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Mesa-Cortina Trail to South Willow Creek Falls

MODERATE 316 reviews
#5 of 42 trails in

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

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
1 month 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
2 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
2 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
2 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
3 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
3 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
3 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
3 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
3 months ago

Wild flowers are poppin' right now

running
3 months ago

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

hiking
3 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
3 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
3 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
3 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
3 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
3 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
3 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
3 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.

hiking
3 months ago

Nice trail. GPS clocked it at 9.3 miles. quite an easy hike. enjoyable for all ages

28Jun19 - The trail has dried up considerably based on reviews from a few days earlier. We only came across a couple of muddy patches and they were easy to get through. Great hike, long but not hard. The last half mile gets a little steep but is worth climbing to see the falls. We completed this in less 4 hours including 30 mins at the falls. Enjoy!

hiking
3 months ago

We went on 6/25. Awesome trail. Easy to follow. Our GPS showed 9.2 miles round trip. Not that hard overall but some steep sections. Varied terrain: sometimes prairies, sometimes forests, sometimes mountainous. Muddy in a few spots but no problem with hiking boots. Our group of 9 + 3 dogs had a blast and this was a highlight of our trip to CO.

hiking
muddy
3 months ago

This was an amazing hike. There were some very muddy patches, so boots are recommended. Took us a little over four hours in total. Waterfall is beautiful and views are unmatched. Some uphill but not too challenging. Got a little of everything - meadows, forests, waterfall - really enjoyed it.

hiking
3 months ago

Beautiful hike. Plan on 4 1/2 to 5 hrs. We packed snacks and enjoyed them on the rocks of the falls. Amazing views. The last .75 mile to the falls is fairly vertical and rocky path but it easy to navigate. We saw a lot of moose, elk, and deer tracks and scat all along the trail.

hiking
3 months ago

Just finished this hike in 4 1/2 hrs but we took time to take a lot of pictures! Early on the meadows are full of lovely yellow and purple flowers. The trail is a little muddy, but it’s drying out nicely. It’s a good hike, very enjoyable. Some rocky sections, but that just makes it interesting. Great mountain scenery and the falls are just beautiful. When you come to the 2nd meadow, you’re right in front of Buffalo Mountain—so beautiful. Sunny today and mild. We saw maybe 15 other people on trail. Everyone was smiling!

hiking
4 months ago

Excellent trail and well worth the 5 hours of my life to hike it. The Falls are freaking tremendous!! Just a little snow to navigate through the last 1/4 mile. Should be gone in another week or two. Colorado is freaking awesome!!!

hiking
muddy
snow
4 months ago

some snow and mud last mile but trail is clear. great conditions, the falls are roaring!

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