Cataract Lake, Gunnison National Forest

This segment of the CDT is saddled between the beautiful Weminuche and La Garita Wilderness areas and represents the westernmost turn of the Continental Divide. Shared with the Colorado Trail, this area recently underwent a rerouting process to make the Trail more sustainable and avoid motorized routes. Overlooking the headwaters of the Rio Grande this high alpine gem offers views of the San Juan Mountains 14,000-foot peaks. This breathtaking alpine trek does not dip below 11,000 feet for its entirety.

 

The Cataract Lake Trail leads to beautiful Cataract Lake and provides accesses to the east side of this section of the CDT. Cross Cottonwood Creek climbing into Cataract Gulch. After hiking for about one mile, hikers will now be following the mild grade following Cataract Creek. The Cataract Lake Trail follows and crosses Cataract Creek for the next two miles. During this portion of the hike, the trail ascends moderately to 12,000 feet. The trail enters Cataract Basin, now encompassing high alpine tundra below the Continental Divide. This area has many dispersed camping choices. Continuing south, you will hit the newly rerouted Continental Divide Trail and head west until you get to the Cuba Gulch Trail intersection and head north until you get to the Cuba Gulch Trailhead. From there you will head east back on County Road 18X back to Cataract Gulch Trailhead. If you would like to do this adventure as a loop and stay off motorized roads, you will need one car parked at Cataract Gulch Trailhead and one at Cuba Gulch Contact:CDTC at 1-720-340-CDTC (2382) or  the Gunnison National Forest’s Divide Ranger District 719-657-3321

Difficulty: Difficult

Length: 13+ mile loop.

Family Friendly Option: An easily accessible moderately difficult adventure on the CDT is east from Spring Creek Pass to Snow Mesa and before Cataract Lake directions listed below. Drive to the summit of Spring Creek Pass off of Hwy 149, south of Lake City and north of Creede and look for an unmarked trailhead at the northwest corner of the parking lot on the west side of the highway. The hike from Spring Creek Pass to Snow Mesa is approximately 3.5 miles round trip. This is a single-track motorized section of trail but it does not receive much use.

Directions: Cataract Gulch Trailhead: From Lake City drive 2 miles south on Highway 149 and turn right on the Cinnamon Pass Road (County Road 30) toward Lake San Cristobal. Continue following Cinnamon Pass Road to the Sherman townsite fork. Take the left fork (County Road 18X) to Sherman townsite. The marked Cataract Gulch trailhead is approximately 0.5 miles after the bridge. Cuba Gulch Trailhead: Continue east on County Road 18X for approximately 3 miles and the trailhead will be on the south side of the road.

Maps: USGS 7.5 Quadrangles: Howardsville, Pole Creek Mountain, Trails Illustrated #141
Other Information:
Gunnison National Forest – http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/gmug/ and information from Sangres.com – http://www.sangres.com/nationalforests/gunnison/