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Mesa-Cortina Trail to South Willow Creek Falls

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Eagles Nest Wilderness

Mesa-Cortina Trail to South Willow Creek Falls is a 8.7 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Silverthorne, Colorado that features a waterfall and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Distance: 8.7 miles Elevation Gain: 1,338 feet Route Type: Out & Back

dogs on leash

cross country skiing

hiking

horseback riding

nature trips

rock climbing

snowshoeing

bird watching

running

forest

river

views

waterfall

wild flowers

blowdown

snow

This trail enters the Eagles Nest Wilderness where it winds through aspen groves and crosses open meadows where you have great views of the Williams Fork Range, Dillon Reservoir and the entire Blue River Valley. The meadows offer great opportunities for viewing wildflowers during mid-July. Eventually the trail climbs up a gorge between Buffalo Mountain and Red Peak. South Willow Falls is a cascade that tumbles over the rocks of South Willow Creek.

hiking
1 day ago

Great trail. It was clear up until about a mile before the falls. Still some areas of snowpack starting at that point. Most of it was pretty packed and not too difficult to get through, just a little slow. Happy we brought our poles for the descent. Either those or spikes would make it easier, but not totally necessary.

hiking
muddy
over grown
snow
22 days ago

If you had childhood dreams of being a gymnast and are inspired to try your skills on the balance beam, this hike is for you! Seriously like walking on a snow cone. The beginning is muddy and expected for spring snow melt, and the rest of the trail has about a 5” width path of stable and packed snow to walk on. Expect every 10th or so step to have your entire leg plummet into the snow up to your waist! My dogs were pretty much over it early on but we made it all the way to the waterfall. Definitely a challenge. Gorgeous sunny day.

hiking
bugs
2 months ago

Did a portion of this trail in Aug 2019. Couldn’t finish due to some snap severe weather that rolled in but was shocked at how crazy the vistas are when you break through the trees into meadows overlooking rolling hills and the town tucked away in the valleys. Can’t wait to go back and handle the unfinished business!

hiking
snow
3 months ago

Heavy snow...use snowshoes throughout or you'll be Post-holing up to 3 feet. Trail ends (winter time - Feb 1) before you hit the trails. Amazing views throughout and never a dull moment!

We hiked this trail on the last day of December. The trail had good snow on it for snowshoeing. There was a fair amount of traffic on it and a good part of the trail is shaded. The first 2 miles were mostly uphill and the views were great!

hiking
snow
5 months ago

hiking
7 months ago

Trail is excellent despite all aspen leaves down and out from recent freezing. Part of directions for getting to trail head are misleading and should be revised; after turning onto Wildernest and crossing the Blue River you will come to a stoplight. At the stoplight go straight. Lowe’s entrance will be on your left but continue on the road up the hill (this is Royal Buffalo) and directions are fine from there. Do not turn onto Adams at the stoplight as indicated.

hiking
9 months ago

My 2nd time on this trail and I have to say Love this hike! The wildflowers are still doing there thing and the falls did not disappoint. Lots of down trees and plenty more look ready to go which makes me sad. Most of this trail could be exposed sooner than later. The trail head is a little difficult to find and "getting there" is a little confusing. GPS takes you to the gates of a private ranch. We got a map from the rangers at the National Forest info center that got us there.

hiking
9 months ago

Very pleasant hike. The wildflowers are incredible and the falls are really roaring. We encountered quite a few people along the way, especially families with young kids. We used to do this hike when our kids were little and it’s great to see the next generation out enjoying the Colorado mountains.

hiking
10 months ago

Lovely hike. Very wooded. It never goes above tree line so there aren’t majestic views. However, there’s plenty of wildflowers flanked Mt. Buffalo and a gorgeous waterfall .

hiking
10 months ago

Nice hike - especially the last climb up to the falls at the gorge. Spectacular. The wildflowers are fantastic on the first Mesa Cortina section, though the trail is hot and not very shady at times. Hiking up from willow brook or another entry might make this a slightly tougher, shorter, but shadier hike.

