Mesa-Cortina Trail to South Willow Creek Falls

MODERATE 139 reviews
#3 of 22 trails in

Mesa-Cortina Trail to South Willow Creek Falls is a 8.7 mile moderately 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
1338 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

dogs on leash

birding

cross country skiing

hiking

horseback riding

nature trips

rock climbing

snowshoeing

trail running

walking

forest

river

views

waterfall

wild flowers

blowdown

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
3 months ago

Beautiful views!

hiking
5 months ago

It is one of the most beautiful, scenic hikes I’ve taken ( it would only improve if there were some above-tree line hiking. It didn’t hurt that the Aspen where in full golden-glory with just enough of a breeze to “flutter” the leaves. Simply stunning. This is not a hike you conquer; it is one you savor, like a slow-cooked stew, a well aged Scotch, or a crisp evening around a campfire or burn pit with good friends or loved ones.

The moderate hike rating is accurate if for no other reason than it is nearly 9 miles round trip. And even though I hiked the trail on a Saturday it was not very congested (not at all like RMNP). I recommend this hike, take your time, you will not be sorry.

5 months ago

My wife and I age 30 in good shape hiked this trail at a moderate pace to a boulder at the very top of the waterfall for a picnic lunch. We stopped in an open field to the left about 2 miles in that had a lake and a gorgeous view of mountain peaks. In all we stopped for a total of about 2 hours. We left at 9am and were back to the car at 3:50. Beware of horse poop and when you get to the middle of the waterfall, go through the woods to the right off the path to get to an upper path that takes you to the highest point of the waterfall on a bald boulder for a complete overlook. It doesn’t seem a lot of people know about that. We found it by chance. Absolutely worth everything. It was breathtaking!

6 months ago

great hike! Aspen groves, rubber crossing, water fall at the end. no complaints.

6 months ago

Loved it! Perfect time to be hiking with the fall colors in full force.

6 months ago

Loved it! Perfect time to be hiking with the fall colors in full force.

7 months ago

Amazing and very light traffic(went on a Monday afternoon). The last mile to the waterfall was a challenge, steep and rocky but great payoff. Awesome views all around. You won't regret it.

7 months ago

This trail was incredibly fun and exciting with some beautiful views of the mountains and valleys in the surrounding area. Also, the waterfall is a great reward for making it to the top, as it's huge and awe-inspiring.

I highly recommend this hike, you won't be disappointed!

8 months ago

started at Willowbrook Trailhead. Cuts 1.4 miles each way. Falls are great.

8 months ago

Getting to the waterfall was awesome. Some parts were rocky and did a short scramble to the falls. Good moderate rated hike.

8 months ago

Long hike but the elevation gain is very gradual. Parts of the trail are rocky. Parts go through wild flower meadows.The waterfalls and the views are spectacular!

hiking
9 months ago

Started off at the Meadow Lakes trailhead and ended up at Mesa Cortina. Someone had written an arrow on the directional sign towards the falls so we took this relatively easy trek to a lovely waterfall where we shared our snack with chipmunks and relaxed with beautiful views.

9 months ago

Excellent trail, breathtaking views and scenery!!

hiking
9 months ago

The rating of moderate is a bit of a mis-direction as the trail is easy in places, moderate a lot of the time, but that last mile to the falls is strenuous, with rock scrambling and a steep climb. Beautiful views though and worth it. My app showed the distance as 10 miles though, but I did wander a bit here and there taking pictures.

hiking
9 months ago

Good hike that was a little easier.

9 months ago

Wonderful hike! A must do.

9 months ago

Great for jogging the first 3.5 miles.

hiking
9 months ago

I loved this trail! As some have said before, the scenery keeps changing and the elevation change isn't really noticeable compared to most trails. My recording showed 8.8 mi r/t and 1329 elevation gain. The wildflowers are spectacular right now! Waterfall at the end is in a beautiful area surrounded by mountain peaks. This will be stunning in Fall as well, due to an abundance of aspens.

hiking
9 months ago

We woke up early to get this one in before 12:30. Timed it perfectly as we started around 8:30. By no means is this early to the dozen or so hikers we passed on the way in. We did walk fast at times as we knew our schedule but a fast pace gets this trail done in 4 hours with about 15 minutes of break at the falls.

