Surprise Lake via Cross Creek Trail

Difficulty
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Moderate
Duration
This reflects the estimated time the majority of users will take on this trail. If you are slower, add time to the top-end figure. If you are fast, then you may complete this route faster than this time range.
2-3h
Distance
This reflects the return distance of this route as measured by the GPS file.
8.0 km
Elevation
This reflects the total elevation gained throughout this route as measured by the GPS file. This includes all ascents and descents, and is higher than what is quoted in most route guides, which simply measure the distance between the starting-point and high-point of the route.
208 m
User Ratings
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Directions to Trailhead

The Surprise Lake via Cross Creek Trail is an enchanting nature walk through the Holy Cross Wilderness. Exhibiting the diversity and beauty of the Colorado wilderness as it guides hikers through golden aspen groves, dense evergreen forests, and along running rivers up to the charming alpine lake—this trek packs a punch!

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Route Description for Surprise Lake via Cross Creek Trail

​The Surprise Lake via Cross Creek Hike is a welcomed variation from the quintessential Colorado 14er summit hikes in the Sawatch Mountain Range. Presenting the perfect opportunity to get acclimated to the area’s altitude, this adventure is an awesome conditioning trek before a technical mountain ascent. Get your body used to the elevation and get those legs warmed up as you hike through the verdant woodlands along the waters of Cross Creek. Open year-round, this versatile trek can be enjoyed in the winter months alike; just trade your hiking boots for snowshoes! As you will be traveling into the dense forestlands, it is important to be mindful of wildlife, such as bears; some hikers wear bear bells to deter unwelcomed encounters. If you are camping overnight, make sure to tie up your rations, and don’t forget to pick up a self-issued permit at the trailhead. Note the road to the trailhead is subject to seasonal closure.

Reconnect with nature and immerse yourself in the picturesque alpine environment as you trek the Surprise Lake via Cross Creek Trail. If you are anything like us, you also love woodland adventures, especially when they involve cascades and mediative streams. Although this trail is open all year, we prefer this hike in the autumn when the aspens are at their peak vibrance. Travel through the golden forests and fresh smelling pines to the quaint alpine lake nestled beneath the timberline and flanked by snow-capped Sawatch Range peaks. What more could you ask for, right? So lace-up those hiking shoes; we are going on an adventure.

Embark on your excursion along Surprise Lake via Cross Creek Trail from the trailhead off Notch Mountain Road. From here, the Cross Creek Trail treks southwestward through vibrant aspen groves interspersed with evergreen trees. Intersecting with several snowmelt streams, the path will hug the curves of Cross Creek before opening to an alpine meadow lined with impressive granite cliffs. From the exposed meadow, you will be granted views of Notch Mountain and Mount of the Holy Cross in the south and sights of Eagle River in the northeast.

Enjoy the views, then continue southwest, back beneath the tree shade of looming pines. Shortly after leaving the meadow, you will arrive at Surprise Lake. This charming alpine lake may be small, but it is unassumingly picturesque. Encircled with grasslands and towering pines with sights of the snow-dusted Sawatch Mountains lining the horizon, this scene is a sight for sore eyes. Revel in the stunning scenery and consider setting up camp here to transform this day hike into an overnight backpacking expedition. Then, when you are ready to return, simply retrace your footing along the path all the way back to the trailhead, marking the end of your adventure.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are dogs permitted on the Cross Creek Trail?

Yes, dogs on-leash are allowed on the Cross Creek Trail.

Can you camp along the Cross Creek Trail?

Yes, dispersed backcountry camping is permitted along the Cross Creek Trail, but self-issued permits are required. See rules and regulations.

Is the Cross Creek Trail open year-round?

Yes, the Cross Creek Trail is open year-round, but the road to the trailhead is subject to seasonal closures.

Insider Hints for Surprise Lake via Cross Creek Trail

  • Trade your hiking boots for snowshoes in the winter months
  • Be wary of wildlife as you trek along the forested route, and consider wearing a bear bell
  • Pack plenty of water, the altitude will surely exhaust you
  • If you are seeking a longer adventure, consider hiking all the way to Harvey Lake

Getting to the Surprise Lake via Cross Creek Trail Trailhead

The Surprise Lake via Cross Creek Trail departs from the Cross Creek Trailhead off Notch Mountain Road.

Route Information

  • Backcountry Campground

    Dispersed backcountry campsites

  • When to do

    June-October

  • Pets allowed

    Yes - On Leash

  • Family friendly

    Older Children only

  • Route Signage

    Average

  • Crowd Levels

    High

  • Route Type

    Out and back

Surprise Lake via Cross Creek Trail Elevation Graph

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