If you like mountain streams and rivers you will enjoy this hike. Apart from the impressive waterfall at the destination you will cross back and forth across South Willow Creek numerous times. In the spring and early summer it can be hard to hear above the water at times. Combined with the views of Buffalo Mountain’s north face this is a must-do hike. This hike is best done after the snow melts but before water levels get too low (typically June and July are best).
Take exit #205 off of I-70 and head north on 9 through the town of Silverthorne. From the exit go 1.8 miles and turn left onto Willowbrook Rd. Continue through the neighborhood for 1 mile to a parking lot on your left. Note that you cannot park here overnight.
Leave the trailhead entering into the forest (Photo #1). Almost immediately the trail will split; go to the hiker’s left following the South Willowbrook trail (Photo #2). Shortly after this split there are a series of bridges crossing the many branches of South Willow Creek (Photo #3). Once past all the water there is a short steep hill with an enormous boulder at the top (Photo #4). Pass the bolder and continue up a ridge where you might be able to hear the creek running below you. Pass the wilderness boundary (Photo #5) and descend slightly to yet another major creek crossing (Photo #6). After crossing the long bridge take a hard right to parallel the creek (Photo #7 and Photo #8). The trail will parallel the creek for a while before climbing up to higher ground. Once the ground flattens out you will abruptly run into the Mesa Cortina trail intersection (Photo #9). Make a right turn onto the Mesa Cortina trail (Photo #10) and follow this good trail as it rolls over some small hills until finally descending to another creek crossing (Photo #11). After crossing this rather wobbly bridge you will see another trail intersection with the Gore Range trail (Photo #12). Continue past this trail slightly uphill until you reach a large clearing with tremendous views of the north face of Buffalo Mountain (Photo #13). After a series of clearings reenter the forest. Shortly after entering the forest there will be a trail turning left. Stay straight on the main trail (Photo #14). Continue for another 3/4 mile past this trail up the rocky slope until you reach a sign for Willow Falls. Turn off the main trail and head towards the falls which you should be able to hear by now (Photo #15). It is difficult to see all of the falls from one place. Once you are near the falls you can climb up to see the upper falls or go down the hill to the bank of the creek to see the lower falls. Be especially careful climbing the rock to the upper falls as it can be wet and slippery.
In winter snowshoes would be necessary as well as excellent navigational skills as there would be no trail or markers to follow. Additionally, the waterfall will not be flowing in the winter.
Upper Willow Falls
Middle Willow Falls
Lower Willow Falls