The goal of having a waterfall at the turn has been a recurring theme in our hikes and seems to encourage us to get to the destination better. The falls were nice to get to but don't expect it to be something that takes your breath away. It's picture worthy and relaxing to be around but lacks width and height to end up on your postcards home. The walk in is what separates this trail from others. There is not a boring stretch at all and the surroundings change every 15 minutes of the trail. The inclines are at the end of the first stretch and the added strain is irrelevant because you just want to see the falls. You can hear them constantly on the incline and never see them until fully upon them. The area near the falls adds for a great location to chill out on a cool rock and refuel. You'll find yourself above a section of the falls and below another section with a forceful stream that you can jump across in several places.

The walk back allows you to look deeper into the surroundings. If you look real close you'll see what the mountains can offer. We located a young bull and cow moose about 25 paces off the trail in the aspens that could easily have gone unnoticed. The familiarity with the trail even only have walked it once on the way in allows you to get new perspective.

We enjoyed this hike and were time pressed the way back down to aim for finishing at 12:30. It did not take away from all of us agreeing that it was a great hike.

hiking
9 months ago

Wonderful hike that is between Easy to Moderate hike for most of it. It is Moderate for about the last mile or so towards the waterfall. Definitely doable for the whole family. Nice diversity of terrain and scenery. I never once felt bored of the hike. The waterfall, which is raging right now, is well worth it.

NOTE: There is a trail split in which you either go straight or make a sharp left turn around 3 miles into the hike. GO STRAIGHT. You will see a hiker etched "Falls" into the sign, which I missed because I was only looking at the bold, black lettering on the sign. If you find yourself having to walk across a series of logs/planks over rushing water all within one small area, you're going the wrong direction. I've spoken to other hikers about it, and apparently, it's not uncommon for people to make that wrong turn. Other than that, it's fairly easy to know which direction to go to get to the falls.

hiking
9 months ago

Really nice hike near Dillon, trailhead super close to highway 70. Pretty gradual slow incline throughout. Most of the forest is beetle kill but still beautiful aspens around. Saw a fox and a herd of elk on the way. The last bit up to the falls is the toughest but really not bad. Falls are beautiful. Some space to stretch out nearby on the rocks. Pretty meadows and streams to cross over on the way.

9 months ago

This is an awesome hike and accurately rated. There are a sufficient amount of signs to keep you on the correct path; as there are other trails that intersect. The waterfall is a wonderful achievement to get when you make it to the top. The trail actually continues all the way back to copper mountain, but most people stop at the waterfall. I would recommend this trail to almost anyone, only the last 20 minutes are rock scramble.

hiking
10 months ago

Pretty and busy

hiking
10 months ago

one of my favorites in summit county. lots of downed trees during the winter. falls were raging yesterday.

hiking
10 months ago

Good hike and distance, some parts were steep, had fallen trees or snow covered. The views and waterfalls (from snow melt) at the end were amazing and made the hike totally worth it. The small dog with us did well too

10 months ago

Long hike but definitely worth it at the end.

11 months ago

Still lots of snow with postholing, but the views were well worth it!

snowshoeing
Sunday, February 26, 2017

Great trail, decent amount of snow for snowshoeing. Views would have been awesome but it was cloudy and snowy. Our dog loved it!

hiking
Friday, September 16, 2016

Beautiful trail with several scenic views. Not too difficult even for lowland folks like myself. A few junctions could be tricky but check your map first then follow signs! Not to populated saw several other hikers but had plenty of solitude as well.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Beautiful! Open meadows, easy to locate trail. Some uphill but not a lot. Lots of shade. Crossed the stream in several places. Went to Buffalo Mountain to see the falls.

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