Surprise Lake


Trail Stats & Info

RT length 5.4 miles
Elevation gain 1,350 feet
Difficulty moderate    
Lowest elevation 8,730 feet
Highest elevation 10,080 feet
Trail type out and back    
Trails Illustrated Map™ # 107
Restrooms @ TH? yes
Surprise Lake


From I-70, take Exit 205 and drive north onto CO 9. Follow CO 9 north for about 17 miles. Turn left onto Heeney Road. Follow Heeney Road for 5.5 miles and turn left at Cataract Creek Road (CR 1725). Follow this road for about 2 miles and stay left to the Surprise Lake trailhead. Parking is left of the road at Surprise Lake trailhead.



Surprise LakeWe originally planned to hike a large loop as a one-night backpacking trip, but the snow prevented us from completing the loop. We ended up just hiking to Surprise Lake and camped overnight at the lake and returned back to the car the next day. As we started off on our hike, the trail was mostly clear of snow. However, as we got higher in elevation and more on the north side of the mountainside, there was more and more snow. Not only was there snow, the snow was melting and was very soft. With every step we took, our boots sunk about 1 feet deep, which made it very difficult and cumbersome to hike. We did not have snowshoes with us, but did have Kahtoola Microspikes on our boots. Unfortunately, with the soft snow the microspikes were of no help. It took us about 5 hours for us to hike about 3 miles. Since, we started the hike later in the day we had to camp at Surprise Lake as we were losing daylight. After a very cold night, the next morning we packed up our gear and headed back down. To our surprise, the snow that was soft the day before had frozen, thus allowing us to stay on top of the snow. Now with our microspikes, it was a breeze to hike on the hardened snow, as the spikes gave us great traction. We didn’t slip or slide at all! Coming down was extremely fast and it only took us about 1.5 hours to get back to the trailhead. From all this, I would say to wait till all the snow melts and this hike would be much more enjoyable. We hope in the future that we will come back to this area and hike the large loop that goes by Surprise Lake, Tipperary Lake, and Eaglesmere Lakes.

Comments or Questions?

About Jake & Mar

Jake and Maria have spent a good chunk of their time hiking and exploring all that the Colorado wilderness has to offer. Their ambition is to seek out all the hidden treasures of the Rocky Mountains from pristine alpine lakes, to tall dense Aspen forests, to high mountain summits. They both bring their own unique talents and abilities to, whether it's the organizational skills and consistent ambition to take on new terrain, or the desire to creatively record and document the experience. They are truly passionate about their site and the outdoors. "We thank you for visiting and wish you safe and fun adventures!"