cataract Creek Road (Forest Road #1725). Turn left and continue 2.5 miles to Surprise trailhead.
TRAILS/MILEAGE: Nineteen trails cover 180 miles within the wilderness. The 11-mile out-and-back hike to Upper Cataract Lake takes the Surprise Trail (#62) to the Gore Range Trail (#60) and its junction with Upper Cataract Trail (#63). For a strenuous but spectacular 24-mile ridgetop trek, continue to the Elliott Ridge Trail (#1889). Hike north to Forest Road 1831, then descend to the trailhead via the Gore Range Trail and Eaglesmere Trail (#61).
ELEVATION: The lowest point on the circuit described is the Surprise trailhead
at 8,570 feet; the high point is 12,390-foot Meridian Peak.
CAN’T MISS: The tumbling waterfall from Upper Cataract Lake offers Kodachrome moments, as does sunrise on Eagles Nest Mountain.
CROWD CONTROL: Avoid daytrippers by going midweek and staying high. Spring and fall are less crowded, but plan on snow until mid-June and again in October.
PIT STOP: Roost on the outdoor patio at Murphy’s Food & Spirits in Silverthorne, where $6 gets you the pub’s signature half-pound burger.
WALK SOFTLY: If you camp near Upper Cataract Lake, stick to several well-worn campsites near the outlet. Bearproof your food.
MAPS AND GUIDES: The map Green Mountain Reservoir/Ute Pass, #107 (Trails Illustrated; 800-962-1643; www.trailsillustrated.com; $9.95) covers the area.
MORE INFORMATION: Dillon Ranger District, White River National Forest, 680 River Parkway, Silverthorne, CO 80498; (970) 468-5400. Trailhead parking costs $5/day.