hiking
10 months ago

beautiful wildflowers. yes, there are fallen trees from the beetle kill, however, the sweetest baby trees are creating the next forest. the falls at the top were spectacular. mountains goats along the way. great way to beat the 100 degree heat in the the front range

hiking
bugs
10 months ago

Beautiful trail. Wild flowers are vibrant right now. Waterfall is raging with all snow melt currently happening. Trail is more like 10 miles, but easy.

hiking
blowdown
bugs
10 months ago

I couldn't believe the number of downed dead trees along this trail. I met a local on the trail who has lived in the area for 20 years and she said they were like that when she arrived. On my way back I encountered several hikers going up. When I returned to the trailhead, there weren't many cars and I wondered why. Well, it turns out that there is a better and shorter trail to the falls. It's called Willow Creek Falls via South Willow Creek here on Alltrails. Take it and you'll save almost 3 miles of hiking through dead trees.

hiking
no shade
10 months ago

We hiked this trail on July 5, 2019. The first half mile or so was nice, where the wildflowers were abundant. The waterfall at the end was above average. The 3 miles in between was through a forest where most of the trees were dead (from beetles and/or fire) and there was no shade. I’m surprised that I have to go back a year before I find another reviewer that mentions this. The waterfall at the end was not worth the time spent in the dead forest. We set out mid-late morning and the trail was very crowded.

hiking
10 months ago

Wild flowers are poppin' right now

running
10 months ago

Awesome trail, definitely will be back again. The waterfall is raging!

hiking
10 months ago

The falls, swollen with late spring runoff, are simply magnificent. the trail signage is not clear. we encountered two groups that were lost on the busy trail today. We were able to help one group by using the map from All Trails.

hiking
bugs
10 months ago

Great trail, a little bit of everything - meadow, creek, water fall, wildflowers. Would recommend this to all (we are from sea level). Start early, mosquitos were bad in the beginning but tapered off. Moved at a moderate speed, rested at the water fall. Completed in about 5 hours.

hiking
bugs
10 months ago

I took my family here on 7/3/19. Great hike with views of the mountains, wild flowers and falls. Mosquitos were pretty bad late morning the first 2 miles but subsided after that. Elevation gain wasn’t too bad spread out over the trail. No snow but some mud and wet areas. The wild flowers are amazing right now. Highly recommend this trail for out of towners looking for a little bit of everything all in one hike.

hiking
10 months ago

Excellent hike. Good conditions on 7/3. More easy than moderate, except for the climb to the falls. Can’t beat the views and scenery.

hiking
10 months ago

6-20 Trail was in great shape. Some snow at top but falls are great. GPS showed 9.5miles. Perhaps due to going above the falls. You can make it farther to upper falls. Nice hike.

hiking
10 months ago

Super gorgeous trail! We got started early and nearly had the trail to ourselves until we headed back. The trail head is in a neighborhood so just an fyi. 2 or 3 small muddy areas but they aren’t bad. No snow. This trail has a nice mix of shaded woodsy areas and open fields with views. Tons of wildflowers in the first 1/3 of the trail. I thought this trail was easy (the elevation gain is gradual and there are no technical areas), mileage is just long. We also live at elevation so that helps. Took us about 4 hours round trip with stops for pictures and a break at the falls (which are absolutely roaring right now!)

hiking
10 months ago

This is a great hike. There are still a few muddy spots so be prepared for that. The falls are beautiful. The incline/decline is gradual in most places. It gets steeper towards the end shortly before you reach the falls. We did it in 3 -1/2 hours plus 30 minutes at the falls enjoying the scenery. We live at a high elevation so if you are from lower elevations- plan on it taking longer.

hiking
bugs
muddy
10 months ago

Went hiking on this trail today. Totally clear of snow, a little muddy in a few spots. Fairly easy hike if you are in good shape. This would be a good trail to run on. Bring bug spray!! Lots of mosquitoes.

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