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Alpine climbing NCCS rating
Grade I
Elevation Gain
6,100.00 ft (1,859.28 m)
20.00 mi (32.19 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

The Gore Range gets a fraction of the traffic of the other Colorado ranges, likely due to their lack of any 14ers and the extremely steep peaks (which rival the similarly rugged San Juans). This means that they're a perfect option if you're looking for more adventurous peaks than the heavily traveled 14ers. Eagles Nest, the most northern of the Gore peaks, is also the second highest in the range. It features a long approach (alongside beautiful alpine lakes with lots of camping), offtrail travel through alpine meadows, a stupidly steep scramble up grass and loose rock, and an aesthetic summit ridge.

Due to the loose rock, this isn't a good option if you're new to alpine scrambling, but it’s definitely worthwhile for the great views and the remote feel.


The Basics

  • Seasonality/Snow: Eagles Nest is generally snow free from June to early October.

  • Route Add-ons:

    • You can link the ridge south over to Mount Powell (the highest mountain in the Gore range) if you want to spend even more time on the upper ridge.

    • If you want to tag a separate summit, you can also climb up to Meridian Peak via Elliot's Ridge.

  • Number of Days: This is a long route for a single day, especially because there's great camping at Upper Cataract Lake and Mirror Lake. Most will do it in two days.

  • Navigation: A map and/or a GPS will help with the off-trail navigation.

  • Gear:

    • Good gear for scrambling and moving fast in the mountains.

    • Helmet might be a good idea for all the loose rock.

    • Bug spray/bug net - the bugs can be extreme in the upper meadows/bogs.


A Note on LNT

Colorado sees an exceptional number of backcountry visitors - even the lesser visited Gore Range. If you're tagging remote 13ers, you already know the drill, but make sure you're modeling good LNT behavior for other backcountry travelers, especially when traveling off-trail. We want to make sure to preserve these special areas for future adventures!


The Trip

Start at the Surprise Trailhead and climb through beautiful aspen forests. The trail climbs gradually but constantly. Take a right on the Gore Range Trail, swing past Surprise Lake, then turn left up toward Upper Cataract Lake. As you approach Upper Cataract, you'll get your first views of Eagles Nest (though you won't be able to see the true summit). If you're camping, stay here or keep moving up to Mirror Lake - both have gorgeous sites.

Above Mirror Lake, you'll follow the trail up to around 10,850' before leaving the trail and heading upvalley. This area can be quite marshy, so watch your feet. At 10,900', begin cutting toward the west slope of Eagles Nest, crossing Cataract Creek (which is actually three smaller creeks up here). Heading southwest, hook around a small knob. before following a seasonal creek on the USGS map to 11,400'. You can head up this slope anywhere, but it's pretty scrappy, so it's worth following a seasonal creek on the USGS map up to 11,400', where you'll see a small dry creekbed. There are small cairns in this drainage.

At 12,000', you'll leave the small gully and enter the talus and scree-fields. From here, follow your nose up through the steep third class terrain, aiming for the ridgeline at roughly 12,900'. Once you hit the ridgeline, head north for a third of a mile, scrambling over generally solid rock and two false summits before reaching the obvious summit (which has a large cairn on it).

From the summit you'll be able to see huge views in all directions - the craggy Gore range to the south, Longs and Meeker to the east, Vail and Beaver Creek ski resorts southwest, and the distant Elk Range further southwest!

Once you've enjoyed the sights, prepare yourself for the long and steep descent. Watch your step on all the loose rock before getting back down the lower meadows. From there, settle into the long miles of trail back down to the trailhead.


Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass


Open Year-round





Rarely visited. Huge views. Fun scrambling.


Long approach. Very steep final climb.

Pets allowed

Allowed with Restrictions

Trailhead Elevation

8,600.00 ft (2,621.28 m)

Highest point

13,420.00 ft (4,090.42 m)


Backcountry camping
Old-growth forest
Big vistas



Typically multi-day


Permit required


Primary aspect

West facing

Drinking water

Unfrozen water



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