Mesa-Cortina Trail to South Willow Creek Falls

MODERATE 167 reviews
#3 of 26 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.

12 days ago

Easy trail. Went with my 12 year old son. No snow, great hike! Son left hiking sticks on trail for other hikers. See photos :-) he said leave walking sticks for return hikers when done

13 days ago

very nice trail follow the hand carved signs no snow now

13 days ago

Good trail but map my walk showed it was a 9.5 mile hike to the falls. Steep for the last mile.

19 days ago

What a fun hike! Waterfall is beautiful and very little snow.

hiking
21 days ago

The hike is finally dry with almost nonexistent snow on the trails. I love this hike! I started on the Willow Brook side which makes the hike a little shorter, I believe. It can be kind of confusing because of all the off-chutes but just follow the hand carved “Willow Falls” signs (on the main trail markers). There is a lot of vertical but it’s still pretty kid friendly. Depending on the time of year, the falls are at different intensity but always beautiful! This isn’t the type of hike where you have scenic views around every bend, but the forest is cool and mossy as is the river you stay near almost the entire time. WORTH it.

PS: As with any hike, don’t do this after dark. REALLY don’t. I underestimated my timing a few weeks ago doing a shorter loop and felt like something was stalking me! Turns out, there are mated mountain lions that live right in that area. Be cautious!! There are also lots of moose in the area. Just be alert and you’ll be safe!

hiking
24 days ago

Great hike. Parked at the Willow Brook trailhead. Streams were in full force. Trail was well maintained and marked. Trail has a semi-steep beginning and ending with a beautiful moderate hike in between. Willow Creek Falls are tremendous. Well worth the effort.

25 days ago

One of our faves. If you’re headed for the waterfall, starting at willowbrook trailhead is helpful. Trail was mostly dry today with only a few tiny wet spots. You no longer need snow shoes, micro spike, ice axe etc. Good to go.

hiking
5 months ago

Beautiful views!

hiking
7 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.

8 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!

8 months ago

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

9 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.

10 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!

10 months ago

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

10 months ago

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

11 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
11 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.

11 months ago

Excellent trail, breathtaking views and scenery!!

hiking
11 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
11 months ago

Good hike that was a little easier.

11 months ago

Wonderful hike! A must do.

11 months ago

Great for jogging the first 3.5 miles.

hiking
11 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
11 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
11 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
11 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.

11 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
Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Pretty and busy

hiking
Sunday, June 11, 2017

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

hiking
Monday, June 05, 2017

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

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